Artistic impressions

An unusual portrait project has brought together artists who normally work alone in studios scattered from Ashland to Grants Pass.

Twenty Southern Oregon artists were invited to pair up and create portraits of each other for "Mirrors: A Portrait Project."

The results of the pairings are now on display until May 27 at Rogue Community College's FireHouse Gallery near downtown Grants Pass.

Ashland artist Ann DiSalvo got a look inside the world of Grants Pass tattoo artist Jeff Gogue when she spent five hours creating a pastel portrait of him while he worked on a burly client.

"I've never had any desire for a tattoo," DiSalvo said. "My only interest was in looking at it. I respected the art form, but I didn't embrace it."

After hours of studying Gogue while he worked, she came away with a new appreciation for tattooing.

"It takes forever. Everything is done in tiny increments," DiSalvo said. "He did a quarter of an arm in one day."

For his part, Gogue worked from photos of DiSalvo to paint an oil portrait of her.

Kevin Christman and Grants Pass artist Curtis Otto met in Christman's Talent studio and worked on portraits of each other simultaneously. Christman modeled Otto's head in clay, while Otto used vivid colors and bold strokes to paint multiple images of Christman.

For his final piece, Christman depicted Otto's sculptural head peering out from a frame into three-dimensional space.

"Thinking outside the box and thinking outside the frame is his personality," Christman said of his portrait partner.

Grants Pass artist Claudia Marchini was so nervous about having Ashland artist Phyllis Trowbridge come to her studio for a January portrait session that she forgot to turn on the heater, resulting in Nordic temperatures. For a second portrait session the next day, she turned the heater on high, making the studio as hot as the tropics.

While Trowbridge worked on drawings of Marchini using her signature style of fierce, bold strokes and scrubbing with a piece of charcoal, Marchini could only bring herself to work on the colors for a portrait, not Trowbridge's actual features.

Marchini later finished an oil-on-marble portrait using a photograph, her memories and the color schemes she had worked out. She built a flower-painted wooden frame around the portrait because Trowbridge frequently does landscapes.

Despite going through the stage fright that many artists feel when having to work in front of other people, Marchini said the experience was worthwhile.

"It's uniting the artists. I wish more could take part. There are so many artists in Grants Pass, Medford and Ashland," she said.

Rebecca Gabriel and Bruce Bayard, both of Ashland, had a direct, unguarded approach when it come to doing portraits of each other.

"It was such a wonderful match," Gabriel said. "We just wanted to behold each other."

Bayard, known for his computer graphics on Ashland Independent Film Festival posters, combined a photo of Gabriel with bars of light for an image created on his computer.

Gabriel went the old-fashioned route, having Bayard sit for three hours during three sessions while she made a painstaking pastel portrait. In the piece, light falls across his features from the side, bringing out the structure of his face by highlighting his cheekbones, the line of his nose and his brow.

After Bayard sat for Gabriel, he took dozens of photographs of her.

"He said, "It's my turn, but it won't take nine hours,'" Gabriel said.

The FireHouse Gallery is located in the historic City Hall building at the corner of Fourth and H Streets in Grants Pass. The gallery's regular hours are from 11:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.

Two public question-and-answer sessions with the artists are planned for today and Wednesday. Both sessions are scheduled from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

To see all the paired images from the "Mirrors" exhibit online, and to read statements from the artists, visit

The project was made possible with support from Rogue Community College's ArtWorks initiative and the Josephine County Cultural Coalition.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or

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