Damien Gilley Joins University of Oregon in Portland A&AA Digital Arts Program | Winter 2013

Between the Lines…. with Damien Gilley

Damien Gilley | Image Courtesy of Oregon Arts Commission | Sabina Samiee

For those of us lucky enough to have encountered a visual arts, design or creativity-based education somewhere in our past, at one point, we, invariably, were exposed to the fundamentals of formal analysis—an effort to analyze formal aspects of a work of art by dissecting the artist’s efforts into elements and principles.  It is a concept and a process that usually begins at the beginning:  with a discussion of composition and the use of the simple line.

A line.  It has the uncanny ability to take us from one place to another.  It leads, we follow.  It can be many things:  thick, thin, horizontal, vertical, short, tall, diagonal. However, it is anything but basic.  This extending mark or lingering stroke, stretching into space without much width to speak of, is the fundamental mark in all works of art.  It defines, it divides, it embellishes, it conquers:  it shows us the way.  It can flow like a Rodin sketch, strut across a wheatfield with van Gogh precision, it can soar into the heights of a cathedral or flee into oblivion; it can provoke us Rising Down in a Mehretu.  It is a shape that defies shape, a force not purely found in nature (a place that seems to have realized the value of mass and substance), and a definition of all things both real and imagined.

Into this linear exploration of the possibility of contour, comes Damien Gilley armed sometimes with only his ubiquitous roll of masking tape.  Perhaps best described in his own words, Gilley is a multi-disciplinary artist and educator based in Portland, Oregon.  And he makes use of the line.  Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?  Hardly.  Take a look.

Damien Gilley. Detourism masking tape and airbrush Tetem Kunstruimte, Enschede, Netherlands

His biography tells us his work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at venues including Tetem Kunstruimte (Enschede, Netherlands), EastWestProject (Berlin, DE), Las Vegas Art Museum, Arthouse (Austin), the Art Museum of South Texas (Corpus Christi), and in Portland at Rocksbox, Linfield College, Wieden+Kennedy, the American Institute of Architects, the Pacific Northwest College of Art, and the Portland 2010 Biennial, among others.  Creating work with a global acceptance, Gilley is finding his method embraced by varying public and private entities.

His work has been reviewed by Artforum.com, the Oregonian, Willamette Week, Portland Mercury, Las Vegas Review Journal, the Austin Chronicle, drainmag.com, and was included recently in New American Paintings.

He has received multiple grants including a Project Grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council and an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Oregon Arts Commission. He will have a solo exhibition in May at Suyama Space in Seattle, WA, and was awarded a residency at Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Summer 2013.  Lauded by state art agencies, he even got top-billing on the Oregon Arts Commission’s Facebook page—his work gracing the longitudinal and coveted cover image.

This winter term 2013 at the University of Oregon in Portland School of Architecture and Allied Arts, Damien Gilley joined us as an adjunct instructor for the Digital Arts Program.  He is leading the pack of voracious fifth year BFA Digital Arts students in more ways than one: ambitiously planning student exhibitions in our White Stag Light Commons space, inviting special guest presentations and critiques to interact with his students, and planning future review sessions.  He has taken to our space like a well-seasoned regular, utilizing the Output Room and radiating out his special brand of digitalesque-handmade work.  And that is a key part of his intrigue—that unification of the digital with the hand-done.  It might seem mystifying and slightly oxymoronic but it works in a very avant-garde, technology-based Portland-cum-DIY way.  This year, in particular, his presence seems somewhat unstoppable.  Get off a plane at the Portland International Airport, and winding your way through Concourse A, you get to pass Gilley’s latest in-the-public-eye installation. It is large and mesmerizing–blue masking tape spanning, reaching, breaching, transporting us away little by adhesive little.  It is Gilley in his element—taking us places using technology and masking tape– and all we have to do is stand and stare and visually wander.  Even when the tape begins to dry, the sticky-stuff harden and peel off the wall, Gilley delightfully accepts this as all part of the process–“that’s what happens,” he cheerfully insists, “that makes it handmade.”  His philosophy on this merging of true high-tech and lowly rolls of hardware-store tape truly provides the cohesive core the medium (tape) might lack.

Damien Gilley’s new exhibit ‘Skywalker’, located along Concourse A, is a masterpiece crafted entirely from masking tape. Image from Port of Portland Facebook page.

