McMenamins Artists Lost and Found
Saturday 25 February 2017 — Category: Miscellaneous
As I wrote in yesterday’s article, almost all of the content of the old McMenamins Web site made it into the new site. One significant exception is the biographies of the famed McMenamins artists, who have put in untold hours for more than twenty years to give McMenamins properties their unique and much-admired look.
On the old site, there was a side menu listing 13 artists, as you can see in the screen shot to the right. Clicking on an artist’s name took you to another page where you could read a short biography about that artist, and see some of their artwork. It is beyond my comprehension why these artist bios were axed from the new site.
Because this omission bothered me so much, I decided to track down the bios and make them available to the world once again through my Web site. Using various techniques to scour the Web, I was able to successfully download all of the relevant text and images. Today, I am happy to announce that what was lost has been found!
Instead of presenting each biography on a separate page, I have put all 13 below on this page. In order to keep this page from looking too cluttered and overwhelmingly-long, I have placed each bio in a collapsible section, which can be opened or closed individually by clicking on the artist’s name. I have also included links which open or close all of the bios in one fell swoop.
I am inspired by the following stories, and am so glad that I have been able to rescue them from oblivion. I hope you will enjoy and appreciate them as well.
Olivia Behm [+]
Behm was labeled as an artist from a very early age, thanks to parents who quickly realized that they needed to buy drawing paper for the little girl who kept taking books off of their shelves and drawing pictures all over the pages.
Her education includes the University of Minnesota Art School, St. Petersburg Jr. College in Florida, where she obtained an Associate’s in Fine Arts degree, and San Diego State University, her last official stop as an art student undergraduate, studying ceramics, metal working and enameling. Behm has continued taking classes throughout her life in painting and illustration.
She moved to the Portland area from Napa, California, in July 1990 and started a jewelry business that she focused on for 12 years.
In early 2003, Behm met fellow McMenamins artist Jenny Joyce, with whom she connected instantly. Joyce invited Behm to come and “paint for a day” at the Hotel Oregon. Behm quickly found her “home” among the other artists and the company as a whole and has enjoyed steady work as one of our core artists ever since. Olivia writes:
I started my painting career with McMenamins early in 2003 when Jenny Joyce took me under her wing and began teaching me to paint decorative borders at McMenamins Hotel Oregon in McMinnville. Myrna Yoder and Lyle Hehn were there as well. I met Kolieha Bush when we started in on the second wave of art (decorative borders, lettering stories and painting portraits on the walls of the rooms) at McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, Oregon. Somewhere in there I was honored to meet Kolieha’s partner, fellow artist Joe Cotter.
These guys were larger than life to me, but I found them all to be down-to-earth and a lot of fun to work with. I was introduced to folks as “the newbie” for many years, until Eona Skelton Lorberbaum joined the group, having been discovered through her fabulous chalk art for the company. Since then, we’ve had several more join our fold, enduring dusty construction sites, painting in all kinds of light and weather, and at various heights, from pretty close to the ground, to pretty darned high up. Sometimes it can be a bit tricky getting to the spot that needs art, but once you’re there, the creative forces take over and the sheer love of painting causes one to forget the discomforts.
We alternate decorative painting on-site with painting fine art panels in solitude in our studios. I’ve really enjoyed the back-and-forth of working alone and then with the team. Through the years I have learned so much from, and bonded with the other artists and our wonderful historian, Tim Hills, until now they all feel like family, and, honestly, each of them is still “larger than life” to me.
Kolieha Bush [+]
I am an artist based in Eagle Creek, Oregon. I have been producing art professionally for more than 30 years. There are several different mediums that I work with — papier mâché, paint, oil, clay, bronze, pen and pencil. My artwork ranges from quiet and contemplative pieces, to work portraying the more exuberant and joyful side of life. I like to paint people, plants, birds ... I like music and movement. I keep working until the piece feels “true” to me.
I have displayed my artwork at the Oregon Country Fair since 1979. The free, creative spirit of the fair has had a definite influence on me and what I do as an artist. Originally I sold papier mâché in the form of Peculiar Piñatas, and gradually moved toward more sculptural pieces, many incorporating natural objects such as sticks, vines and moss.
