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8/30/2006 Artists' residency inspires Linfield exhibit

McMINNVILLE - Liz Obert found herself looking through the lens of a camera at some of Hungary's most distinctive architecture last spring.

Now snippets of those views are included in a series of paintings she created while taking part in the 13th International Artists' Residency in Csopak, Hungary. Obert, Linfield College associate professor of art, was one of 32 selected from more than 500 applicants worldwide.

Each participant gave a presentation on their work and donated a piece of art to the Hungarian Multicultural Center for future exhibitions. By the end of the residency, she had finished 12 paintings, which are on display now through Sept. 29 in the Annex Gallery at the James F. Miller Fine Arts Center at Linfield.

Obert joined other artists, including photographers and painters, for a month of discussion, work and creativity. For Obert, who teaches art and photography classes at Linfield, it was a rare opportunity to focus entirely on her craft.

"There was a lot of exchange of ideas and I brought that back to my classes," she said. "The biggest benefit was meeting the other artists and making connections. It also exposed me to different types of art. Everyone's work is so different. I got to see and hear a lot about different styles of painting and photography."

Armed with her digital Nikon camera, Obert toured the local area, near Budapest, shooting photos to ultimately use in her art. She said the rural setting near Lake Balatron encouraged artistic expression.

"We were free to do what we wanted," she said. "I took side trips with other artists and I took a lot of photographs."

Obert was particularly interested in the Hungarian architecture.

"The country has been through so much," Obert said. "So there's this texture that's really old and decadent, then there's the communist-era modern housing cubes, and a contemporary layer, happening now, with graffiti on old buildings. It's a really interesting combination that you can't find in the U.S."

Graffiti, an eyesore to many, is an art form to Obert. She photographs unusual architecture or graffiti, transfers the image onto wood or canvas using an acrylic gel method, then paints directly on the photo. She sees her work as a collaboration of people over time.

"I like the idea of it being a record of time passing," she said. "You have all these different layers exposed, from the original paint to all the layers, and then in a lot of cases, graffiti that's painted on top. I call these 'found paintings' because I find them, photograph them and I put my final mark on them."

This was Obert's first trip to Eastern Europe, and though she speaks no Hungarian, she said, "I learned that you can communicate a lot with your hands and gestures."

The Linfield exhibit is free and open to the public. The Linfield Fine Art Gallery is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. To reach the gallery from 99W, turn east on Keck Drive at the McMinnville Market Center in south McMinnville. Turn right into the first parking lot, near the corner of Lever Street. The art gallery is located in the James F. Miller Fine Arts Center, west of the Vivian A. Bull Music Center and north of Nicholson Library. For more information, call 503-883-2804.