I asked Gilley to tell me about his practice, his process and his experience (or the experience he hopes to have here at the UO in Portland).  And while I was fascinated by his recent installation at the Portland International Airport and the idea of masking tape (still absolutely captivated by the idea of masking tape….), this was to be a chance to let Gilley enlighten our left brain | right brain balance and give us a glimpse of how he is able to use a line in unexpected and unpredictable ways.

Gilley says,

My practice finds its home in a fine art context, creating installations and large-scale drawings in situ that challenge a viewer’s rational understanding of space. I use digital design programs to sketch and plan these experiential projects, ranging from Illustrator to Google SketchUp, which I utilized first as a  graphic designer in Los Angeles a decade ago. Now I use these tools to produce work that references digital languages, but are ultimately executed by hand in materials that step away from digital processes, like masking tape for instance.

Cashmere Fatigue vinyl and airbrush East/West Project, Berlin, Germany

Regarding his work with the Digital Arts’ students:

I am excited to develop dialog with the students about the hybrid nature of art making today, especially in the context of a digital/physical relationship. I think it is critical as artists to continue to question processes of making and develop lateral thinking strategies that explore new methods of understanding our world. The students do not need to invent completely new processes necessarily, but instead find a personal relationship to their investigations of our contemporary, digital society. This leads to a variety of complex projects that explore unique approaches to making and alternative exhibition possibilities.

Being an artist who identifies with both traditional media and digital processes, I love the opportunity to contribute my conceptual interests in the field to the AAA dialogue. I feel programs that saturate themselves in the current digital reality have the most potential of new programs today, really digesting the contemporary landscape in a complex way that investigates visual, cultural, virtual, and interactive phenomena.

And what we have to look forward to this term:

The students will create new work for a midway exhibition in February in addition to the development of their thesis culmination in May. Throughout the term various artists will come share their work, in particular artists who traverse both contemporary art and design practices. These will be valuable interactions with active exhibiting artists. It is a great opportunity for intimate discussion and conversation about how to exhibit locally and nationally, what digital processes do for artwork today, and how the art and design worlds correlate.

Look at more of Gilley’s work here, Damien Gilley and Saatchi.

Read a Willamette Week review.

Look at the Merriam Webster Dictionary and Dictionary.com definition of LINE.

[Thanks, Damien! for the interview…  -ss]

Portland Digital Arts BFA Fall 2012 | SECONDS Exhibit and Fall 2012 Final Review

Portland Innovation Continues:  “We are getting our ‘SECONDS’”

Xige Xia | Bubbles

This fall, Portland was not a place where one could easily escape plenty, sweet indulgence, and the realization that our city has been set a place at the global table of greatness.  Adding to this sense of lauded fame and fortune, Portland may be this year’s hippest culinary capital (could Bon Appetit dare to be wrong?) as the surfeit of exotically-spiced tastes and smells wafting from food carts, cooler-than-thou cafes, and sensorily delicious foodie destinations were met head-on by FEAST, a Bon Appetite | Portland Monthly extravaganza of, quite simply, food, books about food, demonstrations about food, and introductions to people who eat, sleep, live, and breathe for food.  For a week or so, interested Portlanders experienced copious amounts of palatte-pleasing, self-gratification in what was already a food-centric, help-yourself-to-more situation.  Somewhat reminiscent of a Bruegel Peasant Wedding while leaning precariously towards a Land of the Cockaigne, FEAST revelers sampled, tasted, and sampled again.  Afterall, there was plenty and it seemed to be all about more:  the ability to have and to have again.

Continuing within this latitude of celebration, Portland is also, of course, home to the infamous art walk evenings on First Thursday. . . .and, in more recent times, Last Thursday (Northeast Portland), First Friday (East Portland), and Last Friday (north of Portland) when the city cooperatively divides itself (presumably so sectors of the town can be enjoyed on different evenings), galleries throw open their doors, and the metropolis is invited to revel in creativity and goodness.  We certainly love our Firsts, but invariably they lead to seconds:  yes, the wanting of more whether it is art, culture or food.  There is little doubt that good experiences and exceptional adventures based on infusing the senses usually leave us desiring both more of the same and more of something completely different, otherwise known as having options.  Which brings us to another idea, every second is an opportunity to get something slightly different, pun intended.

Sarah Chan

Into this environment of availability and both having and wanting more came this year’s group of Portland-based, fifth-year BFA Digital Arts students.  As the students worked toward their first exhibit at the White Stag, things heated-up to a new level when they rolled out their November show, SECONDS, debuting to the public on First Thursday, November 1. 2012.  With an exhibit title that reached into the connotation-larder of food availability and more, the eight students concocted a multi-course exhibit that went on display in the 4R Corridor Gallery of the White Stag.  It was a spicy mingling of the culturally-observant and inquiringly thoughtful, technologically-inquisitive work served up family-style with the long and lean gallery space presenting the work in concentrated servings, open and inviting to all.

Xige Xia | Cultural Noodle at SECONDS

[See images of the SECONDS show here, FACEBOOK UO AAA.]

While relationships to Portland’s foodie culture and international acknowledgment should not be solely cited as contributing to the work produced, the autumn months of living, studying, and just being in Portland presented the students with an environment that was at once accepting and encouraging of their artistic explorations.  In fact, as Digital Arts student Taylor Engel commented,

“I think we are all enjoying the Portland “vibe” and working in the city. Although I don’t think SECONDS was directly related to the city of Portland, I do think Portland is the kind of city that promotes creativity, inspiration, and a healthy competition for artists and designers. I lived in Portland when I was a kid and later moved just outside Portland. When i was younger I would always talk about moving away, (mostly because of the weather) but now I see Portland as a great place to start my career…..I think the more you learn the more you want to learn. Moving from Eugene to Portland has rekindled my desire to learn more about art and really delve myself into the local art community. We’re all sort of getting our “seconds” when it comes to continuing our education into the BFA here in Portland.”


Taylor Engel

Even if the students’ Portland initiation was, or was not, in any way effected by the advent of FEAST, a metropolitan affection for food, culture, and art appreciation, and the plethora of options, the environs certainly contributed to an overall background context.  It is intriguing to note student Max Crist’s comment, “Seconds, to me, means having more of something, whether that be art or food or life!”  And, adding to this sentiment, student Corina Conzaleiz mentioned, “we decided on the name “SECONDS” as a form of expanding the possibilities….a serving of seconds in relation to art by the hope of leaving the viewer wanting more.”

An exploration and recognition of the student work is best done through images of that work which you can browse though in this post (and in the Facebook image album, Digital Arts Students in Portland | SECONDS).  Wandering the Corridor Gallery space during the SECONDS exhibit, and subsequently attending the final reviews of the students’ work bring new meaning and relevance to their work (final reviews were held at the White Stag Block, November 30, 2012).  It is this first-hand experience of the newly created pieces that provides the initial sense of interest and captivation.  Watching and listening to how thoughts evolve and images change brought a sense of wanting more, of wanting SECONDS, to see and discover how these eight individuals have and will work through their philosophies, uncover and realize ways to capture meaning.  Karen Munro, final reviewer guest (Head, University of Oregon Portland Library and Learning Commons) commented on this observable progression in the student work, “I’ve seen some students’ work progress amazingly from their first term to the end of the year.  Their ideas get more complex, and their expression of them gets more sophisticated, or changes formcompletely.  It’s really cool to see.”

Chihung Liao

Turning to the students’ work both visually and critically, we can observe and educate ourselves to the individual cultural perspectives they seek to present.  SECONDS, if anything, was a show and final review that let the artists explore their chosen genre and let us “learn a lot from hearing [the students] discuss their ideas and strategies….the one thing they all have in common is that they’re pushing the boundaries of their chosen form.” [Karen Munro]

Xige Xia

One student who challenged the constraints of cultural context, is Xige Xia and her piece, Bubbles (Mixed Material | Installation).  Bubbles was described by guest reviewer, Nancy Cheng (Architecture Portland Program Director and Associate Professor, University of Oregon) as: “[addressing] the complex issues about the changing character of Chinese cultural heritage in playful engaging ways.  In choosing to address what is close to her heart, she is able to bring attention to an issue with global resonance.”

Xige Xia with Nancy Cheng and Ying Tan

Xige Xia describing her own theory, shines a brilliant light illuminating her cultural background while clarifying her own personal and emotional connection:

China, as an old civilization, has developed a very diverse culture with an immense number of ethnic groups. While the Hans are the majority group, there are basically another fifty-five distinct ethnic groups.