My figurative bronze works developed after I made a life-sized papier mâché sculpture of a woman in 1985. My sculptor friend, Nano Lopez, worked at an art foundry. He encouraged me to refine the piece and to have her cast in bronze. I learned all about the lost wax bronze casting process and in 1986, The Young Woman was my first bronze sculpture cast at a foundry in Walla Walla, Washington.
Beginning in 1980 my partner Joe Cotter and I shared a studio / gallery space called the Chameleons Garden in Estacada, Oregon. Joe painted, made silk-screened prints and cards and worked with ceramics. I painted, made various papier mâché creations and sculpted. We also held years of weekly life-drawing sessions. My brother Peter Bush, owner of Rosebush Marimbas, joined us in 1986, making fine hand-crafted marimbas. The Chameleon’s Garden was a great work place and the site of many art gatherings in the 1980s and early ’90s.
The first mural project I worked on was called Struggle and Hope. It was sponsored by the Portland Central America Solidarity Committee back in 1988 and designed by Bill Garnett. A group of artists were called together to paint it. We were taught how to take Bill’s small scale sketch and by using a grid, translate the drawing to the full mural size. Very useful information! The mural was originally located in Portland but now can be seen at the Rock Creek Portland Community College campus.
I am a founding member of the Artback Artists Cooperative in Estacada. Organized in 1993, we have painted a large-scale, outdoor mural in our small, rural community each year since 1994. I have been the lead artist on four of them: Celebration 1998, Tree of Life 2002 (in collaboration with Reeva Wortel and Emily Hyde), Bird Party 2007 and most recently on the renovation of Joe Cotter’s The Cycle of Wood mural. I also have murals in the National College of Natural Medicine, the Molalla Public Library and Eagle Creek Elementary school.
My artwork has been in The Spiral Gallery, a cooperative in downtown Estacada, since its inception in 2003. The Gallery provides a much-needed and much-appreciated gathering space for artists and their supporters.
Finally, since 1997, I’ve had the good fortune of working for McMenamins as one of the artists painting in their historic hotels and pubs. I am grateful to Mike McMenamin for being so supportive of the arts. I enjoy the opportunity to work with the other artists, who have become friends as well. As a group, we have had three shows together in the Portland area.
Jonathan Case [+]
Jonathan Case spent his formative years on a boat in Mexico, where he had nary to do but hole up in a cabin and draw, read and plot his escape from paradise.
He made it out eventually, traveling to the American south to study performing arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia.
He is a member of Portland’s own Helioscope (formerly Periscope Studio), the largest collective of comics artists and writers in the United States. There, he connected with longtime McMenamins artist Myrna Yoder and began contributing paintings to the company.
You can see more of his work at JonathanCase.net
Joe Cotter [+]
Joe Cotter had long been at the fore of artistic pursuits in Oregon. And it was McMenamins’ good fortune that, for several decades, Joe and his wife, Kolieha Bush — also an artist of remarkable talents — created exceptional pieces for our properties.
A Boston native, Cotter studied journalism at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He graduated in 1975 and then moved to the the Portland area. Cotter took art classes at Portland State University and eventually got involved with the local outdoor painting scene.
Cotter painted many murals around Oregon during the past 25 years — for McMenamins, for Outside In, at Saburo’s Sushi House, and in doing so, he collaborated with such noted artists as Isaka Shamsud-Din and Baba Wagué Diakitée. His last major project, completed with his wife, was a mural on the corner of Southwest 12th Avenue and Morrison Street in Portland.
Cotter also painted with the Estacada-based Artback Artists Cooperative. Cotter and the group completed numerous murals since 1994.
Murals were central to Cotter. He wasn’t an attorney but he learned about the legal process and he used that knowledge to work with a tireless group of mural advocates who fought for greater expression of murals in Portland and Oregon. Along with fellow advocates Mark Meltzer and Joanne Oleksiak of the Portland Mural Defense, Cotter worked for years to make the city sign code less restrictive toward murals.
Joe Cotter passed away on Saturday, March 31, 2012. His lovely, magical artwork can be found throughout McMenamins’ establishments. We have lost a friend and one of the color masters of the company. Cheers, Joe.
