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Artist pulls inspiration from Valley

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Inspirations that manifest into art come unexpectedly to her,

sometimes from places she's passed by all her

life, like the trains parked along Railroad Avenue in Snoqualmie.

Gregory is a Valley native who creates photographs, sculptures

and pieces called "construction boxes"

that are made of wood, rocks, paint and a variety of other items.

She is referred to as a "minimalist," an artist whose work is

"characterized by the use of few and simple

elements," according to Webster's dictionary.

The artist has three art degrees and has displayed her work

everywhere from Isadora's Café in Snoqualmie

to the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem,

N.C. Her sculptures were juried for the fine-arts center by curators of

the Hirshhorn and Guggenheim museums — two of the top art museums in

the world.

Since 1980, Gregory has been creating a series called "Ancient

Notations," which includes different mediums. Recently, her Railroad

collection of laser-print photographs from the Ancient Notations series has

been submitted for a possible show at Vanderbilt University's gallery

in Nashville, Tenn.

If selected, the art will premiere during the 2001 gallery season.

Gregory said it's an honor to even be asked to submit an entry.

In addition, her works will soon appear in a publication by the

Virginia Museum in Richmond, Va. The magazine will feature works from 1981

to 2000 museum grant recipients who were Virginia residents _ which

Gregory once was.

After raising a family for three decades on the East Coast, mainly

in Virginia, she came back to the Valley.

"I felt like I needed a sense of roots, where I have family," she

said. "I can go get my hair cut and talk to someone who knew my parents.

There are people here that I started first grade with and it gives me a sense of

community."

Life afforded little opportunity for art lessons in Gregory's

childhood. She grew up in one of 12 houses called the "dirty dozen" on the hill near

the Weyerhaeuser mill, in what was called the town of Snoqualmie Falls,

also referred to as "Mill Town." The

houses were nicknamed as such because soot from the mill blew over the

neighborhood and covered everything. Her parents came to the Valley in 1942,

when Gregory was 2 years old. Her father, Francis, worked as a log-truck

driver for Weyerhaeuser and took landscape photographs of the Cascades.

Her mother, Norma, worked in a dental office, played organ for the Mount

Si Lutheran Church and taught music to her two daughters.

"I owe whatever creative talent I have to my mother and father,"

Gregory said.

Harold Keller, the community hall director in Snoqualmie, who took

photographs that documented the life of mill town residents, also was an

influence.

Gregory had her first official art teacher at the North Bend

middle school, which once stood on the Two Rivers Alternative School's

location. Up to that time, she was busy designing projects, but was at a loss to

explain what she was trying to do.

Finally, with the help of her teacher, she found a name for her

creations: art.

"I was always making things, building things and I didn't know

it had a name," she said.

Several artists influenced Gregory when she went back to school in

1972. She studied the works of contemporary artists, whose untraditional use

of color, materials and size inspired her.

After graduating from Mount Si High School in 1958, Gregory's

first job was at a photo studio. But it was only in the last few years that she

considered photography a legitimate art medium.

Now, Gregory finds sustenance in her art — including her photos —

and learns about life from her work.

She explained that her art is quite different from other artists,

because many artists do drawings or sketches of their ideas before starting the

actual project. Gregory just plunges ahead, letting the art guide her

through each process.

"The work just comes, it happens," she remarked. "It's an

unstructured way of working, and it can be real scary in that you don't have a

clear idea of what the next step is."

"I don't ever want to restrict the piece. I want to let it be itself and

I don't want to get in the way of that process," she added.

When doing sculpture, Gregory starts with a single object, a rock,

for example. She feels the texture and weight of the rock and begins to

ask questions: What does this need? What should come next? And she

creates from there.

Using photography is a similar process, only visual. Gregory likes

to take something out of context and find different meanings from the photo.

An example of this is her Railroad series, in which she took pictures just

inches from the old trains' surfaces. When blown up, the photos show shapes

and colors most people traveling by would never notice.

"I work to the point where I don't hear any noise. I'm in absolute

total involvement with that subject," she explained. "I forget everything."

Because of the intense involvement with their work, Gregory

said artists are usually misunderstood.

"The process of being an artist is not immediately accessible," she

said, adding that people in mainstream society find the notion of starting

a project without clear instruction, and the action of staring into space

while thinking about an idea, hard to grasp.

But there are many kinds of work besides traditional jobs, the artist

exclaimed.

"I can tell you it's a very difficult type of work, though," Gregory said.

In her point of view, it is the lack of an end product or deadline

that people find hard to understand. She said that some types of artists, such

as musicians, are more easily understood because they have an end product

_ an album that can be marketed to a large portion of the population.

Goal-oriented environments are not always healthy, Gregory

added, but that's what today's society understands.

"If you're not moving and doing a chore, you're not working. A lot

of people were raised that way, and so was I. And it's not OK," she said.

Although Gregory's philosophy is a bit different from others,

she wouldn't trade in being an artist.

"I can't imagine being without [art], because to me, it's what

brings the complexity and richness to life," she said. "It makes me question

what I know and it reaffirms that facts and reality aren't always the same."

Gregory hopes that others will find meaning in her art.

"There's so much of our lives that are (on the) surface, what you see

on the outside," she explained. "I

believe that if I go deep enough into my own experience, then it will have

meaning to other people."

Art lovers or curious Valley residents can view Gregory's work

for another week at George's Bakery in North Bend and through the end

of November at Larson Family Chiropractic, also in North Bend.

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