"Live a good life, and in the end, it’s not the years in the life, it’s the life in the years."

Artist Updates

By on December 22, 2019 in Arts with 0 Comments
MARTHA FLORES

By Susan Lagsdin

Every year, we like to chronicle the progress of a few people from Chelan and Douglas counties who’ve been featured in past The Good Life artist profiles. 

It’s tough to choose from the rich trove of creative people who’ve told us their stories. These five (three visual artists and two writers) have honed their crafts, changed directions, striven for goals and generally shown us that artful lives can be lived well in the folds and foothills of the Columbia River valley.

MARTHA FLORES 

(DECEMBER 2011) Martha’s work is founded on serious study of art and science. Raised in Guatemala and El Salvador, she completed a fine arts master’s degree in California. That demanded proficiency in all media, so beyond oils, she became equally adept with clay and bronze sculpture, pencil and pastel, ink and acrylics.

Successful in teaching art, but wanting to touch lives even more closely, Martha went on to a second master’s degree in counseling psychology.

Her painting demonstrates that the pain in an artist’s personal evolution can become a public blessing. “I turned sadness in my own life into more creativity — it was good fuel for me,” she admits. 

Turmoil, violence and poverty in Central America and especially, she said, “Children caught in the middle of so many world events turned into tragedies” continue to affect Martha deeply and have changed her art in the last eight years. 

“I believe my colors are more intense, my expressions more heart felt.” 

Retired recently from her counselling career, she has also started writing and performing poetry that expresses her universal concerns.

She said she’ll continue to be an art activist, teaching workshops to all ages here and in her country of birth, such as one in August 2019 in El Salvador where she taught art, theater and poetry to a group of 30 therapists who plan to use them with their adolescent students.

Martha is pleased to be exhibiting at Wenatchee Valley College’s Robert Graves Gallery this coming spring. Her show, called The Immensity of our Essence, will depict, she explained, “Faces in many colors mirroring each other, being more alike than different.”

DEREK SHEFFIELD

DEREK SHEFFIELD

(OCTOBER 2010) The techniques Derek gleaned from his writing education (a BA and MFA from the University of Washington), his 20 years with poetry, and his mentors’ influence have served him well. He’s been a conference speaker and an editor, and he shares tangible truths about writing with his English classes at Wenatchee Valley College, where he is an associate professor and serves as Humanities Chair.

He’s gradually amassing grants, awards, and exposure in an array of literary journals and magazines, encouragements that are relatively rare in the poet’s world. 

These nine years have brought organic and gradual changes to Derek’s poetry life. His first full-length book of poems, Through the Second Skin, published in 2013, was well-reviewed and won finalist status in the Washington State Book Award. 

After that, he explained, giving readings and presentations across the Pacific Northwest — the bearable flipside of literary acclaim — slowed his own creative work somewhat.

But his recognition prompted an invitation from Terrain.org (“the oldest, still-publishing online journal on the planet,” said Derek) to be poetry editor, and though it takes time and energy, “it nourishes me and my work in subtle ways.” 

He also values the continual support of local writing groups and comrades.

While teaching, parenting and editing, he’s also sent his newest book, Not for Luck, out to publishers, and will be touring a co-edited collection Dear America: Letters of Hope, Habitat, Defiance, and Democracy starting in April 2020. 

His future work may well be centered on trees, he said, and he also hopes to write poems that respond to a deep re-reading of Thoreau.

AMANDA AND RUSTY GIBBS

AMANDA AND RUSTY GIBBS

(AUGUST 2014) Their year-old studio is light, airy, spacious and well-equipped, complete with talented employees. It’s tucked away on the east fringe of Leavenworth, but their business is very definitely downtown, and therefore follows the Bavarian theme.

She’s the muralist, fine line artist and colorist; he tends toward the web work and constructed multi-material projects.

Working together, in just one decade they’ve created some of Leavenworth’s more often-seen public art. You’ve seen their work from The Hat Shop to Cascade Medical and dozens more signs, and murals from The Innsbruker to Festhalle to Starbucks and beyond. 

Gibbs Graphics has expanded both its repertoire and its geographic area in the span of five years. A quick look at their website shows not only the familiar Bavarian murals but wine labels, logos, automobile signage, sculptures and 3-D signs for businesses in Washington and out of state. 

Amanda said, “We like to continually challenge ourselves. We recently made an additional website that focuses on our higher-end 3D signs and caters to a national audience.” 

She completed a sculpting workshop at British Columbia’s Imagination Corporation, and the recent purchase of a CNC router and laser engraver enabled them, said Rusty, “to turn our sketches and designs into really nice pieces of art with more ease and accuracy.”

With larger and more complex projects, they’ve added employees, including a project manager who uses estimating and job tracking software, giving back time to the couple to do what they do best: art. 

“It has made things much smoother,” Amanda said, “and has allowed us to focus much more on the hands-on side of the business again.” 

KAY KENYON

KAY KENYON 

(NOVEMBER 2007) In her story about how she became a published writer, Kay Kenyon wrote: Fiction writing is not, as I once believed, about self-expression. It’s about communicating with others, about establishing a connection with readers by bringing fascinating people to life in the context of a story.

Today I am awaiting the publication of my eighth novel. My latest novel, Bright of the Sky recently received a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. But the life of the novelist, is nevertheless, nothing like what I expected.

Twelve years later, Kay Kenyon reiterated her earlier observation, saying “Nothing about the writing life is predictable. It’s been more like shooting the rapids than a stately progression of writerly days.”

Changes in the publishing world have disrupted Kay’s routine but presented options. She recently self-published two short stories anthologies and says, “Against all odds, I’ve learned to navigate the complex world of book promotion.” 

A second series (after her successful quartet, the Entire and the Rose), The Dark Talents trilogy, a historical fantasy set in 1936, was picked up by Simon and Schuster. 

True to form, she’s now working on yet another novel, the subject and genre of which she’ll keep under wraps until its time has come.

Kay was instrumental in starting Write On The River in 2005. She stepped down as chair but remains on the board of directors, helping to plan workshops and influencing local writers in seminars and retreats.

She said she once avoided teaching, thinking it would detract from her creative work, but had a change of perspective. 

“Fiction writing isn’t just about creating, but about sharing, helping, and connecting. Fewer pages and more people in my life; it’s a good trade.”

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