Through the modernization and economic growth, people in many different ethnic groups are gradually abandoning their traditional lifestyles, leaving no one to carry on the old ways, such as arts, crafts, music, and customs. The charming tradition and the age-old cultural traits have been gradually passing into silence; the diversity and originality of the Chinese culture is extremely vulnerable and fragile right now. Some unique culture elements have already become distinct.


In this installation, I incorporated my inspirations from the Chinese minority groups’ cultural treasures ranging from costume patterns, vintage musical instruments to disappearing language and so on. Through my artwork, I truly want to express my wishes for these crystals of our ancestors’ wisdom to not only survive but to pass on and carry forward.


Corina Conzaleiz

Being raised in a Mexican culture, Corina Conzaleiz explains that she chose to respond to the idea of SECONDS by providing images that “relate to folkloric superstitions that have been passed on from generations to generations with the idea that every second is an opportunity for someone to tell a slightly different version of the superstition making it their own.”  Remember, every second is an opportunity to get something slightly different.

Reviewers view work by Corina Conzaleiz

She continues, explaining the content of her work:

I was exposed to many superstitions that my grandparents still believe are effective today. My grandmothers had these beliefs on doing certain things to relieve babies from hiccups, an evil eye, or being born with a deformity.


As a young girl I watched my grandmothers place a small piece of red thread on a baby’s forehead to relieve them from hiccups. This was quite common, I found myself searching for a red shirt to pull a piece of thread from whenever my baby sister had the hiccups. We would lick our finger and lightly press the thread against the baby’s forehead.


There is also the belief of the evil eye. Whenever a person looks at a baby and finds them to be extremely cute, it supposedly causes nausea,fever, or crying fits and these symptoms are thought to be a result of the evil eye. In order to cure the child my grandmothers would rub an egg around the baby’s body, crack the egg in a glass of water and analyze the texture of the egg to determine whether the baby was suffering from the evil eye.


Another superstition is to avoid the lunar eclipse during pregnancy. If you are exposed to a lunar eclipse at any time during pregnancy, your child will be born with some sort of deformity. In order to protect your child during pregnancy from a lunar eclipse, a woman can also wear a safety pin on the inside of their waistband.


I recently had a conversation with my new roommate, who happens to come from a Mexican culture as well and we hit the topic of old superstitions. To my surprise she understood a lot of the ones I grew up with. I became extremely interested in the topic as I never thought of them as superstitions before. I decided on a project that would bring awareness to these superstitions that all seem to cure or relieve a baby. I digitally illustrated three different images of babies and used physical objects to place on the printed images depending on the superstition.

Craig Hickman photographs work by Corina Conzaleiz

Students Sarah Chan and Koji Matsumoto explored their interests using different forms of digital media.  Matsumoto explains he “embraced the title SECONDS very literally, and [he] planned to title [his] project ‘Lossy’ alluding to the term defining the type of digital photograph that loses definition the more it is saved | copied | shared.”

Koji Matsumoto

Matsumoto continues,

My work is an attempted demonstration of how the culture of digital photography has developed. Photography has become so casual, cheap and simple, that any camera can store thousands of pictures at a time and each photograph I intended to act as referential memory.  However, unlike human memory, which can develop and change over time, the photograph is never going to be any more than what it is at its moment of creation; it will only lose clarity.  When traveling through Germany last summer I found myself, like everyone, taking hundreds of pictures of the sights, and not necessarily experiencing each moment.  Now the memories are limited to rectangular forms whose surroundings are unknown, and nothing new can be discovered within them.  The camera, therefore, limits memory instead of accurately depicting it.

Koji Matsumoto receives comments from Herman D'Hooge

When asked to discuss her work, Sarah Chan offered the following,

…. the spectacle is the most glaring superficial manifestation of mass media. Idealized lives, carefully constructed narratives of film, television, and literature, the presentation and function of our commodities, these are all subject to the influence of the spectacle.  It’s a critique of contemporary consumer culture. We are so mesmerized by the spectacle of our society that objects, locations, images have become emotionally charged. They have become our link to the people around us. We live for objects and images because we do not know of any other way to live.

How can small stories and the mirco-narratives of ordinary life compete with the spectacle? Is it not inherently influenced by mass culture? The discovering the spaces in between reality and fiction are the only ways we can find grace from the influence of the spectacle. The fleeting moments, the minor events, inspired instances of play are occurrences that can foster new ways of seeing only if one takes the time to examine them. I like to think of them as spectacles of the trivial. Capturing and interpreting this idea through visual media, how can the nature of passing events the change our idea of visual representation? Can they exist as a spectacle or does is very qualities negate its transformation?


