Maggie Maggio

Exploring Color in the 21st Century

Art in the Pearl – 2011

Every Labor Day weekend I look forward to Oregon’s premier art and fine craft show, Art in the Pearl.  I did this show in Portland’s Pearl District for a few years way back when.  My favorite was one year right next to a huge tree that provided just the right amount of late afternoon shade. My least favorite was the year it rained all weekend and the grass in the North Park Blocks turned to ankle deep mud. This year the weather was perfect, and the attendance is estimated to hit over 70,000.

Its been about ten years since I’ve had a booth at this end of summer show. I haven’t applied because I just haven’t had enough inventory for a show of this calibre. I was focusing my limited studio time on prepping for teaching and then on writing the book and not on production.  But I have to admit that every year, as I walk the show and ooh and aah over all the beautiful pieces, I tell myself “next year.” Next year I will make enough inventory to apply.

This year was no exception. I left the show with grandiose dreams of designing a whole new product line in covetable colorways – with beautiful collaged photographs showcasing each collection of gorgeous pieces – all displayed beautifully in a new booth carefully coordinated with this fabulously stunning body of work . . .

And then, because I know how much time and hard work it is to do craft shows and do them well,  I pinched myself hard and said “some day but not right now.” Right now is about feeling my way into the best way to share what I’ve learned about teaching color. That’s enough for the next few years.

So what caught my eye over the weekend? Here’s some of my favorites . . .

When I wandered into Mike McKee’s booth I almost started to cry. No kidding. I responded to his supersaturated pastel landscapes at the gut level. The photos do not do justice to the joyful energy of his work. His was the only booth I went back to after walking the entire show. I went back to find out what pastels he uses to get such vibrant color.  He uses Unison pastels, handmade in Northumberland National Park in England. Oh dear – here’s a possible rival to polymer clay for playing with color!

At first glance, Randy Dana’s wall pieces evoke Renaissance still life paintings. Then it hits you – these are photographs!

Are they manipulated on the computer? No. According to Dana, they are shot in natural light with carefully selected flowers and fruit at the peak of their color.

The glass surface mirrors the still life and in some cases provides another layer of flowers seen through the glass.

There’s something magical about the images. They are simply amazing.

Alison O’Donoghue‘s hyper busy, large scale paintings drew me in for a closer look. Both the figurative and pattern paintings were equally intriguing.

She calls herself a contemporary folk artist. I would add – with a modernist Hieronymus Bosch twist.



Sarah Shriver made a big splash with her first appearance at Art in the Pearl.  The drive up from the Bay Area is no picnic but the crowds and enthusiastic response to her intricately patterned jewelry made it well worth the trip.

Her latest work takes pattern and shape to a whole new level. The only polymer artist in the show, she represented us well!

There were many more artists whose work I admired. This is the tip of the iceberg. If you still have some time left on your Labor Day, here’s the list of this year’s Art in the Pearl artists for your browsing pleasure.


  1. Maggie Maggio

    September 7, 2011 at 10:20 am

    Me too! But I ordered single sticks . . .

  2. I was so inspired by Mike’s work also that I have already ordered a set of Unison pastels and black paper to play with.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *