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Wilsonville Public Library goers can view Isom'Ss locally inspired pieces, Benz'Ss eclectic jewelry

PMG PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Brad Isom depicts many Pacific Northwest landscapes in his exhibit at the library.

A couple of local artists are bringing a little more color to the Wilsonville Public Library.

Throughout May, the library features exhibits from jewelry artist Jennifer Benz and painter Brad Isom.

Benz, a Canby resident, has tinkered with beads and collected gems for most of her life. She remembers picking up interesting rocks near her grandparents' house in Boulder, Colorado, admiring Native American art, and learning beadwork at a Girl Scouts camp.

Since 1987, she has turned her hobby into a vocation. And beyond the beauty of her jewelry, she says, above all, the feeling of working with beads keeps her invigorated.

"A lot of people ask me 'Why do you do this?' Pick up something, rub it in your hands ... once you get the feel of beadwork, when you can feel the texture, everyone says 'Oh. That's why,'" she said.

In the exhibit, Benz mixes flamboyant pieces, which have more of an artistic quality, with more practical pieces that people will wear as jewelry. Similarly, when she gets her beads at the Willamette Valley Rock and Gym show, she often watches which stones other attendees like before selecting them.

"I don't have to be the one who loves it, because I'm not going to keep it," she said. "Having a few more commercial pieces allows me to do some cool art pieces as well and keep it running as a business."

She also tries to mesh Native American patterns with modern colors and shinier finishes and incorporates different kinds of beads into a single piece.

"I'll use a traditional pattern and pull that in and people go 'That's a really neat pattern.' It's a Native pattern but more sparkly or a new color or a new balance," she said.

Isom, a Wilsonville resident, previously held exhibits at the Wilsonville Library that included depictions of the American Southwest, but his current exhibit features mostly Pacific Northwest landscapes.

Isom says he finds inspiration from magazines, and the paintings depict native flowers from the Willamette Valley, desolate landscapes in eastern Oregon and a few of the Oregon Coast. He uses watercolors to bring these landscapes to life.

"I just find something that intrigues me, that piques me and gets me going. 'That's a really nice image. I'm going to see what I can do with that,'" Isom said.

He typically puts a unique twist on a landscape and likes to challenge himself.

"I have to visualize it first and then view what I think the finished product is going to look like before I start," Isom said. "I have found that the more challenging the subject is, if you get it done it's always your best stuff. I don't shy away if it is too challenging to execute."


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