The great unknown: "The Insects of South Corvallis" unveils "invisible" artists
Corvallis Gazette-Times the e:Apr 15, 2015
The years Charles Goodrich spent tending gardens around the Benton County Courthouse inspired the poems in his 2003 book “Insects of South Corvallis.” His subjects are the ignored, everyday wonders: aphids, houseflies, silverfish.A poem titled “Fruitfly” begins:
“That miserable winter I drank so much,
there was this fruitfly who loved to land on my lips.
I called her Mabel.”
The whole thing reads like a love letter to forgotten microcosms.
When Corvallis artist Bruce Burris read “Insects” last year, he wondered how Goodrich’s poems might inspire a community of people often relegated to the sidelines. The answer will be revealed at a community poetry reading and pop-up art exhibition scheduled for Thursday night at Taylor Street Ovens in Northwest Corvallis. Part of the inVISIBLE arts festival — a month-long series of events spotlighting works made by artists who are considered disabled — “The Insects of South Corvallis” combines Goodrich’s poetry with the artwork it inspired. “It’s a way of bringing the entire community up to speed concerning the visual articulations of those considered by some to have disabilities,” Burris said. “I can’t tell you how many amazingly talented artists I have met from within this community over the past few months. Many are in their forties, fifties and sixties, and have been creating art their entire lives; yet they are exhibiting publicly for the very first time. Hence the name of the festival, inVISIBLE,” he added.
Late last year, after securing a $1,200 grant from the Benton County Cultural Coalition, Burris asked ceramicist Diana Ryan and performance artist Kaitlyn Wittig Menguc to lead a series of art workshops based on Goodrich’s poems at Cornerstone Associate’s Community Access facility in South Corvallis.Operating out of a modest building flanked by warehouses and factories, Cornerstone’s Community Access program provides a wide range of support for people with physical and intellectual disabilities.“What we appreciated about Goodrich’s poems,” Wittig Menguc added, "is that they’re about the minutiae of everyday life; it fits wonderfully with the festival’s theme.”
Wittig Menguc and Ryan launched an artist residency in February. Over six days, Ryan worked closely with members of the program to create sculptures, illustrations and collages, while Wittig Menguc read aloud from Goodrich’s book. “The poetry gave the associates something external to focus on,” Wittig Menguc said. “It worked as an invitation to let everything else go.” It started slowly, but picked up momentum as Ryan and Wittig Menguc adapted their program to the needs and interests of their partners by introducing new materials and art-making methods. “By the end, some were creating like mad,” Wittig Menguc said. “They were making 15 to 20 pieces a day, each.” A good thing, said Community Access manager Tom Yates. Community Access serves 20 to 30 different people at a time. “There’s no one size that fits all,” Yates said. “We serve a population with a lot of different needs. This program addressed many of them.” It’s refreshing, Yates said, in a time of tight budgets and shrinking art programs, to see how much can be accomplished with a modest allowance, over a short period of time.In his book, Goodrich draws attention to unappreciated fauna in the heart of Corvallis. Burris and his team hope Thursday’s exhibition will shine a light on another “invisible” community in our midst.
WHAT: Community poetry reading/pop-up art exhibition, "The Insects of South Corvallis"
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, April 16
WHERE: Taylor Street Ovens, 1025 N.W. Ninth St., Corvallis
COST: free and open to the public