Salem Reads 2023: Boundless Optimism

My January newsletter went out this week and in it I shared about my participation in the 2023 Salem Reads program. This community-wide reading event has been sponsored by the Salem Public Library Foundation since 2017. I was one of the original artists, and although I have been invited to participate each year since, I didn’t jump on the opportunity. . . .until this year. The chosen book is Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood.

Invited artists were instructed to read the book and then create a piece of art in response. I listened to the book on Audible, which was read by Trevor; I loved hearing Trevor’s accent and his inflections, making for an enjoyable and humorous experience. The book was presented as a series of short stories, focusing on different eras of his life as a child and young man. The book was heartwarming, funny, tragic, tender, and ultimately a story of redemption as Trevor rose above his tough circumstances.

I was aware of apartheid and knew a little about it, but Trevor’s stories brought it alive through his eyes of a child growing up during the extreme segregation of whites and blacks.

In my artist statement, I was able to share what led me to create what I did for this exhibit.

As I read ‘Born a Crime,’ so many images swirled in my mind. Trevor was born to a black mother and a white father during the extreme racial segregation of South African apartheid. Despite their circumstances, Trevor’s mother demonstrated feistiness, determination, and perseverance. As Trevor matured, he exhibited many of the characteristics of his mother, carving out a life filled with humor, music, inventiveness, and friendship. Before I began my painting in response to ‘Born a Crime,’ I wrote out the text from the Immorality Act of 1927 across the surface of my board, reminding me of the laws in place when Trevor was conceived and born. I painted this piece with the idea of a young man rising out of the darkness of apartheid, which I translated into colors. I filled the niche with objects representing Trevor’s creativity, spirit, and abundance despite his circumstances.

The piece I created is 16×16 inches square and three inches deep, with a 5×5 inch niche filled with charms and small trinkets. I attached these small items using string, which I tacked to the top of the niche using vintage, colorful thumb tacks.

The 2023 show runs from February 1-25, and will be held in the Art Hall at the Salem Public Library. At the end of February, the show will be packed up and transported to a series of regional libraries; my piece will return to Salem in June.

If you’re interested in learning more about the pieces of art created for the show, several of the participating artists (myself included), appeared on Joel Zak’s KMUZ radio show, Talking About Art, last Friday. A recording of the show can be found on the KMUZ website by going HERE. During my segment, I talked about my motivation behind the piece of art I created for the show.


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Word and Image: Writers and Artists in Dialogue

The Word and Image show is one of my favorite projects and it took place last month at the Hoffman Center for the Arts in Manzanita (on the Oregon coast). This event occurs biennially, and I was fortunate to have participated in 2020, so I was eager to apply for 2022. The process for the show goes like this:

Artists and writers are invited to submit samples of their work; artists submit three art images and writers submit three poems/short stories. The jury then chooses 12 artists and 12 writers. A pairing event is held where an artist’s name is pulled from a hat, then a writer’s name is pulled from a hat, and voila! those two are partners. The artist choses one of the three writing entries and creates a new piece of art in response to the words, likewise, the writer choses a piece of art from those submitted and writes a poem or short story in response. This new work is submitted electronically so beautiful broadsides can be printed and a book prepared and published.


I chose to use an 18×28 inch cradled birch panel. I prepared it with acrylic paint, a layer of plaster, more acrylic paint to seal the plaster, and a couple layers of oil and cold wax. This was all the preparation to begin painting in response to the writer I was paired with, Simeon Dreyfuss. I chose Simeon’s poem, Walk Roots the Day as the piece I was using for my responsive painting. When the initial layers of my prepped board were completely dry, I wrote Simeon’s poem across the surface of my board.

I wrote Simeon’s poem on the surface of my board to incorporate his words with my paint.

I began adding layers of paint, looking for the poem to emerge.

An early layer.
Another early layer.
I used my painting for a demo when I was teaching at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology this summer. The demo was how to scrape off paint!

After layers of paint, and scraping off a layer, I worked on this piece when I wasn’t teaching at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology – either early in the morning, or in the evening after my students had left for the day. It seemed appropriate to be painting this piece while I was at Cascade Head on the Oregon coast.

I played around with this design and color idea by painting a small piece on paper and a 12×12 inch piece on a cradled panel.
Close up.
Close up.
Close up.
Close up.
The finished piece.


Art was delivered to the gallery, art and broadsides were hung, an online reception was held, and a beautiful book was published.

