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home : arts & entertainment : arts & entertainment July 21, 2017

7/3/2017 1:03:00 PM
Urban art quilts on display at Library
St. Johns Bridge overlayed with Tillicum Crossing. photo by Sue Stafford
+ click to enlarge
St. Johns Bridge overlayed with Tillicum Crossing.

photo by Sue Stafford

By Sue Stafford

For the third year in a row, Friends of the Sisters Library (FOSL) is treating visitors to the library during the month of July to a special display of art quilts by the Portland-based MIX (Materials in the Xtreme) group. The quilts are too small to be displayed on the street in the regular show, so the library provides an appropriate venue.

Each year these eight women create striking original fabric art designed around a common theme. Each piece, however, is as unique and individual as it creator.

When all eight quilters began to talk about the changes they were seeing in Portland - in the skyline, the culture, and the population - they agreed to design their quilts around the theme of "Urban PDX" and its rapid changes.

The unifying factors among the quilts, besides the theme, are they all measure 30 by 40 inches in portrait orientation with an accompanying piece measuring eight by 20 inches. The smaller piece somehow relates to the larger piece. Each artist was also challenged to find a way to incorporate the yellow of a No. 2 pencil into her work.

Their blog page,, said, "We soon discovered that the good old No. 2 pencil is, in fact, not a standard color."

Betty Daggett, who has been part of the MIX group from its inception eight years ago, designed her quilt and accompanying small piece around the concept of density.

"I looked at the changes taking place and the density of population those changes are creating. Just looking up in downtown Portland for inspiration, I saw large construction cranes everywhere," she said.

Daggett said she considered what is being lost as the call for increased density continues. Her piece is a silent reminder of the sacrifices of lovely old Victorian homes to make way for tall, sleek steel and glass towers. The ever-present cranes can be seen right in the middle of all the new behemoth buildings on the quilt.

Down at the center bottom of the piece are two old abandoned homes that, in their day, were highly prized residences and reminders of Portland's history. Now they stand, as the name of the piece indicates, "Condemned," with plywood over the windows and boards crisscrossing the front door.

To make the houses look even more forlorn, Daggett used a light touch of gray oil pastel on the windows to create a vacant look. The sky in her large piece is made using ombre fabric, which fades from dark navy at the top down through pale lavender to peach behind the buildings. Daggett got her inspiration for the works from 12th Avenue where that very scene was playing out.

Daggett's accompanying small piece is titled "Portland. Growing Up," with a crane among several skyscrapers.

Another pair of quilts referenced the new Tillicum Crossing Bridge that doesn't carry cars, overlaying the historic St. John's Bridge. There is the Portland Mercado on S.E. Foster Road, which is a community of more than 16 businesses in the public market and plaza, bringing together diverse cultures through food, art, and entertainment. A detailed quilt full of things old and new in Portland, like Voo Doo Doughnuts and the old White Stag sign, is titled "and/or." The Pearl District and Union Station are also represented.

Hanging among the quilts is a square word board emblazoned with all the words the members thought of when they talked about Portland. The words are all in simple black block letters of varying sizes on a white background, with some printed in the same No. 2 pencil yellow.

The exhibit is up all month in the Community Room and MIX members will be available to answer questions in the library on Saturday, July 8, Quilt Show day.

In the computer room is a display of paintings done over a lifetime by Ervin Groppenbecher of Cincinnati, and the father of Crossroads resident Dinah Boyd. Dinah and her British husband, David, retired to Sisters in 2002 after living around the U.S., and in Germany and England where David worked as a gas turbine engineer for jet engines.

They became friends with Marianne Fettkether, who is a long-time FOSL board member, and she suggested displaying Groppenbecher's work at the library.

He was a commercial artist by profession who also filled his leisure time with painting and sketching. Boyd reported that, "Family day trips were frequently expeditions to go sketching and painting in the countryside, and sketching was always part of every family vacation." Her father worked in oil, acrylics, watercolors, pencil, charcoal, and pastels.

"I hope that you each enjoy the variety of media he used over a lifetime and the diversity of subjects displayed. My two sisters and I are proud of our dad!" Boyd said.

Groppenbecher shared his passion for art with family and friends as he gifted paintings, made his silk-screened Christmas cards for 60 years, and created many personalized cartoons for family and friends. His church also benefitted from his calligraphy skills and a collection of cartoon posters produced for the church choir, of which he was a member.

The subjects of the paintings represent a wide variety from landscapes to street scenes to portraits. Especially notable are 12 miniatures created using different media and subject matter.

Boyd said her walls at home are temporarily empty while her father's paintings are on display in the library for the month of July.

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