Work by Sarah Chan viewed by Colin Ives

Addressing the culturality of music and the importance he feels music brings to one’s life, Karl Turner, and his exploration of music contains personal trusims that provide us clues to this artist’s motivation:

Music, to me, is one of the most important aspects of life. It is consistently seen in cultures all over the world and it is one of the most diverse art forms in existence.

Through my artwork I aim to utilize various aspects of music to help facilitate an active participation and acknowledgement in the viewer (listener) to the musical world around them. Through things like lyrical content exploration, non-traditional sound creation and visual appropriation I hope to turn passive viewers (listeners) into active participants in the world of music.

Karl Turner
Karl Turner

One sentiment prevalent with this group is the feeling of “hope” that Turner describes in his artist reflection.  It is this sense of a “hope” to influence, understand, form, and contribute to a global conversation that saturates this group’s genuine, yet freshly idealistic interpretations.

Reviewer looks at work by Taylor Engel

Perhaps no one kindles this sense of hope and moving forward in socially relevant and humanitarian ways to the extent of Taylor Engel. Engel’s project turns attention to feminism, female power, and equality.  Growing up in a world where liberalism, equality and the right’s of women have experienced significant progress, Engel still senses she wants more….can we say, seconds?  A larger helping?  An opportunity for greater results, more options, and a position of increased power and prestige.

Taylor Engel

She says,

I am interested in ideas of feminism, female power, and equality. I want to explore these ideas using a narrative about a powerful woman. Women tend to be praised for going after more “masculine” pursuits and interests so I wanted the woman in my story to have a position a man would more traditionally do. When thinking of powerful positions in society I came to the idea of a serial killer. Serial killers instill in people a sense of fear, respect, and titillation; they populate our favorite fictional crime TV and books while also having a real world presence as well as the vast majority of serial killers being male. Another way to make my character powerful is to make her not human. She is spirit-like and is not bound to a specific form. She is often associated with smoke or vapors and can move without restrictions. She wanders the earth acting as requital to those who have been wronged almost as sort of anti-hero. She identifies bad people by their recognition of her. She can only be seen and has influence over bad people.

Max Crist

The work of the Digital Arts students spans the culturally revelant, the personally emotive, the fascination with technology and change, and even, with student Max Crist, merges into how these concepts delve into the commercial world and fuel an interest in street culture figuring out ways to incorporate daily pursuits, such as bridging to the practicality of making a living.

Max Crist

Crist’s SECONDS come as meaning “more of something”, food, art, or life.  And in his own words, he describes his ethos:

I’m fascinated by personal expressions of everyday social interaction. The body of my work consists of anecdotes of social and pop cultural representations. These are things I see or experience. Often I translate these in nostalgic and comedic ways. I enjoy irony and humor in art. Ultimately I want to achieve a dream of being a professional designer and possibly driving my own brand and business. I believe that my determination will drive me to refine my personal artistic expression and style. I want to understand how to market and brand my ideas into a formal career and future artistic direction and I will challenge myself constantly as failure leads to great insights. If nothing else, please know that I am committed to working hard to achieve my goals of becoming a designer.

Max Crist with Herman D'Hooge

The fall term work of the Digital Arts students leaves one feeling a desire for more. When we like something or are interested, we always seem to want . . . . .seconds:   more of the same, or more, but of something different yet related, grounded in prior experience. And as Conzaleiz points out, the concept of having access to seconds is one where as both observant audience and exploratory sampler, we receive a form of expanding the possibilities of what is available. As viewers we want to see the students’ ideas progress, and get increasingly complex, or even be pared down to the very simple, after all, sometimes less is more.

Work by Chihung Liao

The students are currently on winter break.  But when they return in 2013, refreshed and ready to begin again, we will look forward to the experiences, the sights, sounds, textures, and culturally relevant observations they will serve us.  As we patiently watch their oeuvre unfold and develop, and their curiosity for more and thirst for understanding forge ahead, we anticipate helping ourselves to seconds, relishing in the opportunity to see more, learn more, feel more.  The work created during the fall 2012 term gave a glimpse of what’s in store.  Reminded of that Dickinsonian waif, who having tasted nourishment and sustainance, once said, “Please, sir, I want some more.”  Perhaps, Oliver Twist-like, we do, indeed, want more.

