Bits 'n' Pieces: Gorge artist’s fabric collages pass as paintings

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Columbia River Gorge artist Susan Smith, 78, of Stevenson considers herself a kind of Grandma Moses.

After 60 years of painting in abstract expressionism, Smith now creates large appliquéd collages with fabric. She calls it “creative stitchery.” She switched mediums because she “didn’t want the kids to get oil paints on their clothes.”

Smith chooses fabrics gleaned from brightly colored skirts found during bimonthly trips to secondhand stores. She looks for fabric that speaks of humor or whimsy and gives her handmade pieces whimsical names as well. When people see her work, they have to take a closer look, she said, because they can’t believe its fabric; they think they are paintings.

Smith doesn’t let her Parkinson’s disease keep her from creating her abstract fabric pictures, often sitting in bed to stitch silks and colorful cottons by hand. She likes the freedom of creating art with fabric. “There aren’t the rules you have with watercolors. I can do what I want.” Sometimes, it’s just picking up wonderful fabrics that inspire her, Smith said.

Smith’s work is in private collections in the United States and Germany, and one of her oil paintings is part of the University of Wisconsin’s traveling collection.

Smith’s work will be featured in the show “Idioms” at Second Story Gallery in the Camas Public Library, 624 N.E. Fourth Ave. in Camas, through Dec. 23. The gallery is open during regular library hours, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Smith will be available to discuss her techniques during First Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. Dec. 2 in the gallery.

— Ruth Zschomler

Teenage stage manager prefers excitement behind the curtain

Being a big part of the show doesn’t always mean you’re in the spotlight, and for Hannah Mock, the world behind the curtain has just as much allure as being on stage. Mock, a La Center high school student, is the stage manager for the production “A World War II Radio Christmas.”

“A stage manager’s job is to be best friend of the director and actors, stage and lighting designers,” Mock explained. “You have to do the ultimate nitpicking,” as well as manage all the organizational aspects behind a theater show.

“I’m very happily addicted to being a stage manager,” Mock said. Though she’s been a part of other productions on stage, she’s found there’s a lot to enjoy about organizing the show. “In a perfect world, I’d do both. But right now, I’d pick stage managing again.”

Mock, 16, is part of the Young Professionals at the Oregon Children’s Theatre, a group of teenage actors who attend classes and learn different aspects of the craft. “A World War II Radio Christmas” follows the cast of a radio show broadcasting to soldiers overseas during World War II. The radio show has many vignettes and “little romance stories, which are really cute,” Mock said. Her favorite part during the play is when the cast sings “White Christmas.” “It’s a classic song that doesn’t get old and the harmonies are lovely.”

Mock gave some advice to audience members thinking about attending the performance: “Bring tissues, you’re going to cry. It’s so heartfelt.”

Catch a performance of “A World War II Radio Christmas” at 2 p.m. Dec. 3-4 and 10-11 at Curious Comedy Theatre, 5225 N.E. Martin Luther King Blvd., Portland. Tickets are $10; seating is limited. Call 503-228-9571 or visit octc.org.

— Ashley Swanson

Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Mondays and Fridays. If you have a story you’d like to share, call Ruth Zschomler, 360-735-4530, or email ruth.zschomler@columbian.com.