By Carla Merrell, Nugget Newspaper, July 29, 2008
Having left Independence, Missouri several months ago, the hardship of being part of the wagon train going west was felt moment by moment by all. With so much boredom and so much hardship she began tatting, the making of lace, to ease her mind. At Ft. Boise they merged with other wagon trains taking the same route to Central Oregon. Around the fire one evening a few started dancing, there the gentlemen met the lady and they fell in love.
This is the story Sisters folk artist, Jennifer Lake, told Saturday in the unveiling of her Wild, Wild West collection in an event at her gallery.
There are several other stories Lake will bring to life, each with their own series, and each will be under the covering of “An Oregon Love Story,” which was created in celebration of Oregon’s upcoming 150th birthday in 2009.
“An Oregon Love Story” came about after a two-year period of research and development. Needing a change after 20-plus years of her Celebration series (Celebrating Oregon, Celebrating Washington, and Celebrating Canada), she took a direction with other subjects that interested and inspired her.
“My fascination with history, storytelling and detail has given me a challenge on many of these paintings,” said Lake.
“After the Rodeo Dance” was the first in the Wild, Wild West series, and released in 2007. The boots depicted are Lake’s and her husband, Ralph White’s. They appear to have been left right where they were pulled off, with a pair of rodeo dance tickets scattered on the floor nearby.
Unveiled on Saturday, July 26, were “Saddle Up” and “Coming Home.” All three were framed by Brian Platt of Pacific Art & Framing. Each painting has a little mouse busy doing something somewhere in the scene. Having arrived at the gallery decked out in a Gene Baldwin 50X beaver fur hat trimmed in bead work and a Western short skirt frock, Lake told the wagon train story to a full crowd stuffed into her gallery.
“Saddle Up” incorporates designs from the saddles Lake and White have found in their many history-hunting forays throughout Oregon. They consider them treasures, noting the saddle maker’s name, where the maker was from and the date the saddle was made.
In “Coming Home” we see the woman from the wagon train story, now at her Oregon property in her lace apron, waiting, holding the letter from her man saying he’d be coming home after the first frost, and to watch for him coming through the canyon with the herd.
Emblazoned at the top of the canvas is the White Lake Ranch brand, the literal brand of the complete home decor collection that centers around her art but includes everything from furniture to fixtures.
The gallery itself seems to have been made just for “An Oregon Love Story” with its two huge rooms, rough hewn posts and beams and wide plank floors.
For Lake it’s all interactive and it’s all under the White Lake Ranch brand. There is a literal brand to this mythical ranch. Designed by husband Ralph White and developed by Ponderosa Forge, it shows up in paintings and also in the larger picture the couple has pulled together for this inaugural event.
White Lake Ranch has many artists under their brand. While there are stringent guidelines to be met to be considered a White Lake Ranch artist, there are many artists who have passed the bar already. Denise Smith, artist; Gene Baldwin, hat maker; Kristi Usher, bronze artist; Gary Alvis, photographer; Kathy Singer, photographer; Ken Merrill, potter; and Robert Seliger, master furniture maker.
To further involve the viewer in her story, she has pulled in tangible items that give the senses something more: a floral arrangement in a cowboy boot that has a bit of lace gently intertwined with the flowers. There are a few saddles, authentic saddles of our area and of that time period, beautifully preserved.
There are pottery vases and lamps with scenes from the Oregon Trail.
Furniture from another time made for our time and all with no nails or screws.
With paintings, pottery, furniture and other artwork, walking into the gallery, you enter the world of Jennifer Lake and you can replicate it in your own home and in the colors that suit a particular home best.
“I call it ‘floor to the tabletop with excellence,'” said Lake. “The collection will continue to change but the one thing that will remain the same is the story behind it, the story of Oregon.”