Chihung Liao
Reviewers with Chihung Liao
Jennifer Wall and John Park at the Digital Arts fall 2012 Final Review

Fall 2012 Digital Arts Instructor:  Ying Tan

Incoming Winter 2013 Digital Arts Instructor:  Damien Gilley

Students in the Digital Arts Program in Portland are Sarah Chan, Taylor Engel, Max Crist, Koji Matsumoto, Chihung Liao, Karl Turner, Corina Conzaleiz, Xige Xia

Special thanks to guest reviewers:  Colin Ives, Liz Bayan, Mack McFarland, Karen Munro, Michael Bray, Jim Fletcher, Mariana Tres, Eric Dayton, Craig Hickman, Dan Graland, Jacob O’Brien, Dave Anolik, Rick Silva, Colin Williams, Dom Cardoso, Herman D’Hooge, Ty Warren, Damien Gilley, Jason Sturgill, Paula Rebsom, Michael Salter, Bryson Hansen, Tomas Valladares, Jennifer Wall, John Park, Sara Huston, John Leahy, Ying Tan, Nancy Cheng, Cory Burnett, Jade Gonzales

Post and photos Sabina Samiee


Jody Mohney Pene, IIDA, LEED AP | Forty Years : Looking Back and Looking Forward

Interior design by Jody Pene: Large conference room in the Conference Center of Dunn Carney Law Firm by Josh Partee, Photographer.

On Monday, November 12, 2012, interior architect, Jody Pene, IIDA, LEED AP, and former principal at GBD Architects, presented her lecture, Forty Years: Looking Back and Looking Forward, to a Portland, Oregon audience at the University of Oregon in Portland, White Stag Block. Pene is a visiting professor at the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts Department of Architecture and the current University of Oregon Margo Grant Walsh Professor in Interior Architecture.


Pene gave her presentation as part of this year’s Gunilla Finrow Distinguished Lectureship in Interior Architecture for the University of Oregon School of Architecture and Allied Arts. Gunilla Finrow attended the lecture. Commenting on Professor Finrow’s attendance, Pene said,


I was very honored to have Gunilla Finrow, for whom the lecture series is named, come down from Seattle to attend my lecture. And pleased also to have many colleagues, students and friends both from the university and from the Portland community attending. Some of which were from GBD Architects and team members on many of the projects I presented. It was nice to be able to share the highlights of my career with both old and new acquaintances.


Jody Pene greeted by Gunilla Finrow just prior to Pene's Portland lecture at the UO White Stag.

Associate professor Alison Snyder from the UO AAA Department of Architecture introduced Pene, commending the visiting professor on a long and varied career that involved significant commercial and graphic design work and color expertise. Snyder remarked favorably on the opportunity to have Pene deliver her lecture both in Eugene (November 7, 2012) and in Portland; noting that it is a privilege to be able to “bring what we do in Eugene outside of Eugene to Portland and beyond—being seen and heard in places farther away” and to have the ability to provide lectures of this content and calibre to an interested community and metropolitan audience, such as that in Portland.Pene, in addition to her visiting professorship, is also on the UO AAA Board of Visitors. Professor Snyder thanked Pene for her ongoing and multi-tiered involvement with the UO School of Architecture and Allied Arts.


Beginning by illuminating her design philosophy, Pene spoke of several key factors that have played a major role in her career: the need for having a strong concept, recognizing an individual culture and goals, and being able to identify the appropriate environment of the business or client—these factors merge together in the creation of a project solution that is unique to each design venture.


Pene graduated from the University of Oregon in 1972 with a bachelor of interior architecture.  She immediately moved into her professional career relocating to Pittsburgh to work in graphic arts and interior design. At this early juncture, she found value in working with a team-based approach and discerned significant demand for her skills in signage and graphic design. In the 1970s, Pene relied on her, what she calls “old fashioned” handcrafting skills of drawing everything by hand and using tools such as pastels and pencil to convey ideas.


It was early in her UO studies and work career that Pene discovered her great love of “color and the play of patterns.” Calling upon this interest and her ability to bring together meaningful and attractive explorations of color and pattern once in a professional context, Pene’s career blossomed. She returned to the West Coast in the late 1970s to begin work with two highly significant Oregon architectural firms, Boora Architects (1978-1984) and GBD Architects Incorporated (1984-2010) where she held the position of principal for sixteen years and the principal-in-charge of interior design for twelve of those years.


