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Voices of Spencer Creek

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Honoring the Mothers of the Meeting

By Lois Barton

Posted on May 2, 2005

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Three Elder Mothers, "Three Friends: Mary, Lois, and Monette," painting by Kathy Tiger

My artist friend Kathy Tiger has painted a series of insightful portraits of older Quaker women, the Mothers of the Meeting. I had a converstion with her the other day about how she decided to do this series:

When Kathy was a child living in Portland, Oregon, her mother often took her and her brother to visit the Portland Art Museum. She early learned to really look at things. When she saw a picture she liked she would study it to learn what about it appealed to her. She realized portraits showed an understanding deeper than our surface reality.

Even as a child she loved to draw, recalling that there was always a shortage of paper for the two of them. She learned something about art in the public schools. But life led in other directions in her early adult years.

Kathy started her work life as a nurse. Then she became a psychologist. It was in mid-life that she turned to painting. Ten years ago she began to take some classes at the University of Oregon and Lane Community College. There was a watercolor class where she identified ten friends who have continued to meet.

"I cannot judge my own work," she said. "When it looks OK to me, classmates will point out needs for improvement or change and the picture is better when I adopt their suggestions."

Kathy has gained recognition and had her work accepted for inclusion in a number of group shows. "I was juried into membership in the Watercolor Society of Oregon in 1996.

"What does that mean?" I asked.

"Once a year watercolor artists can submit five slides of their work. The jury is composed of senior WSO members and they will extend membership to those whose work is good enough.

"Ellen and grandchild" painting by Kathy Tiger

"This was the beginning of a move from art as a hobby to being a full-time artist. My paintings have been chosen for exhibit in 10 shows in Oregon sponsored by the Watercolor Society. I have won awards in five of those shows. Additionally I have had paintings juried into shows in California, Connecticut, South Dakota and Rhode Island. I won additional awards in two of those shows."

She eventually found a teacher, Katherine Chang Liu of Santa Barbara. California. She goes to Ms Liu for more instruction every two years. This teacher is sensitive and wise. "It is easy to make pretty pictures people like. My teacher has been most helpful in showing me the importance of creating work that has meaning.

"Connie" painting by Kathy Tiger

"The idea for painting older Quaker women actually came to me in a silent Quaker Meeting for Worship. Connie was sitting opposite me and there was strong light on her face. When I saw Connie literally 'sitting in the light' and so transfixed, I actually felt like I was being shown what to do next. God is the original artist and I feel close to God when creating something. Connie looked beautiful to me and I wondered whether others would see the beauty in this eighty-year-old face.

"I appreciate people who age with courage and humor. The body is a great leveler. We all grow old and deal with pain and restrictions. I know I have lost power as I age. What are the things that make women beautiful?

"I was thinking of these things as I looked at Connie. I realized that these women had as much power as anyone in their community. There was no hierarchy. It dawned on me that age and sex didn't determine power or beauty among them. How could I demonstrate the power and beauty in maturity?

"Monette" painting by Kathy Tiger

"I couldn't get Connie on the page right for a long time. It was Monette who was first. I think it was because I loved her that I was able to paint her. Then I realized that if I was going to paint any of you I needed to get to know you and care about you. That's when I decided to come gather pictures and memories and listen to who you all were.

"My art work often starts by writing. I keep a journal where I write these things. My teacher once told me I should do the writing in my sketch book, along with the sketches. Remembering years of paper shortage, I felt shocked about taking up precious space in the sketch book with writing, but I'm doing that and finding it helpful to have it all together.

"Peg" painting by Kathy Tiger

"This series of paintings has brought me to the Society of Friends (Quakers) as a religious home. I am really grateful to have this work in my life. I've changed as a result. I used to be an activist, a people person. I'm more solitary. I need internal silence, meditation. I couldn't paint if I had to go to a job every day. My art making is a spiritual fulfillment. It comes from my soul.

"My painting of the three women was never accepted for an art show until I took it to my teacher asking her what was wrong with it. She said it had power, but the light was wrong. 'There is soft light around older women,' she said. I saw what she meant and softened the brightness. Then this painting was one of twenty chosen in a competition among 600. It went on display for six months in a series of Northwest showings and was then purchased by a Bend hospital. They traded it back to me for three separate portraits--Peg, Ellen and Monette. They hang in the Bend Hospital in a hallway on the way to physical therapy."

"Mary" painting by Kathy Tiger

These are the "Elder Mothers" to date. Monette; so strong in spirit--Peg; so earnest of heart--Ellen; so concerned with the children of the Meeting--Connie; so flamboyant and funny--Mary Etter; so wistful--and the three mothers, the "Old Friends" Mary, Lois, Monette who really were good friends to one another and anyone else who would come into the circle of "Friends".

Kathy brings her personal inward beauty to us along with her artistic talent. Her portraits have enriched our community of loving sisterhood by showing us our mature beauty in a unique way. Thank you, friend.

Copyright ©2005 by Lois Barton

Now Available on Compact Disk: Stories from The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte

Three and a half years of years Lois Barton's stories–so you can read them without going online!

Lois Barton's Selected Works
Volume I, Chanticleer's Tales
Send $10, plus postage of $1.50 to
84889 Harry Taylor Rd.
Eugene, OR 97405

Writer and historian
Lois Barton

Lois Barton is an 85 year old mother of eight children. She has lived on the same rural acreage just south of Eugene, Oregon for more than 50 years. All their children learned to milk, to keep the woodboxes filled, to do their share of household and garden chores. Her first book, Spencer Butte Pioneers, was published in 1982 when her youngest started to school. Since then she wrote five other books: Daughter of the Soil, now out of print; One Woman's West; A Quaker Promise Kept; and Through My Window, autobiographical sketches, sequel to Daughter Of the Soil.

Through the years Lois has been a 4H leader, president of the neighborhood association, a precinct committee woman, election board clerk, editor of the Lane County Historian, and a life long Quaker. She spent a month in Southeast Asia in 1974 as a member of a church peace mission, after working for ten years as director of the Eugene Chapter of the World Without War Council.

Follow the links of the Voices of Spencer Creek for the most recent articles by Lois Barton, including

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Tree and Me and Lady Slippers

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Cranberries

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Endurance Riding

The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: Butterflies and Community Development

and The Sunnyside of Spencer Butte: The Last Gift.

See more of Lois Barton's articles in West By online magazine's archives:
Visit the Heron Rookery
Sauerkraut and All That
Charlotte's Overdose - Just who is Charlotte and what did she take?
The Midwife- The midnight call awoke an unusual midwife.
The Mystery of Fox Hollow - Fact and fiction meet in this story of the origins of Faith Rock.
Trees, Tame Trees and Squirrel.

© Copyright 2000-2004 by West By

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