Timeless calendar girls

Most people would be fearful about being photographed wearing nothing but an apron, but a group of local women — all of them over age 50 — did just that to raise money to give small loans to women artists.

Local apron-maker Diana Rasmussen organized the resulting spontaneous, exuberant photos into a 16-month calendar that is now being sold across the Rogue Valley.

The calendars and Rasmussen's aprons will be on display at JEGA Gallery & Sculpture Garden, 625 A St., during a reception from 5 to 8 p.m. today during Ashland's First Friday Art Walk.

The women who doffed their clothes and donned aprons also will be on hand at the gallery during the reception.

Rasmussen, who has been making and selling aprons for two years, said her calendar idea came after a friend joked about liking to wear nothing but an apron.

The day before her planned photo shoot, Rasmussen saw the photographs of professional Ashland photographer Mary Landberg on exhibit at the Plaza Salon & Spa downtown.

Landberg, owner of Photography for the Uninhibited, works to capture dynamic, passionate photos of her clients.

Rasmussen asked Landberg to take the photographs for the apron calendar, and Landberg agreed to take on the task for free.

Rasmussen said she wanted to encourage the women who posed for the calendar to be bold and take risks.

"The majority of women after age 50 are seen as invisible by society," she said. "As you age, you take on that invisibility internally and you stop living boldly. Women have a tendency to be living for others and to be putting someone else first. You become invisible to yourself."

Rasmussen said the world needs the wisdom of mature women.

She organized a photo shoot at her home studio and also posed for Landberg's camera herself.

"For me, it was a whole group catharsis," Rasmussen said. "It brought me more solidly into who I am as a woman. It also felt really wonderful to me to be orchestrating a growth experience for other women."

Landberg said the women started out feeling shy and nervous, but she helped break the ice by putting on an apron and dancing while her assistant photographed her.

"The women then followed suit with amazing enthusiasm," Landberg said. "I gave them permission to express themselves in a very safe environment. I'm sure the laughter and whooping out loud could be heard down the street from our studio."

Other women who took part in the photo shoot described the experience as freeing, with one adding she felt that Landberg "really brought out my 'inner goddess.'"

Rasmussen said Landberg captured fleeting motion and emotion, as well as the joie de vivre of the women.

With the 16-month calendar beginning this month, Rasmussen has been hitting the streets in Ashland, Talent, Jacksonville, Medford and Grants Pass, getting the calendars in a variety of shops in those cities.

They are available in Ashland at Bloomsbury Books, Illahe Gallery and Studio, FlowerTyme, Quiltz, Gallerie Karon and the Ashland Artisan Emporium.

The suggested donation is $20 to $25 per calendar.

Rasmussen's aprons, which are reversible, sell for $40.

During the First Friday Art Walk, a calendar plus an apron are available for $50 at JEGA Gallery & Sculpture Garden.

People who are interested in buying Rasmussen's aprons at other times can contact her at bare.essence2014@yahoo.com.

Rasmussen said profits from the calendar will be used to fund small grants to local women artists.

For example, if a woman wants to teach an art class but needs supplies, a grant could fund that project, she said.

Rasmussen said the calendar project has been a way for the women who posed to push their boundaries.

"There aren't very many risks in regular life. Most of us are not bungee jumping or zip lining. We stop taking risks that make us uncomfortable," she said. "This was an opportunity to do that and see what we're made of."

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.

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