For more details about Joe and his art, see these McMenamins blog posts:
“A FAMILY, A FAIR” : A Piece by Joe Cotter, 2010
Joe Cotter: Remembrances from His Fellow Artists
Andy Eccleshall [+]
I live in Edmonds, Washington, with my wife Ingrid and son Jack. I have been a professional artist for 30 years.
Born in the Midland town of Stafford, England, I began my artistic career at the age of 16 specializing in architectural illustration and landscape painting. Stafford is an ancient town nestled in the lowlands of the North Midlands and surrounded by farmland and moorland. Mist covered pastures in the fall, dramatic scenery of the Pennine Hills and a pastoral rolling landscape with features centuries old were constant sources of inspiration for me.
After several years as a fine artist and illustrator, I returned to education in 1992 at the Exeter College of Arts and Design in southern England. In 1994, I moved to the United States and travelled extensively during the first few years. I was dazzled by the enormous contrasts in the landscapes across the country — the beauty of the changing seasons against the neverending and ever-changing landscape. I moved to Seattle in 2000 with my family and to Edmonds in 2002.
I am inspired by drama in nature and contrasts in light and form. I am fascinated by atmosphere, light and weather and the moods they create. This country and especially this region is blessed to have such a wealth of inspiration.
Lyle Hehn [+]
In 1980, Hehn graduated from Linfield College with a bachelor’s degree in art. Shortly after that he married, and he and his wife moved to the Chicago area where he had a series of industrial and warehouse jobs. During this time he also took nearly all of the technical drawing and graphics classes offered at a nearby junior college. The design department of the college eventually gave him his first graphics job, where he helped produce and illustrate all sorts of college publications.
Following that, he worked for AT&T doing graphics on computers for about two years, during which time he also sold a few of his freelance illustrations in and around Chicago. After returning to Oregon, Hehn tried his hand at 3D computer animation and assisted with cell animation, prop and model making, and process photography for a small animation company in Portland.
Since 1988, Hehn has been employed by McMenamins. His brother Paul was one of the company’s managers, and Hehn was hired to paint a sign on a door at the Fulton Pub. Other McMenamins projects gradually followed. At first he did just decorative wall painting in the pubs, but as the company expanded, Hehn also began to design logos and labels and signs for their various locations, along with murals and illustrations.
Jenny Joyce [+]
The visual arts have always resonated with me. Before we had a television, as children we would gather around a book belonging to my mother. The book had full color prints of the world’s 100 “most famous” paintings and we would fabricate stories about the images. Now I realize how much that programmed me to love narrative in the visual arts. As a child, the mystery of a good painting would intrigue me. To this day, I still believe that mystery is always a component of my art.
There was a fabulous art department in my high school, and I took as many classes as I could. Following high school, I went on to get a degree in Fine Art Education from Hofstra University in New York.
Immediately after graduation, I went into the Peace Corps, teaching English in Ethiopia. It was an invaluable experience. Leaving the United States and coming into contact with such a different culture and economic climate opened me up to a world view that has to be experienced to be comprehended.
From the time of my return to this country, until the present, I have focused on painting. I began in Abstract Expressionism, eventually evolving to being primarily a landscape painter. I shared my love of painting and drawing with children as an artist in the schools, and began doing interior and exterior murals, along with my studio work. As a studio artist, I show paintings at the Portland Art Museum’s Rental Sales Gallery and the Guardino Gallery in Portland’s Alberta Arts district.
In 1993, my friend Joe Cotter called and told me that Mike McMenamin was looking for artists to paint doors for Edgefield, the former county poor farm in Troutdale, Oregon. I went with Joe to Edgefield one winter day and showed my portfolio to Mr. McMenamin. We agreed I would begin with a series of paintings on doors, highlighting the natural history of the area. The very first painting I did was an owl.
Over the years working with McMenamins, of course, the subject matter has varied widely, from straight historical representation to wildly imaginative takes on history and people. I’ve done everything from simple decorative treatments, like borders in rooms, to spot pieces on walls, to painting faces on pipes, as well as doing lettering and portraiture.
Working like this, in such a variety of settings and with many diverse goals, has been a wonderful opportunity to grow as an artist. There is also the added benefit of working with a group of talented and inspiring artists, and for a company that is unique in its vision.
