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Artist finds mountain of inspiration at Hood

Brightwood's Sue Allen displays work at Mt. Hood Museum and Cultural Center
by: contributed photo, Sue Allen snowshoes on Cooper Spur Road on the way to Inspiration Point earlier this year.

There may be an infinite number of ways to look at Mount Hood: a volcano, a treacherous obstacle, a recreational paradise.

For Sue Allen, a Brightwood artist, a more limited vision of the mountain helped her uncover its diversity and beauty.

An exhibit of Allen's screenprints, called 'Around Mount Hood: 12 Months - 12 Directions,' depicts Mount Hood at different angles and during different months of the year and will open at the Mt. Hood Museum and Cultural Center on Wednesday, Nov. 1, with a reception held on from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19. Truly, though, the inspiration for the project was simply a matter of getting out of the house.

'It was a ploy to get me on the trails,' said Allen, 59. 'Hiking, cross county skiing, snow shoeing; I live here on the mountain and I don't give myself time to go out. I'm either doing yard work or in the studio, and I thought why not make it a project. Then I have to go out in the field.'

In July 2005, Allen started the project, which entailed picking a spot that had a viewpoint of the mountain, going to take a picture and then repeating the process each month for an entire year. With each month, Allen moved around Mount Hood like the face of a clock. In December, she gazed northward; in January, it was an east-by-northeast view; and she worked until all 12 months in 12 different directions were complete.

Collecting the pictures sometimes proved to be a challenge to Allen, who took up snow shoeing for the project. On one occasion, she lost her bearings while treading through the snow, and another time, a sudden storm forced her to turn around and come back later.

'One month we had to go out twice, we got a thunderstorm going through the meadows and had to get off the mountain,' Allen said. 'Went back 10 days later, and it was fabulous.'

With the pictures in hand to serve as a reference, Allen got to work at her screen prints; a form she took up in 1972 after getting a degree in architecture. The art form is a stenciling process that uses a fabric placed on a frame. The artist blocks out part of the fabric while squeezing a special ink on the remainder.

'With screen printing, you can overlap colors, but it has to be designed deliberately,' Allen said. 'You can't go back. It's a very layered process; I feel it's very architectural.'

Alongside the screen prints will be information, statistics and stories from each of Allen's picture gathering trips, along with pictures. The museum will also have a display illustrating the process of screen-printing.

The project was made possible in part through a grant from the Clackamas County Cultural Coalition and the Oregon Cultural Trust. As Lloyd Musser, curator for the Mt. Hood Museum and Cultural Center, sees it, the grant and the project are good for the community.

'Part of the trust is to bring art to underserved populations, and Mount Hood is underserved,' Musser said. 'We're happy to do it, and it keeps with our mission.'

Allen is happy to deliver her art to the mountain as well and, hopefully, remind a few people of the incredible natural beauty that some might take for granted.

'I hope that they see how diverse the mountain is,' Allen said. 'I hope people see how beautiful Mount Hood is and how important it is for us to keep it beautiful.'

If you go

Around Mount Hood: 12 Months - 12 Directions will be at the Mt. Hood Museum and Cultural Center, located at 88900 E. Highway 26 Business Loop in Government Camp, from Nov. 1 through January. To contact the museum, please call.