The beautiful book that captures the work.
Two-page spread in the Word and Image book.
Opening reception via Zoom.
Opening reception via Zoom.
Opening reception: Simeon’s words in response to my painting, “Everything Feels Different.”


The show!


As I was working on this blog post, I took a break to welcome Paula Booth into my home. Paula is a professor of art at Western Oregon University and also curates the art at two northwest hotels, The Dundee and The Independence. I am fortunate to have art at both hotels and we had made arrangements for Paula to come to my house to view my available work to change out some of my pieces at The Independence. I had just picked up Storm Mounting from the Hoffman Center for the Arts, and so it was one of my available pieces. Paula was excited to include this painting in the group of paintings she selected.


Teaching at Sitka: Part 2

After my first oil and cold wax class at Sitka Center for Art and Ecology concluded on July 3, the staff at Sitka lugged all of my stuff from Smith Studio up to the larger Boyden Studio. I spent the evening getting set up for my second class. I love preparing the studio for teaching.

Evening of July 3: all set up for class to begin on July 5.

I spent July 4th enjoying the quiet of the Sitka campus. The office was closed, and no one was around, so I wandered, rested, and puttered in the studio. On July 5th, I was ready for the artists to arrive.

Distance view. I have three big tables to work on.
My working and demo space.

Like my last post, Teaching at Sitka – Part I, I feel that photos tell the story better than any words that I cobble together. I’ve made comments on each of the photos, so it tells a bit more about the week than just sharing the photos. But I will say, this group was hardworking, productive, energetic, talented, and supportive of each other. All the ingredients for a fantastic workshop.

Side view of my space.
So many techniques to share.
Demo using solvent to scrape off paint.
Getting paint on the boards.
Everyone deep into the process.
Tissue for blotting.
Mixing up paint.
Words matter.
A table of work in progress.
Work in progress.
From above.
Love the swaths of color, interrupted by marks.
An active scene.
A glorious pile of paint.
Work in progress.
Spreading swaths of thick, juicy paint.
Work in progress. Done? Perhaps.
Pink! Work in progress.
More pink! Yes, please.
Early layers.
Work in progress.
Hard-working class.
A lovely, abstracted landscape.
Scraping a grid composition.
Using wonky chunks of driftwood to make wonky marks.
Lunch in the courtyard.
Painting. Layering. Scraping. Contemplating.
More dots and such a great example of complementary colors.
We all thought this piece would make a fantastic album cover!
Framing discussion.
Margaret and her beautiful series using a limited palette.
I’m crazy for stripes and swaths of color – Carol nailed it.
I wanted to call this a “Carnival of Color,” but that’s just me.
More bands of color and marks.
An active workspace.
So many ways to apply paint and make marks.
Sharing work.
A thematic series of work.
Such crazy and unique marks.
Work in progress.
I love the collegial nature of a class.
Applying paint to a very textural and three-dimensional piece.
A vibrant series of work.
I’m always crazy for dots.
An excellent example of a strata composition. And then there’s the color . . .
A successful and colorful grid.
Work in progress. Done? Hope so.
An energetic work in progress.
A beautiful series of lines, marks, and colors.
Such sexy curves.
A lovely and simple abstracted landscape.
A thematic series of work.
Pulling tape and revealing nine little paintings.
I love the solitude at the end of the day.
The peace at the end of the day.
All but one in this class photo!

I have received such wonderful feedback from the artists in my class and I want to share two of the comments. Reading these inspiring and positive words make my heart swell and it is why I love teaching.

The first one from Carol:

I was so grateful to have had the opportunity to be a student in this class. It was amazing to meet Dayna in person, and to be present in her instruction. She provided a manual, many supplies, demos, readings, and many examples of her work in various stages. She was very engaged and provided such positive suggestions and constant energy. It was truly a great pleasure in an incredible setting. . . . I am still processing all that I learned and felt, and continue to feel so grateful. Thank you, Dayna.            Terri

The Collaborative Body

I was invited to participate in The Collaborative Body in October of 2020, a really cool, socially distanced group project at the Salem Art Association Art Annex. Kathy Dinges, the Community Arts Education Director at Salem Art Association, describes the project:

The Collaborative Body is a dynamic group project in which 17 artists collaborated to transform the Salem Art Association’s Annex! The project is loosely based on various ideas in the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse, in which players would take turns drawing a portion of a body (head, torso, legs) on paper. The previous artist’s contribution was folded over and hidden until the end, when the paper was unfolded to reveal the “exquisite corpse” – the unusual, unplanned, and eclectic interpretation of the body. The ever-changing nature of this project is unlike the corpse­­– more like a series of interactions. It creates an interwoven, living piece of art, infused with the creative minds and practices of a variety of artists. Participating artists are Eilish Gormley, Rich McCloud, Corrine Loomis Dietz, Bonnie Hull, Erik Brambila, Grace Lundblade, Heidi Preuss Grew, Jessica Amos, Jo Hockenhull, Jim Hockenhull, Jodie Garrison, Katy Vigeland, Leo Cuanas, Cassandra Deatherage, Dayna Collins, Nicole Servin, and Tim Knight.

This project came together during covid19 in response to artists wanting to interact with other artists in a safe way, and encouraged playfulness, experimentation and collaboration.

Over the past six months, I made five appearances. I focused on doing photo transfers directly on the wall, which I embellished on subsequent visits (and other artists also added their own changes to the portraits). It was great fun and I recorded my experience through a series of photos.

On my first visit in early November, work on the walls had already started.

My plan for this first visit was to glue black and white portraits of Australian convicts onto the walls.

On my second visit in mid November, I went around to the portraits and using a wet sponge, began the process of removing the paper backing from the photocopies, leaving the inked image on the wall.

By the time I returned in early December, several of the portraits had been modified, embellished, and given new identities.

In January, I did some embellishing myself, adding bits of gold, crowns, and quotes.

I also pulled out paint and created some stripes of color on a blank portion of wall.

On my final visit the first of February, lots had happened.

And in no particular order, some photos from the many walls over the past few months.

What a great project, and it was a treat to be included.

Hoffman Center for the Arts: Word & Image

Back in April, I submitted an application to participate in the annual Word & Image: Writers and Artists in Dialogue show at the Hoffman Center for the Arts, a lively art center located on the north Oregon coast in Manzanita. My application was accepted and 12 artists and 12 writers were randomly paired during a Zoom meeting in mid June. Names were drawn from a hat and I was paired with Evan Williams. We both have North Coast connections: Evan has had a family cabin at Neahkahnie for years and lives in Portland. I grew up visiting our family cabin at Sunset Beach and now have a a house in Astoria and split my time between Astoria and Salem. Here is a bit more about Evan: Evan Morgan Williams has published two books of short stories. A Neahkahnie regular since 1969, his stories are realistic fictions, often set along the Oregon Coast. He lives in Portland, where he teaches in a high-poverty middle school.

The project worked like this (stay with me, it can sound confusing): I submitted three images of art I had created in the past. Evan submitted three pieces of his writing. Evan received an email with images of my three paintings and I received an email with copies of his three writings. I was to create a new piece of work in response to one of his writings, and Evan was to write a new story or poem in response to one of my three pieces of art.

I chose Kimberly’s Hands, which Evan said I could share in this post:

After the love-making failed, Michael let Kimberly’s hands take his. Her pleading touch was dry as paper. It didn’t used to be this way. Michael remembered his hands in water, plunged into a mountain creek ahead of an advancing burn. He and his crew had been dropped in a mile ahead of the flames. It was hazard pay, and they earned it. The creek was going to be the line. Michael did not know where that water came from or where it was going. His hands in the water, cold, clear, smooth, lifting what he could to his sooty face. There were ferns and thimbleberry along the shore, and his hands ached, and the water was clear and silent as it slid over jewel-colored stones. That little stream had no idea what was coming over the ridge. The crew tapped a portable pump into that stream, a two-stroker, ugly noise, shaking like a jackhammer, and they hosed down the brush and trees, up and down the creek, until they ran out of petrol, but it wasn’t enough. The fire came. They ditched the pump and ran for their lives. Nothing they could do. Never found that sweet water again. It was probably dry now.

“Michael, come back. It’s all right. Look at me.”

“I know it’s all right.”

Once Kimberly’s hands had felt exactly how that water used to be. Now her hands felt how that water was now.

I chose to paint my response to the story written by Evan and I began by writing his story across the surface of my prepared panel.

The story was layered and nuanced, so I added layers of oil paint mixed with cold wax. For a while the painting looked like this.

It continued to morph and I frequently reread Kimberly’s Hands.

It finally reached that point where I knew it was completed.

