Local artist has a passion for presentation
by Steve Howe
When you’re looking at a painting, do you consider the frame around it as part of the composition? Does the positioning of a decorative object in your home affect your opinion of it?
For Liz Voegtly, presentation is an art unto itself. Whether it’s decorating her downtown Burns home, or framing one of her watercolor or collage pieces, she takes great care in the details of display.
Voegtly’s background as a draftsman, graphic designer, and database administrator for Motorola helps to explain her propensity for attention to detail.
She was born and raised in Tempe, Ariz. She and her husband, Carl, lived in Scottsdale for many years, both working for Motorola. Voegtly started as a draftsman for the company. She later got a degree in information technology, and became a database administrator there.
When her husband retired, the couple moved to Burns (where his parents were from originally and where he spent many of his summers). They bought the two downtown buildings that now house the Country Lane Quilts store and Moon Rise Books. The Voegtly family originally built the bookstore building, completing it in 1899. Its original function was as a hardware store. In the 1930s, the Voegtly family turned the second level into an apartment and offices for rent. They lived there until the 1950s. It was then converted into four apartments, which is what it was when Voegtly and her husband bought it in 2000.
In the past year-and-a-half, they have taken on a second level renovation, transforming the space into one apartment, including space for Voegtly’s art studio and gallery-style display space.
This is where Voegtly’s passion for presentation comes in. Over the years, she has amassed a collection of decorative items. She took these and organized them thematically around her home. There is a vineyard area with wine paraphernalia, game and movie walls, and a cooking and baking display near the kitchen. All of the objects are either attached directly to the walls or placed on shelves.
“This is my major art project,” said Voegtly.
“All the design ambition I have has been put into trying to figure out how to make this work,” she explained.
And it looks as if she is indeed making it work. Choosing rich, jewel-tone colors for paint and curtains, Voegtly has given the place a uniquely vibrant feel. She even plans to paint a trompe l’oeil (a realistic painting that creates an optical illusion) on one of the doors.
Voegtly helps to foster the local art community by hosting “Art Therapy” at her home art studio. A group of up to six people get together and work on individual projects, while getting a chance to talk. Voegtly has a large collection of art supplies that are available to participants, in part thanks to a grant from the Harney County Arts & Crafts association. She said she wants people to be able to “dabble” in different crafts before committing to investing in them.
She also hopes to transform the expansive wall space in her high-ceilinged entry hallway into a gallery area showcasing Harney County artists, and would welcome donations for the display.
In addition to interior design and decoration, another one of Voegtly’s specialties is the Ukrainian decorated egg. She used to get together with her mother and her mother’s friend, in an earlier incarnation of the “art therapy” group she holds today, and on one occasion, her mother’s friend brought the Ukrainian egg project to their group.
“I hated the first day,” said Voegtly.
But she grew to love the systematic, analytical nature of the work, spending hours practicing.
“It all made sense because I was a draftsman,” she explained.
Ukrainian decorated eggs (called pysanky in Ukrainian), are made using a wax-resist method (batik). Melted wax is applied to the shell of the egg in the desired pattern where it is meant to stay white in color. It is then dipped in yellow, and again selectively covered in wax to maintain the yellow areas. This is repeated with successively darker dyes until it is complete.
Voegtly said it is an interesting process because it requires thinking backward. It also is a craft that is steeped in tradition, originating in ancient times and synthesizing with Christian traditions. Various shapes and symbols have a multitude of meaning. For example, drops of color were used to indicate stars in the night sky, or sometimes tears of the Virgin Mary. Voegtly said that although those aren’t her cultural traditions, she likes to inform people about them in order to give deeper meaning to the art.
Working with only a six dollar art set for four years, she perfected her skills using all different sizes of eggs. Some of the larger pieces take 40 to 60 hours to complete. She gets inspired from patterns she sees and applies them to her projects. Voegtly has even taken on a custom order.
Voegtly’s other art work includes watercolor paintings, collage, pottery and framing. She learned these skills while taking community art classes in Scottsdale, and by participating in Amos Burk’s “Play With Clay” group locally. She mastered the art of framing to a point that she was assisting her instructor. She now owns a miter saw, and styles her own frames for her paintings.
Her watercolor, collage and pottery pieces have won awards at the Harney County Fair, including “Best of Show” for her collage picture of a “Georgian tree,” which was inspired by a photo from a magazine. When it comes to painting, realism is her preferred style, but she hopes to learn the impressionistic style. Some of her favorite artists, Monet and Renoir, are Impressionists.
If you are interested in attending the “Art Therapy” group you can reach Voegtly by email at email@example.com or call 541-589-0043. The group meets Tuesdays from noon to 4 p.m., but is currently on hold and won’t be starting up again until fall.