By Alicia James
Terroir is defined as the environmental conditions, especially soil and climate, in which grapes are grown that give wine its unique flavor and aroma. Christy Turner, local artist and Gracewinds Music employee, is clearly not a grape, but her multimedia oeuvre exhibits a distinct Pacific Northwestern sensibility.
Born and raised in Walla Walla, WA, Turner moved to Corvallis in 2007 to pursue her bachelor’s degree at Oregon State University. Turner’s major was undeclared at the time, but she knew her talents lay in working with her hands. After exploring her options, Turner chose fine art. “Nothing else quite felt right. I just wanted to make things,” she said. She earned her BFA, with an emphasis on printmaking and bookbinding, with honors in 2012.
Turner’s work is partly inspired by Enlightenment-era science and Leonardo da Vinci. She immersed herself in 19th century anatomy illustration books while working at OSU’s Special Collections and Archives Research Center. “[It was] so wonderful because somebody put a ton of effort, time, and research into these,” she said. “The whole pseudoscience…it’s wonderful to look back and think, ‘People actually thought that!’” Intaglio printmaking, invented in the 15th century and utilized by da Vinci in the 16th, is one of her favorite processes. Turner is quick to point out that da Vinci was an innovator of his time. “[He] was one of the early people that actually explored human cadavers when it was very much illegal and made the most beautiful renderings,” she said.
Turner’s interest in human anatomy is by no means morbid. Instead, she enjoys analyzing the fine-tuned accuracy and engineering aspects of our biological systems. “It can look macabre if you’re not looking at it from a scientific angle,” she said. Her inclination to see pieces as part of a whole extends to bookmaking as well. Turner’s biggest question is usually “How am I going to put this content together in this way to create a booklike form?”
The Pacific Northwest’s environment also informs Turner’s work. Her resumé lists exhibitions and travel across the region. Her ode to the Pacific Northwest—a woodblock printed alphabet book—features Oregon flora and fauna from Yaquina Bay to the Willamette River Valley to Mt. Hood. Other pieces, such as “Seafood Triptych” (2012) and her “Animal Saints” series (2013), invoke totemic icons carved by indigenous groups of the PNW.
Since graduation, Turner has added embroidery and photography to her list of skills. She embarked upon a monumental sewing project in which she cross-stitched a color photograph. She has also started doing event photography. “While I’d like to focus on one thing, I can’t help but try other stuff,” she said.
In the future, Turner would like to learn more about bookbinding. While she is already quite skilled, she said, “[It’s] such a delicate thing and difficult to learn without anyone physically showing it to you.” In a perfect world, Turner would open her own printing studio where people could take lessons and use the tools. “It’s such an enormously expensive pursuit, so it would be nice to open a
shared space for people who are interested,” she said.
To view or purchase Christy Turner’s work, visit http://christyturnerart.com/home.html.