Pene spoke of realizing the importance of collaboration in projects and of working with the entire team to create a strong concept. While her expertise would lie in the designing of the color palette and graphic arts component of the project, she consistently realized that it was vital everyone in the firm work together to pull the project together to create something remarkable.


Pene feels a pinnacle of her career came with her work on the renovation of Portland, Oregon’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Here she worked on the interior to come up with fifty-four new colors that would accentuate the Italian Renaissance details and inform the aesthetic of the greater interior. Everything from overall carpet patterns and specific border patterns, to the overall interior design concept complete with soaring theatrical spaces culminates to present a space of intricate detail and graciously considerate historical appreciation.  It became a space uniquely suited to its culturally-grounded purpose.


During her lecture, Pene discussed her range of work incorporating independent interior projects such as those at elegant Portland accounting firms and law offices. Pene recalls that she remained true to her own design philosophy whether designing way-finding signage for a stadium or the exclusive interior of a highly prestigious law firm: the importance of designing to the individual personality of the firm or the business always remained at the forefront.


As time passed and her career continued, Pene began to realize changes in the field and practical changes in the greater societal situation that would have consequences for how she worked and what she designed. In the early 2000s, Pene saw a shift in how people would relate to a building and how the interior design could be used to create spaces conducive to stimulating creativity. The design work at Wieden + Kennedy’s Dekum Building illustrated to her how a more casual building “painted white and with playful sculptural forms” could be used to encourage innovation and creative work.


This was a change Pene had seen emerging about a decade earlier. As the 1990s had progressed, she noticed that there was a transition occurring from traditional design to design that was more responsive to change and to the creation of warmth in spaces –spaces that could foster person-to-person interaction, collaboration, and conversation.


The future of design, says Pene, was venturing into the realm of exploring flexibility and adaptability in the workplace. This new approach embraced the concept of an open office that can be re-configured to contribute more effectively and cooperatively to a collaborative workforce. Some of the initial big businesses to adopt this free and flexible design philosophy were places like Wieden + Kennedy, Columbia Sportswear, and Nike. Pene’s design theory, readily adopted by the aforementioned clients, forged ahead creating spaces that affirmed creativity while retaining corporate identity.


By establishing connections to the corporate ethos and maintaining strong ties to the sense of a unified whole or corporate campus, Pene was able to design spaces that respond to a human element, are comfortably sociable, and encouraging to innovative thought. In addition to being sensitive to place and her understanding of the humanistic component, throughout her career, Pene advocated for a palette of materials as well as colors that would allow a positive psychological emotional response, physically provide a comfortable space, and energize inventive behavior. Sometimes inspired by “aesthetically unconventional interiors,” Pene spoke of the ability of a space to encourage or foster creativity and innovation.


As changes occurred in the economy and global marketplace, Pene traced progressions in the way designs changed for her clients. Developments in environmental considerations brought new products and the desire for sustainable materials. Pene saw opportunities to integrate the newly renovated spaces of previously industrial buildings into simple and contemporary spaces blending the existing exposed structural elements as a beautiful, raw part of the entire concept. Patina-coated steel columns would become exposed, a testimony of history and permanence and be combined with a new concrete structure to produce a relaxed and informal atmosphere encouraging teamwork. [Such as with GBD’s new Pearl District building.]


These innovative design principles intentionally promoted client and staff intermingling which was a distinct shift from the decades previous where offices might be cubicle-style, isolated or closed off to integration and interaction with others. Pene explained the changes in the nation’s economy and the world led to a more competitive global economy. This, in turn, brought about another change in the needs of corporate and office design: with the new digital age was the demise of the on-site printed book or need for prodigious library-like rooms in design projects for law firms. Instead, research could now be done online, at desks with computers in shared spaces and more open places.


Another change, altered the ubiquitous conference room. Communication was more electronic and conference centers could have multi-purposes with the invention of privacy screens and glass (technological innovations that changed the needs of the space). With economic and financial considerations in mind, saving money and cutting costs was a definite concern, too. Consequently, only one floor needed to receive and be open to the public thus decreasing overhead costs. Spaces were becoming lighter and brighter. People were to be encouraged to work together, to create in a more warm and welcoming environment and to realize to potential of shared spaces and daily interaction.


