Visit another dimension with Vancouver and Sellwood, Ore., art exhibits

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian Arts & Features Reporter



If you go

“Sculpt: Expression in Three Dimensions”

• Featuring works by: Sam Cobb, Jenny Ellsworth, Bill Leigh, David Mylin, Laurie Vail and Chayo Wilson

• Opening reception: 5-9 p.m. April 7

• Exhibit on display: through April 29

• Where: Angst Gallery, 1015 Main St., Vancouver.

• On the web:

International Sculpture Day PDX

• Featuring works by: Cobalt Designworks and Bill Leigh, among others.

 When: 12-5 p.m. April 21; 12-11 p.m. April 22.

• Artist talks (emceed by Vancouver’s Jennifer Corio) and studio tour: 6-9 p.m. April 22.

• Where: Start at Roll Up Photo Studio & Gallery, 1715 S.E. Spokane St., Portland.

• On the web:

The teenaged David Mylin was bouncing around his favorite fantasyland — a junkyard in his native North Dakota — when a big steel bumper rebounded into his face. You can still see the dent in his forehead.

“I am human,” he realized. Which means, delicate and vulnerable. Our human forms are nothing but “husks we live in,” he said. “Really, we’re weaklings. And yet we can cause such damage.”

Mylin’s taste for the grotesque predates that smack in the head. His father, a professional musician and educator, also was an amateur artist who inspired his son with some pretty bizarre visions — sketches of weird heads with long, pierced tongues, for example. When he was an art student in college, Mylin didn’t take a standard anatomy-for-artists course; instead, he drew half-dissected cadavers in the laboratory of an anatomy professor.

All that dark inspiration is now on display in an exhibit at downtown Vancouver’s Angst Gallery called “Sculpt: Expression in Three Dimensions.” Don’t worry if Mylin’s sometimes disturbing, sometimes amusing metal creations aren’t quite your cup of molten steel; five more sculptors from around the region, including Clark County’s Bill Leigh, are also featured.

Furthermore, the third annual International Sculpture Day is coming up in late April, and Vancouver metal sculptor Jennifer Corio has helped plan a multistudio festival, hosted by Pacific Northwest Sculptors, in Southeast Portland’s Sellwood neighborhood. If you like what you see at Angst Gallery, consider a trip to Sellwood in two weeks. Leigh’s work will be part of that exhibit too.

Wear, tear and tears

A bang in the head was only the beginning of David Mylin’s lifetime of self-punishment with metal, he joked.

He’s burned his clothes, his skin and maybe his eyesight with his blowtorch, he said, and he’s probably breathed in more metal shavings than he wants to think about. But he’s never wanted to do anything else — except play a little jazz trombone (another strange metal sculpture), he said.

Mylin first came to the Pacific Northwest in the 1980s to rescue his brother, who needed a kidney transplant. Mylin donated a kidney while developing an appreciation for local beer, he said. That’s probably not the healthiest combination — but rest assured, “I swore I’d never donate any more kidneys,” Mylin said.

He stayed here and went to work for Weldcraft Iron Works in Vancouver — where one of his favorite assignments was welding railings to the staircase in front of the Clark County Courthouse — and then for Gunderson, Inc., a Portland maker of rail cars and river barges. He worked for Gunderson for 23 years before retreating to his west Vancouver garage to follow his artistic vision.

That vision may be grotesque, and Mylan’s material may be low-carbon or “mild” scrap steel that finds him in countless ways — including donations of junk appliances, cabinets and car parts from friends and even “metal elves” who leave miscellaneous scraps overnight — but he said he’ll never forget the beauty of legendary white-marble sculptures he beheld with his own eyes in Italy and Greece.

“I was moved to tears,” he said. “It moved me so much, I never got over it.”

Every angle

This Angst sculpture exhibit was the brainchild of Terri Elioff, a local arts booster (and the wife of Leigh) who visited last year’s Sellwood event and wanted to launch something similar up here. “I got so excited, I thought, Vancouver needs to do this too,” she said.

She hopes this month’s Angst exhibit is just a baby step, and that April 2018 will see many more Vancouver galleries celebrating International Sculpture Day the way Sellwood is.

Sellwood is where Jennifer Corio, of Vancouver’s Cobalt Designworks, is headed later this month. Three different studios, all on the same block, will host a free sculpture exhibit on the afternoons of April 21 and 22; then, starting at 6 p.m. April 22, Corio will serve as master of ceremonies during an artists’ talk. (After that, you can be extremely un-sculpture-like and move your body in a 9 p.m. dance party.)

Sculptors do lots of designing and testing, Mylin and Corio both said. “You must think intentionally about every angle of the piece to ensure the art looks dynamic in the round” and interacts with its environment, Corio said.

“People find sculpture fun to explore and fun to talk about,” Elioff said — but not always. One of her earliest impressions of three-dimensional art, she said, was Maya Lin’s famous Vietnam War memorial in Washington, D.C. It’s not exactly a “sculpture,” she added, but it is profound 3-D art that provokes profound reactions.

Especially when it was new, some people hated the long, black wall for its darkness and subterranean setting. Others found that design and setting entirely appropriate.

“That’s the power of three-dimensional art,” Elioff said. “There are so many styles, so many mediums, so many approaches.”