Return of the Native

Justin L’Amie and Cynthia Lahti
Opening Reception: 2nd Saturday Art Walk
September 10, 5pm – 9pm through Oct 2
Speaker, Bill Ittman 7pm Ambient Music, Roge Hayes

KALA@HIPFiSHmonthly presents work by two Portland artists who have long ties to the Astoria area–Cynthia Lahti and Justin L’Amie. A special addition to the evening, North Coast art guru Bill Ittman will speak at 7pm, on behalf of the work of the featured artists. In addition, NorthCoast sound artist/painter Roger Hayes performs ambient music. Refreshments served.

Cynthia Lahti - Dolphins
Cynthia Lahti - Dolphins

Cynthia Lahti left Portland to earn a bachelors degree at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1985, and after graduating returned to Portland where she continues to live and make art. She is represented by PDX Contemporary Art in Portland and currently she is “focusing on ceramic sculpture and mixed media drawings based on expressive images of the figure. “There are so many figures out there in the world, wearing so many poses and costumes; I find those that resonate and interpret them in clay. Each artwork expresses an intense inner psychological state, its surface effecting a fluctuating quality, part beauty, part grotesque,” says Lahti of her work.

Lahti’s grandparents, Edla Soujanen and Nilo Vilulahti met and married in Astoria after immigrating from Tiavassolo, Finland in the early 1910’s. Her father Uuno Lahti was born in Astoria in 1919 and spent his childhood in Union Town and Youngs River. Her mother Janet Irving came to Astoria in the the early 1950’s. She was a home extension agent for Clatsop County, teaching women how to sew and cook. They were married in 1956 and moved to Portland. Her childhood was filled with many trips to Astoria, as well as camping adventures around the Pacific Northwest with friends from Astoria. Cynthia reports, “I continue to feel a connection to the place. It has sublime natural beauty and retains a feeling of being hidden and able to function by it’s own conventions. These are qualities that also dominate my artistic process. I am grateful to be able to exhibit my work in Astoria, a place many of my relatives and friends haunt.”

Justin L’Amie was born in Astoria in 1983, and he spent part of his childhood in the area with his grandparents Gail and David Wahlstrom, who came to Astoria from northern Minnesota in 1960. He attended Clatsop Community College for the academic year 2002-03 before moving to Seattle where he received his B.F.A. from the Cornish College of Art in 2006. He currently lives and continues to make art in Portland, OR and is represented by PDX Contemporary Art. His first one-man exhibition occurred in 2010.

Justin L'Amie - Snake
Justin L'Amie - Snake

Justin L’Amie writes about his work; “Most of my art is a tribute to that which sustains us: this amazing planet and all its beauty. Puppies, tree sap, barnacles, Queen Annes lace, rain, leaves, vitamin c, leather, fingernails, dry rot, coconut husks. As terrifying as it often is, I am still amazed at what the earth has to bare. I can’t help but be fascinated by the ways that animals (including humans) manipulate, promote, destroy and take advantage of the things that grow and exist around us. It is at once fantastic and wretched, and while it is often hard to accept the terrible in life, I try to embrace the fact that there are things I both love and hate about this place.”

Bill Ittmann, born in Boston, Mass. in 1939, developed a love of art and art historical sites while traveling in Europe in his teens. After receiving a B.F.A. in Art History from the University of Kanas and working at the University of Kanas Art Museum, he pursued graduate level courses at the Courtauld Institute at the University of London in 1964. In 1966 he lived with renowned California painter, Wayne Thiebaud and his family and modeled for a number of paintings and drawings. Ittmann completed his Masters Degree in Art History at Washington University in St. Louis in 1967. Between 1967-71 he taught seminar level courses at Williams College in Williamston, Mass. on old masters drawings and 19th century and contemporary art. Two students from his program, who later gained prominence are the late Kirk Varnedoe-chief curator of the Museum of Modern Art, and Thomas Kerns-director of the Guggenheim Museum in New York. After a long period of teaching, publishing and traveling he finally moved to Cannon Beach in 1978 where he currently resides and continues to be very active in art related activities-Design Review Board for the City of Cannon Beach for ten years, teaching at Clatsop Community College and former Director of the Art Center Gallery. He is an enthusiastic collector of regional and local contemporary art.

Ittman got to know Justin L’Amie while he was teaching in the CCC Art Department. “I found him to be profoundly interested in being an artist and ready to absorb every aspect of the art scene in Seattle and Portland that I could expose him to. He showed an exceptional appetite for looking at and producing art in a variety of media. His work has a deep interest and awareness of nature and shows a gentle, sometime mordant curiosity about all sides of nature, both lush and vibrant, and fragmented and dissipated,” says Ittman. The artists that L’Amie admires include Thomas Bewick, J.J. Audubon, James Ensor, Egon Schiele, David Shrigley, Raymond Pettibon, among others.”

As a curator and supporter Bill Ittmann has known Cynthia Lahti’s work through her affilation with PDX Contemporary. The artwork with very tactile surfaces stretches the boundaries between “art” and “craft”. On Lahti’s work Ittman describes, “Broken pigments, broken figures, mostly human and cats, substantially, but not exclusively female. There is a narrative quality to the work–fragments of a tale without a beginning or an end. There are many art historical references: Degas, Rodin, Giacometti, L. Freud, Francis Bacon, KiKi Smith, and Brancusi.”

This exhibition is made possible by the generous support of Jane Beebe, Director of PDX Contemporary Art in Portland. Jane has frequently loaned works of art from her gallery to exhibitions at the Art Center Gallery at CCC.