Pene highlighted development of trends we might consider commonplace today: the on-site workplace cafe and simple, social gathering spaces. Both of these concepts encourage on-site lingering collaboration, conversations and teamwork. People stay together longer, have more conversations and work gets done leading to greater productivity and the exchange of ideas. Even the advent of more modular furniture in the workplace allows for more space and more efficiency letting departments grow and shrink, use space and easy-to-move furniture as needed, and be more flexible to the needs of people.


The interior designer described how previously high-end law offices began to transition to interior spaces that were “home-like in quality” rather than strictly formal, dark and heavy. Pene associates these specific developments with creating spaces that let people “linger, relate, converse, and exchange ideas.”


Summing up her recent projects with slides of the Meriwether towers on Portland’s South Waterfront and the Center for Health and Healing (OHSU), Pene discussed her continued exploration into a design philosophy that creates a “living room feel.” At the Health and Healing center, Pene designed an interior that was restorative and innovative while being LEED Platinum: she was stunningly successful. She spoke of her work with Camera World and how she limited the palette there to mirror the products relying on black, silver, and nods to technology as a overall theme.


With a full and productive career, Pene now plans to continue semi-retirement sharing her time between Oregon and her beloved home in Montone, Italy where she finds pleasure in photographing and drawing the fields and farmland. This rural Italian paradise provides Pene with plenty of time to discover history, art, architecture and landscape…..and she continues to enjoy depicting her environment (by hand) in pastel, appreciating and being “enthralled by the seasons, the colors, the patterns.”


Pene showed a series of her photographs and pastels: a collection of images including poppy fields, mustard fields, a field of onions in bloom, sunflowers, an olive orchard. She spoke with great affection for the natural and agricultural environment that surrounds her in Italy and explained the “sense of revealing, in color and texture and shape, the potential of light and shadow, the symmetry and order, the curve and line, even in a random, eclectic pattern of blooming poppies in a field.”


As she looks towards a future well-immersed in the things she loves and still active in a field she has made great contributions to, Pene noted that with her recent experience at the University of Oregon as an instructor, she has now discovered a new interest: teaching and working with students. She would like to teach abroad in Italy to exchange students traveling there for the first time. Her career, she says, has allowed her to see the importance of international study to enhance the forward progression of one’s design ability and knowledge, reviatlizing creativity and bringing fresh perspectives. She encourages all students to step into the international sphere of educational experience to ignite their creativity and expand their reference. And, even in an age of digital dominance, students, she recommends, still need to learn to draw by hand.


Regarding her own continual exploration of trends, and innovative design thinking, Pene says she relies on her photography, her sketching and various sources of media to help inform and expand her knowledge and bring inspiration. She also gratefully acknowledges her frequent world traveling and attendance at fairs such as the The Milan Furniture Fair (Salone Internazionale del Mobile di Milano) and NeoCan Chicago as key in continuing to fuel her creative energy and staying appraised, or even ahead, of trends. Keeping in touch with the pulse of the contemporary design field is further accomplished, she says, by reading a plethora of online sources and publications.


A current that continually flows through Pene’s design work and consistently infuses her ability to design meaningful, thoughtful and yet dramatic and captivating interiors, is her understanding of the importance of collaboration on her projects. While she acknowledges the design community has changed over her forty year career, she cites how important her graphic design experience has been in assisting her creative work from the beginning. There is “a strength and a clarity” to projects today, she remarked, to the way people work together which she finds quite beneficial and refreshing. Being conscious of patterns and color, and tying a project together by identifying what is required to accomplish the specific goals remains the main objective of Pene’s work ethic. She emphasized the interaction between all involved, but overall, it is the sense of collaboration that is the sine qua non of every project.


Remarking on the tremendous changes in the design field, both in approach and materials that has taken place during the last four decades, Pene recalled that as trends emerge, and change is inevitable, the observation of what is needed, and wanted and being able to adapt that to a design is a vitally important aspect of any project.


The years have defined a gradual progression in her work projects—projects that moved from the creation of formal spaces to the innovative and imaginative formulation of casual spaces. And along with this inventive approach to the workplace, human, and space interaction, Pene has seen that letting people be comfortable encourages interaction, bringing about more creative and worthwhile production, and, in the end, making a more successful product.

Jody Pene at the White Stag, UO in Portland to deliver her lecture, 40 Years: Looking Back and Looking Forward.


Jody Pene | Pastel sketch called "Poggiolo," a fall scene of the countryside at a villa in Chianti, Tuscany (Italy).

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