Visual Art

Three Oregon Artists Win $35,000 Fellowships

Working in painting, film, and on installations, these Hallie Ford Fellows are moving the artistic dial.

By Cami Hughes July 8, 2021


Hallie Ford Fellows Ka’ila Farrell-Smith, Rainen Knecht, and rubén garcía marrufo

Three Oregon artists were named 2021 Hallie Ford Fellows this week, culled from some 198 applicants, and working across disciplines from installations to paintings to film. Portlanders Rainen Knecht and rubén garcía marrufo, and Ka’ila Farrell-Smith from Modoc Point were all announced by the Ford Family Foundation as winners of the $35,000 fellowships.

The fellowship was started after Ford Family Foundation co-founder Hallie Ford’s death in 2007. Each of these Oregon based artists had to show a sophistication and evolution within their work, as well as the potential to continue producing impactful, quality art.

Farell-Smith relocated to Modoc Point to live her goal of refocusing her art on decolonial freedom and embracing her ancestral indigenous traditions. Her art moves between traditional indigenous style and western practices to “heal and bring forth resiliency” in her community. She uses objects such as bullets, metal, and machine parts she finds throughout her land and surrounding areas as stencils and inspiration in her paintings or installations.

Knecht’s art draws upon her personal experiences as a mother and daughter, as well as on folklore and fairytales, all while exploring the very human experiences of loss, suffering, and compassion. Her paintings embody conflict in her juxtaposition of vibrant versus dull colors, ugliness and beauty, and the unending range of emotions of a mother. Stephanie Snyder—director and curator of the Cooley Gallery at Reed College—writes of Knecht’s work: “Often the maternal figures are subjected to strange dreamy forms of pain and suffering, but the presence of tenderness and love is always lurking.”

garcía marrufo moved to Portland following the massive earthquake in Northwest Mexico in 2010, and describes themself as a “border artist.” Their films involve images, narratives, and monologues arranged together to portray their emotions around loss, suffering, change, and the barriers we find in our lives. The films use video clips, still images, monologues, and other artistic imagery to examine the ambiguity that the various borders in our lives create. “Every new project is to cross another border, and that makes me think that the crossing will never end,” says marrufo.

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