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News arrow Features arrow BROOKINGS ARTIST TURNS TRASH INTO TREASURE

BROOKINGS ARTIST TURNS TRASH INTO TREASURE Print E-mail
March 21, 2002 11:00 pm
Duncan?s favorite piece is an old railroad oil can, left. She painted a Holstein cow on a cream can found at a yard sale. ().
Duncan?s favorite piece is an old railroad oil can, left. She painted a Holstein cow on a cream can found at a yard sale. ().

By SHARON KANNA

Walk up to Kathy Duncan?s little house on Hemlock Street in Brookings and one glance tells you she?s a collector of discards, both from people and nature.

Crab pot floats of all shapes in reds, yellows and whites, large chunks of driftwood, a bright red life buoy, even a large rusty chain adorn the house, porch and side shed.

A discarded piece of wood hanging over the shed reads ?Frankie Boy.?

Her artwork throughout her country home is much like the house itself. She takes what others or nature cast away, and she creates things of beauty.

She finds a large, weathered, bug-eaten piece of wood on the beach and visualizes a pelican on it. Soon, the wood and the pelican are one. It?s as if the two were always that way when her paintbrush is finally set down.

A completely smashed bucket becomes her pallet for a cow, one of her favorite subjects to paint.

?The bucket was out in the desert (in Nevada) on one of my walks,? she said. ?I guess somebody ran over it!

?Usually when I look at an item, I know right away what I want to put on it,? she said. ?It says something.?

Her favorite medium is acrylics because of its versatility, but she also paints with watercolors and pastels.

Duncan has booths with her work for sale at The Marketplace in Brookings, Pacific Craft and Variety in Harbor, and recently in a new antique and gift shop, The Gold Dust Twins, in Gold Beach.

There was a time when she did most of her paintings on traditional canvas. She entered, and often won art competitions. But she wants to ?lighten up,? have fun with her painting now, she said.

She has fun painting signs, like one on a cast off piece of wood that proclaims ?Clam Chowder? in bold red letters.

?My signs are whimsical, like I do the goofy fish ? gone fishing signs,? she said. ?I don?t like to be too serious.?

She pointed out an old, worn wash basin with the head of a jersey cow on the back. ?I like cows a lot. I feel guilty every time I eat a hamburger.?

She and her husband, Chuck, have lived in Brookings almost four years. Before that they lived in Port Orford for four years. That?s where she got ?a ton? of driftwood, which she is still using to paint on today.

She likens herself to the ultimate recycler. When she lived in Carson City, Nev., an Indian woman came up to Duncan in her art booth. She said, ?You know, this is the best form of recycling that I?ve seen.?

Duncan said it made her feel good.

She sees beauty in a large piece of roofing she found blowing around on a Nevada desert. After chasing it down, she visualized an almost life-sized picture of Mae West adorning it.

?I?d been wanting to paint her and was looking for a big piece of tin ? and there it was,? she said, smiling. Now it?s a part of her studio behind the house.

?I don?t like to throw anything out or waste anything,? she said. ?Sometimes I feel like the original Sanford and Son!?

She has been painting roosters and chickens, cows, pigs, pelicans and mermaids on unique items for about 25 years. ?It?s one of the most fun things for me.?

She loves to paint on furniture, too. ?I like painting on old tables and chairs, end tables, stools.?

Even rocks become cats, bunnies and otters. The area has this throw-away item in abundance, she noted.

?No matter where I go, on vacation or wherever, I?m always thinking ?I could paint that!? I drive myself nuts sometimes.?

Three of her favorite pieces are in the house and she will never sell them.

Her favorite is a very large picture of a mermaid that?s hanging in her living room. Her brother and his wife found the wood for it on a beach in Port Orford and gave it to her.

She said she enjoys looking at it because she likes the way it looks on the wood, and ?the whole mood of it; she has a nice, peaceful look to her.?

Duncan said if she sold the mermaid, she would never be able to duplicate it.

?When you?re in the mood, you create it,? she said. ?Later you can?t get the same feeling.?

Another favorite piece is a brown pelican, also painted on a discarded piece of wood. Pelicans are her favorite subject to paint. ?They?re really fascinating ? a very different bird,? she said. ?Peaceful pelicans.?

Her husband, Chuck, frequently takes photographs of things she likes to paint. And, she added, ?He drives me all over and helps me find lots of bargains.?

She said he doesn?t mind all her ?stuff? in and around the house. And he doesn?t try to pull her away from her painting to do something else.

?He hasn?t tried to change me; he accepts me for the way I am. You couldn?t ask for anything better in a mate.?

Duncan held up an old cream can in the kitchen with a holstein cow painted on the front. She paid $2 for it at a yard sale.

?In an antique shop you?d pay about $40 for it,? she said. ?Part of the fun is the hunt. I love that. I?d have to put that at the top of the things I enjoy doing most.?

Her husband?s van attests to that. A bumper sticker on the back warns, ?This vehicle stops at all garage sales.?

The money she makes off her art work is ?play money? she said. It?s not to make a living, but ?to reinvest in the junk I find,? she said, laughing.

She said creating works of art from cast-off items and a little paint makes her happy, even if it doesn?t make a lot of money.

?You have to enjoy what you do,? she said. ?(When I was younger) I had jobs I absolutely hated. Now, I?d be a bag lady instead.?

Another of her pleasures comes from her faithful clients. Some vacationers who pass through Brookings yearly stop at her booths without fail.

?I talk to people that actually have a collection of my stuff,? she said in wonder. ?That?s a very pleasing thing.?

Duncan walked out back to her quaint studio that used to be a dirty old shed.

Under the bare-beamed rustic ceiling were shelves and walls of collectibles, interspersed with her own works. She even turns a studio into a work of art.

?I haven?t been out here in the last two months,? she confessed. ?I?ve been sick three times since Christmas. But I?m feeling better and I?m feeling like I want to get back out here.?

 

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