You can see more of Jenny’s work at JennyJoyceArt.com
Yolanda Valdes Rementeria [+]
My interest in art began at an early age. In my native city of Ensenada, B.C., Mexico, my first teachers encouraged me to paint what was around me. Soon I developed a love of nature and found inspiration in its many forms. The ideas for my artwork are often a direct response to the landscape. Done in the plein air tradition, they are painted in the environment that inspires them.
While my landscapes are representational, some of my other artwork is imaginative and somewhat abstract. I enjoy using a variety of media, because after years of exploration, I find my preference of medium depends on the subject at hand.
Also, I am fascinated by the role culture plays in enhancing people’s lives; it is a realization I came to through nine years of teaching in a kindergarten I opened in Mexico. Perhaps it was this understanding that moved me to travel outside my country to Oregon.
Since graduating from Portland State University, I have shared my interest in art with children and adults in various ways. I taught Spanish through art and cultural awareness in Lake Oswego Public Schools and at Catlin Gabel Progressive Independent Day School in Portland. It has also been a joy teaching children painting in workshops at various fairs, festivals and summer programs.
Community service has been another important way for me to use art to give back. I’ve been honored by invitations to participate in art programs for seniors and underprivileged children in Mexico, Costa Rica and Bolivia. One of the most memorable and emotional experiences I’ve had was surviving the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City and then providing support during the aftermath. Here in Oregon, I have volunteered with the Migrant Education and STEAM programs within the public school system.
I feel fortunate that my participation in art has been such a highly rewarding experience. My artwork has been viewed and recognized in juried shows and national and international exhibits, as well as through purchase awards and corporate commissions. Above all, these achievements have given me the opportunity to share my art and to meet wonderful friends.
In 1999, I met Mike McMenamin at the Mexican Consulate in Portland. Mike had heard about my work from a mutual friend. I brought some paintings to show him and was delighted when he invited me to create art for the remodeling of McMenamins Grand Lodge in Forest Grove, Oregon. Since then, I’ve painted for McMenamins Crystal Ballroom in Portland and at the Old St. Francis School in Bend. I enjoy the concept of creating art that reflects the cultural, historical and social make-up of a community.
Brenna White [+]
Brenna White was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. She graduated from Oregon State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Brenna knew she was going to be an artist from the time she was a small child and has been a working artist for the last 16 years. Painting in bright, vibrant color, there is always a whimsical story within her work.
Eight years ago, Brenna discovered her additional passion — teaching — while instructing after-school art classes for kindergartners through fifth-graders. Brenna realized she had a connection with the kids and felt the calling to be in the classroom full time. She then went back to school and received her Master’s Degree in Teaching. Brenna now spends her days teaching middle school language arts and social studies, but always finds the time to continue creating art.
When she’s not creating Brenna leads a very busy life, but loves to be at home with her family, enjoys watching her kids play sports, is always up for a walk outside, and is always happy to meet up with friends. Brenna lives happily in Tualatin with her incredible husband Ryan, her awesome son Eli, and fantastic daughter Samantha. She also shares her home with her dogs Zeke, Joe and Hazel and her cat Sampson. You can view more of her art at Blue Lucy Studios.
Reeva Wortel [+]
Wortel is a Portland native who at the age of 12 started taking formal and not-so-formal art lessons in exchange for babysitting from longtime McMenamins artists Joe Cotter and Kolieha Bush. This began Wortel’s early understanding of narrative art as well as her adoration of the McMenamins artists’ work.
After Wortel went off to art college and traveled the world, she came back to Portland and asked Mike McMenamin if she could paint for him. To her surprise he said yes.
Wortel’s work strives to capture the essence of a person, place, time or thing with color, movement and emotion.
Reeva is an interdisciplinary artist who creates projects that combine painted portraits, interview techniques, performance and large-cale installation. Driven by a commitment to develop the technique of portraiture beyond its traditional limits, she has worked in communities as a social justice advocate and artist, honing a technique to create portrait collections that narrate the stories of our time. It is a process that involves in-depth interviewing, photography, painting and installation.
Wortel has been the recipient of several grants as a muralist, choreographer and installation artist. She has worked as a teaching artist in public and private schools in Oregon, New York and Louisiana. Wortel also works as a McMenamins painter illustrating the in-depth history of their properties through her paintings.
