In order to celebrate Combine Art Collective’s one-year anniversary properly, its members invited sculptor Wayne Chabre and calligrapher Jeanne McMenemy to be featured guest artists.
Combine co-founder Dianna Woolley said as renowned members of the Walla Walla artist community, “We feel that Jeanne and Wayne’s work is extraordinary in its construction and in its integrity. There’s no compromise in their work; it’s just really strong, beautifully rendered artwork.”
Their work is on display at Combine today through Sept. 27. Although the pandemic has prevented an in-person artist reception from occurring, a video interview with Chabre and McMenemy will be available at combineartcollective.com.
The Walla Walla husband and wife artist duo each have careers that span more than 40 years and Woolley said that it will be an exciting event because “they haven’t shown in Walla Walla in quite a long time.”
Both knew from a young age they wanted to pursue art. Although Chabre remembers being told making art couldn’t be turned into a career, he was determined to become a sculptor after taking his first art class in college.
After growing up on a farm in Walla Walla, Chabre knew he “wanted to be self-employed and make art to do that.”
His sculptures can be found all over the Pacific Northwest, including Walla Walla — see “Guard Pigeon” on Main Street.
Originally from Portland, McMenemy established herself there as a successful potter for 15 years. She also started her own pottery studio.
She then switched over to calligraphy and graphic design full time, but has found calligraphy to be more artistically stimulating.
The two are known for their collaborations, which blend together calligraphy shapes and sculpture.
“A Delicate Balance” on Main Street is engraved with McMenemy’s swirling script around the base and will also be available at the gallery.
Another collaboration that will be on display is a curving garden gate Chabre made using the letter forms in one of McMenemy’s pieces that spells out the word “Abracadabra.”
One new calligraphy work McMenemy made over the past few months that will be showcased — but will not be for sale — is her piece called “Say Their Names.”
Six inches wide and around 11 feet long, it lists the names of 180 Black victims of police brutality.
Inspired by the resurgence of Black Lives Matter, McMenemy began educating herself on the movement. She resolved to create something that would commemorate the lives that were cut short.
“I made myself look at each one of their stories online ... A lot of times, people weren’t doing anything, but they got pulled over at a traffic stop because a cop thought they looked suspicious. It’s just horrific,” said McMenemy.
McMenemy also brought up that oftentimes, these stories are misrepresented in the news to portray Black people as criminals who are deserving of punishment and death.
However, she says that this rhetoric exonerates police and further perpetuates unjustified and racially motivated violence.
Both in their 70s, McMenemy and Chabre are making no move to stop learning, growing and making art — and are excited to show their work together at Combine for the first time.