About M.E. Dunham (Elaine)

Like both of our parents, my two sisters, brother, and I were all born in Los Angeles and raised in Southern California. Pasadena was our home, with the exception of a couple of inexplicable years (1967-1969) we spent in San Juan Capistrano.

I loved painting, drawing, sculpting with clay, imagining, and creating, and was–to my family and friends’ puzzlement–very happy to be alone, with my bedroom door closed, making art. I enjoyed taking art classes at the Pasadena Art Museum (before it became the Norton Simon Museum). In 1976, I graduated from Westridge School for Girls, where I probably should have taken more art classes than I did. I regret being disrespectful of the studio art teacher’s assignments and choosing not to take all classes she offered. Instead, I drew around the edges of notes I was taking in academic classes and made lots of art at home.

While my higher education included studio classes in watercolor with Carl Schmalz plus drawing and oil painting with Oriole Farb, English was my major area of study at Amherst College. I continued to devote intense attention to words, history, and ideas as I earned a master’s degree (and met my spouse) at Harvard Divinity School. I served as an intern for a couple of years at the First Baptist Church of Boston and seriously considered professional ministry but never felt any certainty about being “called.” Having a headache every Sunday after church underscored my doubts.

For nearly ten years, while my husband was studying medicine and completing his residency, I was employed as an editor of Lutheran periodicals, first by Fortress Press and subsequently by Augsburg Fortress. In addition to refining written content, page design as well as selection of photos and illustrations were among my responsibilities. Occasionally I also created illustrations.

Every once in a while, I have been a guest preacher at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Coos Bay, but I feel free to say more in a painting than in a pulpit. Additionally, I find preaching exhausting, while painting energizes me. I have also long been distressed by the predominantly patriarchal traditions of the Church.

With my husband, Bill Moriarty, I have lived in Philadelphia, San Francisco, and–for twenty-five years–Coos Bay, Oregon. My life from 1988 until 2012 was consumed with shepherding sons and dogs, cooking, cleaning, volunteering in schools, driving three sons to medical, sports, choral, and forensics venues all over the state, and accommodating the always-changing schedule of my physician spouse. When the youngest of our sons left for college in August 2012, I suddenly had vast stretches of time alone. Resolutely, but with little confidence, I turned back to my childhood passion for drawing and painting.

Coos Art Museum has helped me reclaim regular habits of experimentation with lines, marks, and color. Starting in the fall 2012, I began taking nearly every studio art class offered at the museum–watercolor painting, acrylic painting, print making, colored pencil illustration, mixed media, and collage. My instructors have included Pat Snyder, Liv Drahos, Allen A. (Tony) Adams, Stephanie Donaldson, Holly Rodenkirk, Eileen Sorg, Zoe Cohen, and Jesse Reno. After a summer workshop in Yachats, OR, with Serena Barton, I also began creating abstract works using mixtures of oil paint and cold wax medium. In the last five years, I have rarely worked to reproduce people, places, or objects in my art. Most of my paintings now are abstract expressions of experiences, ideas, and aspirations. I usually paint from the inside out.

In 2015, Pat Snyder, local artist and retired high-school art teacher, offered a class entitled “Experimental Drawing” at Coos Art Museum. It transformed my life and my art. I took it twice. Since 2016, I have been painting two Wednesdays a month, for about five hours, in Pat’s “Open Studio Group” at Coos Art Museum with six or seven other artists. It has been an awesome opportunity to paint alone together.

In early 2020, I stumbled upon some free online classes with artist Nicholas Wilton which I found engaging, so I enrolled in and paid for his twelve-week online Creative Visionary Program 2020. The twelve-week course was offered with a full refund if one cancelled before the end of the first month. Before the end of the first month, Covid-19 had me, like so many around the world, locked down at home. So I stayed in Mr. Wilton’s program and painted passionately for three months. I produced about twenty abstract paintings, all on 12″ x 12″ wood panels. I repeated Nicholas Wilton’s Creative Visionary Program in 2021, but probably will not continue for a third year.

My artwork has been exhibited in three Coos Art Museum Biennials; in annual September–October shows, either solo or with friends, at Black Market Gourmet in Coos Bay; in FLUX: All Things Wax 2020 at Arts Benicia in Benicia, California; at Lynn Hanson Gallery’s 2021 ICON Exhibition in Seattle, Washington; at Pacific Coast Medical Park Gallery in Coos Bay; at the Coos Bay Library; at Southern Coos Hospital in Bandon, OR; in six juried shows at Verum Ultimum Gallery in Portland, OR ; at Oregon Bay Properties in North Bend, OR; in the juried regional exhibitions Expressions West 2017 and Expressions West 2021 at Coos Art Museum; at the Hawthorne Gallery in Port Orford, OR; at God’s House of Vision with artist Dana Gronemyer in Coquille, OR; and in numerous community shows at Art by the Sea Gallery in Bandon, OR. In May 2019, half a dozen of my paintings, along with paintings by artist friends Geralyn Inokuchi, Susan Lehman, and Sharon Jensen were hanging in the Red Door Gallery at Umpqua Valley Arts Association in Roseburg, Oregon, in a show entitled “Celebrating Abstraction.”

On commission, during the last two months of 2017, I created a 4′ x 5′ painting entitled “Tomorrow” for the residence of a Coos Bay couple.

Intermingled with paintings by Geralyn Inokuchi and David Castleberry, six of my larger paintings currently hang high on the walls of Art Connection, my main source for art supplies and professional framing, in Coos Bay. Art Connection is open from 10 am until 5 pm on weekdays and from noon until 4 pm on Saturdays. If you find yourself inside Art Connection, be sure to look up.

Please email me with inquiries about purchasing any of my paintings: m.elaine.dunham@gmail.com

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