You can view more of her art at ReevaWortel.com
Myrna Yoder [+]
Yoder received her Masters of Fine Arts in Printmaking from Indiana University in 1990. She had thought she wanted to teach, but there was a recession and teaching jobs were few and far between. When she didn’t get a job, she headed back to Oregon where she had been born and raised.
Portland became Yoder’s new home and she began working as the sales shop manager for a small nonprofit craft gallery. The pay was minimal, so when a friend who managed the McMenamins Raleigh Hills Pub asked if she could draw art on their chalkboards in exchange for a meal, she jumped at the chance!
For several months Yoder drew pictures on the chalkboards along with the lists of the available beers. Ed Lawrence, the manager, asked her if she could paint something on the pub’s back door. Excited about the prospect of earning a little extra money, Yoder agreed.
However, what she didn’t tell him was that she had not painted for nearly 10 years. Her degree was in printmaking, specifically woodcuts. While her drawing skills were strong, she did not have much experience in painting or even working with color, since most of her woodcuts were black and white.
Nonetheless, Yoder showed up one morning and spent the day painting on the door. She propped it open and stood outside, virtually in the parking lot, painting. She used the paint straight out of the tubes, painting by value. She used yellow for the lightest areas and blues for dark areas and the other colors for the in-between values. By the end of the day, the pub had a painting on its back door and Yoder had some money in her pocket.
Pub manager Lawrence was happy with what she had done and got permission to have Yoder paint something in the pub’s bathrooms. This time, working at night, she painted murals that went all around the rooms.
In the ladies’ room, Yoder painted a scene including an elderly nude woman getting ready to get in the tub. Mike McMenamin was a little worried about the content, so he showed it to his young daughter Shannon to see what she thought. She liked it, the painting stayed and they invited Yoder to do some work at the Power Station Pub at Edgefield.
Since the early 1990s, Yoder has continued to work for McMenamins. She thought it was just going to be a short-term opportunity, but one job followed another — now, almost twenty years later, she’s still painting. She has created something at almost every property — murals, illustrations, graphics, decorative borders, faces on pipes ... she has even snuck some woodcuts in!
Myrna affirms: “It is always an adventure and I am happy that I have gotten to participate in making the McMenamins properties places that people enjoy visiting and making parts of their lives.”
Cathie Joy Young [+]
Young started painting for McMenamins at the beginning of the Kennedy School project in the mid-1990s. Her brother, Scott Young, had been painting for McMenamins for several years and suggested she apply for a job as painter.
At that time, the core group of painters working at the Kennedy School included Lyle Hehn, Jenny Joyce, Myrna Yoder and a few others. Lyle, Scott and Cathie Joy tended to begin work at the end of the day when the construction crew was beginning to disperse. Thus they would end up painting into the early morning hours, “drinking lots of coffee, listening to creepy late-night radio, telling stories and getting punchy.”
On some of the following projects Young worked on, Jenny and Myrna would also work late at night; the more painters and the later the hour, the more fun and kooky it became. Along with extremely high levels of productivity, there was often hijinx and general silliness.
Young also painted at Edgefield, Hotel Oregon, Roseburg Station Pub & Brewery, Mission Theater, Grand Lodge and various pubs. For the last ten years, she has been doing her own artwork in one form or another and most recently has concentrated on acrylic paintings, which she shows and sells in galleries and at CathieJoyYoung.com
Scott Young [+]
On the old McMenamins Web site there was neither a photo nor a bio of Scott. I scoured the Web, but couldn’t find anything more than what we already know: that he is the brother of Cathie Joy.
UPDATE 19 March 2018: Sometime during the past year, McMenamins added bios of their artists to their Web site, including many newer artists who are not included here. In addition, there is a new article about the McMenamins artists on the 1859 Oregon Magazine Web site. Because my listing has some details that these others don’t, and vice versa, between all three of our sites you will get the most complete information.
On May 6, 2017, Don Gaconnet wrote:
Talented artists for sure. I would love to paint and create all day for a living instead of doing technology...
On July 12, 2017, K slaydon wrote:
I appreciate you doing this. I've tried hard to find where these artist sell their work and have very little luck. Have you experienced any site or location where these artists sell their art work? If so, please share! Thanks.