“Under Perilous Conditions,” plaster, oil, and cold wax by Dayna J. Collins

My process statement in response to Kimberly’s Hands:

Water, cold, clear, smooth. Ahead of the flames. The water was clear and silent. The fire came. Her pleading touch. The visual language of “Kimberly’s Hands” resonated as I translated Evan’s words into a painting. My own response conjured the passage of time, memories, the devastation of fire, the rejuvenation of water, aging, and desire.  I started my piece by writing Evan’s prose across the surface of my board, then began adding layers of paint, partially covering the words. Through the use of layers, texture, and color, I created a visceral and abstracted response.

During my painting and processing over the six weeks, Evan had chosen one of my paintings, The Strange Velvet Beautiful Sea, and in response wrote Diving In. 

The engine ticks down. Just enough starlight she can see her reflection in the rear view mirror. She does her lipstick.

She looks out. A tent on the dark beach waits for her. A campfire, too, but a strong shape blocks the light.

She checks her lipstick again.

They met on the beach that afternoon. He taught her how to bodysurf. The water was frigid, but he said, “Keep moving,” and this made it all right. He taught her to lunge when the wave was good, to tuck her head and dive when the wave was bad. The shock of cold, dark, quiet, was exhilarating. She emerged into the light anew.

He said, “Diving into dark water, you accept the unknown. You meet it with your face. Knowing this changes nothing. Darkness reveals its secrets just the same.” She was surprised when he added, “You learn its cold indifference.”

She said she would come back in the evening. Freshen up at the motel. She told him, “I could be into you.”

The rear view mirror says perfect. She puts the lipstick in her purse along with the pepper spray and the Lady Smith. Five bullets. All her things are small. They take up all the space in her small world.

But a mirror’s reflection is an opposite. If you see confidence in the mirror, it means you are a coward and a fool. She re-checks her reflection, isn’t sure. She dives into that unknown.

“The Strange Velvet Beautiful Sea,” oil and cold wax by Dayna J. Collins

An image of my new art and the new piece of writing by Evan were due the end of July, and art work was then dropped off the end of September. Using the imagery and writings, a book was published showcasing all of the art and writing from the 12 artists and 12 writers. (It is a beautiful book and is available at the Hoffman Center for the Arts.)

Two broadsides were created, the first featured the art I created in response to Kimberly’s Hands, and the second broadside featured the story written by Evan in response to the art that I had submitted.

Fast forward to October when everything was revealed at the opening reception, which took place virtually because of you know what.

The reception was on a Friday night, and the exhibition opened on Saturday, October 3; we were able to visit the show on the following day. What a thrill to see the exhibit in person. The woman who was gallery sitting that afternoon said several people had expressed an interest in purchasing Under Perilous Conditions and someone had purchased my piece that afternoon.


Hoffman Gallery October Show
October 3 through 25th
Thursday through Sunday | 1:00-5:00pm

Salem Poetry Festival

I was invited by the Salem Poetry Festival to paint while two poets read a series of their poems during the Salem Poetry Festival. Last Thursday, I arrived early at the Ike Box in downtown Salem to set up my table. I chose to bring four 11 x 14 canvases and two table easels, with the plan to paint two pieces as each poet read their poetry for about 30 minutes each.

The idea was that my painting would be in response to the poems being read. To prepare for the evening of painting, I repurposed four canvases I had bought at SCRAP, painting over someone’s previous painting to prepare it for my use; I painted two of the canvases black and two in hot pink and orange, giving me something to respond to other than a blank, white canvas.


Poet Carol Hottle kicked off the event and my first painting was in response to her reading a series of poems about a transformational experience she had, surviving a horrific auto accident.

My second painting was in response to a series of poems that reflected positive experiences, and I allowed myself to focus on the visual images Carol painted with her words.

When it was time for poet Mike Shuler to read, I listened as he read until I picked up on a poem about children joyfully playing along the banks of a river, and I couldn’t resist painting a bright abstracted landscape.

The second piece I painted was in response to Mike sharing how much he loves hiking in the Cascade Head area, a place that is near and dear to me because it is where Sitka Center For Art and Ecology is located (and where I taught two painting classes this summer).

The whole experience was positive and fun and once I started painting, I tuned out the room full of people and just focused on the flow of words and the flow of paint.  At the conclusion of the evening, I invited both poets to choose a painting to take with them.

Salem Poetry Festival
Thursday, September 12, 2019
Carol, Dayna, and Mike