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Press Release

For immediate release: Dec. 27, 2013
Media contact: Andrea Foust
Membership and Public Relations Manager
Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University | 503-370-6867
Public contact: 503-370-6855 |

Artist Whiting Tennis finds beauty in the forgotten and forlorn

SALEM, Ore. — Whiting Tennis is a nationally recognized mixed media artist who lives and works in Seattle, Washington. A mid-career survey exhibition entitled "Whiting Tennis: My Side of the Mountain" will open on Jan. 18 and continue through March 23 in the Melvin Henderson-Rubio Gallery at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art at Willamette University. Organized by Collection Curator Jonathan Bucci, the exhibition features paintings, sculptures, drawings, and large scale collages.

Tennis’s artworks merge his interest in folk and Pop art with surrealism and postwar American painting. Through a combination of figurative forms, landscapes, and dilapidated buildings, he creates a world of his own with a narrative that evokes the beauty, humor and loneliness of everyday life. Infused with empathy and personality, his works tell a story that is familiar to the Northwest while at the same time universally American.

The characters that populate Tennis’s artworks are not direct likenesses but are simplified, architectural forms with human and animal attributes. They are created through the use of repurposed wood or collaged prints made from wood grain. These figures roam through a landscape of time-worn structures where the forgotten and worn objects of the world take on a previously undiscovered beauty.

Bucci says, “Artworks like the large 14 foot long “Bitter Lake Compound” are familiar and relatable while at the same time alone and slightly sad. What could have been viewed as an eyesore transforms into a beautiful array of rhythms, textures and colors.”

Techniques of faux painting and trompe l’oeil are also used in Tennis’s work and blur the line between reality and illusion. Objects in the exhibition created in this manner include “Washer and Dryer” and the enormous 12 foot wide “Blue Tarp.” These works call into question the designation of what art is, and the definition of beauty. Together they reinforce Tennis’s view that beauty can be overlooked and commonplace.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a free full-color brochure. Complementary events at the museum include: a lecture with the artist on January 24 from 5-6 p.m. in the Roger Hull Lecture Hall at the museum, a "Family Art-making" event on Feb. 15 and March 15 from 10:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.; an "Evening for Educators" on Jan. 28 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. (register by calling 503-370-6855 by Jan. 27), docent guided gallery talks every Tuesday between Jan. 21 and March 18 at 12:30 p.m., and Saturday gallery talks on Feb. 1 and March 1 at 2 p.m.

Financial support for the exhibition and brochure was provided by a gift from the Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle, Washington, and by grants from the City of Salem’s Transient Occupancy Tax funds, and the Oregon Arts Commission.


About the Hallie Ford Museum of Art

Oregon's third largest art museum features works by Pacific Northwest and Native American artists, and includes a diverse collection of traditional European, American and Asian art, as well as artifacts that date from antiquity. Frequently changing exhibitions include lectures, special events, tours, artist demonstrations and educational opportunities for children and adults.

The museum is located at 700 State St. in Salem. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. The galleries are closed on Monday. General admission is $6, $4 for seniors and $3 for students 18 and older. Students 17 and under and children are admitted free. Admission is free for everyone on Tuesdays. For more information call 503-370-6855 or visit

Exhibition Related Events

Related events include:
An artist lecture
Gallery Talks on Tuesdays and several Saturdays
An Evening for Educators
Two Drop-In Art Making Events

| View a complete list of events |

High Resolution Photos for Media

Copyright Notice:

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For assistance contact Andrea Foust 503-370-6867 or at

Image 1

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Whiting Tennis, Mastodon, 2010, acrylic & collage on canvas, 44” x 73” x 5”, collection of Grady West, Seattle, Washington.

Additional information: Tennis constructs his narrative from images and objects that suggest discarded or used-up buildings and animals. It reflects a vision of contemporary America as a place where lonely figures roam a landscape of timeworn or abandoned buildings and where the overlooked is beautiful. Many of his images and forms, including the zoomorphic (those that take on animal attributes), the anthropomorphic (those that take on human attributes), and the architectural, are derived from small automatic drawings or doodles. He fills sketchbooks with quick drawings—some abstract, some vaguely figurative—and uses these as starting points for larger, more complex pieces like Mastodon.

Image 2

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Whiting Tennis, White Nun, 2006; lumber, plywood, paint and asphalt; 67.5” x 25” x 27”; courtesy of the artist and the Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle, Washington.


To download: click on the image above to open the high resolution photo in a new window, then right-click and save.

Whiting Tennis, Washer and Dryer, 2009, plywood and house paint, 40.5” x 28” x 24.25”, courtesy of the artist and the Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle, Washington; photo credit: Robert Wade.

Additional information: Faux painting and trompe l’oeil are used in a variety of ways in Tennis’s work. The artworks made using these techniques blur the lines between reality and illusion as well as between representation and abstraction by appearing to be real objects, meanwhile tricking the viewer. Tennis has created a number of paintings and sculptures that appear to be genuine found objects, but that are actually fabricated artworks, such as Blue Tarp (2007), Washer and Dryer (2009).

Washer and Dryer was exhibited at the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park in 2011. It was installed in an intentionally haphazard manner, suggesting that it had been abandoned, as real appliances in our throwaway society may be dumped in a yard or left in a vacant lot. At the same time, however, this work maintains its own formal presence as essentially two white cubes, suggestive of Minimalist sculpture. Both the work and its siting bring up the question of how to determine what is art and how beauty is defined, reinforcing Tennis’s view that beauty can be found in the overlooked and commonplace.

Image 4

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Whiting Tennis, Skipper, 2013, acrylic on panel, 24” x 18”, courtesy of the artist and the Greg Kucera Gallery, Seattle, Washington.

Additional information: Tennis often uses small automatic drawings or doodles as a starting point for his works. Automatic drawing is often associated with early- and mid-twentieth-century modernist movements like Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. This manner of working calls for drawings and marks to be made without consideration, and allows imagery to emerge freely from the artist’s subconscious. Tennis embraces this approach as a means of generating ideas for some of his artworks.

Image 5

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Whiting Tennis, Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda, 2009, mixed media, 44” x 72”, collection of Charles and Amanda Kitchings, Los Angeles, California.

Additional information: Tennis is open about his creative process and several of his artworks emphasize that process. Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda (2009) is a wall sculpture that features 108 sculptured maquettes. In this piece, Tennis presents a large group of ideas that he has considered for sculptures. As the title suggests, some of these small, three-dimensional sketches were developed into larger sculptures.

Image 6

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Whiting Tennis, Bitter Lake Compound, 2008, Acrylic and collage on canvas, 6’ x 14’, Collection of the Portland Art Museum, Portland, Oregon 2008.62.

Additional information: Tennis also creates artworks that depict structures that may be either invented dwellings or specific buildings. In Bitter Lake Compound (2008), Tennis created a collage that depicts the backyard of a house in his Seattle neighborhood. In this piece, he turns what could be seen as an eyesore or junkyard into a beautiful array of rhythms, textures, colors, and marks on a heroic scale: the piece is fourteen feet long.

Tennis’s dilapidated and quirky structures play an important role in providing a sense of place for his art. While both figures and buildings sometimes merge as one in a singular form, they seldom appear separately in the same artwork. These individual dwellings can be seen as both settings for the world that his figures populate as well as buildings with personalities all their own.

Whiting Tennis Video Interview

Courtesy of Seattle Channel, Seattle, Washington

Exhibition Brochure


Hard copies are available at the museum and upon request.

Public Website for the Exhibition

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