We are proud to announce the 2021 Corvallis Fall Festival poster artist Dr. Chính Lê. Lê paints on silk using rich colors and themes exploring his perception of the natural world, culture, history, and current events.
Each year the Corvallis Fall Festival commissions original art by a regional artist to use as the festival’s poster illustration for the year. The 2021 design was originally chosen for the 2020 festival, however that festival was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
We are excited to return in September 2021 and proud to feature Lê’s design. Dr. Lê shared insights into his process and inspiration with the Corvallis Fall Festival team.
Chính Lê doesn’t consider himself a professional artist so he was surprised that his work was chosen considering the high caliber of professional local artists featured in previous posters.
When choosing his design theme, he looked at prior Corvallis Fall Festival posters. He noticed that the Irish Bend Covered Bridge wasn’t featured in the other art. Over the years, Lê visited many of Oregon’s covered bridges and featured some in his prior paintings.
Lê often paints in response to historic and current social issues, but the theme for this piece reflects some of the positive aspects of the Corvallis community and the natural surroundings.
“We are such a blessed community [with] relative security, peace and nature, natural trails, and bicycle trails. So I want to emphasize that.” Lê explained.
The image of the bicycle, water, child, dog, and natural surroundings also hint at some of the things he appreciates about the Corvallis community.
“Every year we go to the Corvallis Fall Festival!” Lê said. He often sells as part of the Corvallis Art Guild’s booth but never had his own booth.
When asked what he likes best about the festival he responded, “Basically it is the sense of community, interacting with the community and seeing how people enjoy the art whether they buy or not doesn't matter.”
He added, as a hobbyist artist he creates for himself. Sometimes he works on multiple pieces and other times he may wait months for inspiration. The other artists selling and showing at Corvallis Fall Festival bring him fresh inspiration.
“I always come back amazed at how many artists there are and how beautiful the artwork is!” he said. “There’s just a sense of community in the festival and people sharing their work in the art.”
Lê practices a silk painting technique known as Sert where the artist uses dye-resistant resin lines (known as gutta) to draw outlines on the silk before filling it in with dyes. Once it is done he steams the image to preserve it and to make the colors more vibrant.
He said he first became interested in silk painting after seeing a friend demonstrate it. He thought it was unusual.
For Lê, art is a form of communication. Although he has no control over how the viewer interprets the message, he finds the process fulfilling. As a retired physician, he also acknowledges the healing power of creative expression.
[The creation process] “is a form of meditation and is sort of solitary. Then you gradually emerge by exposing yourself to the public.”
He starts with a theme that may come to him instantly or may take months to develop. He sketches ideas surrounding his theme until he comes up with a design he is happy with.
Once he has a full-sized image, he uses a water-resistant resin to draw the outline directly on the silk.
He cuts the piece of silk and places it in a frame. Next, he applies dye using a paintbrush and carefully blends it.
“I find doing silk painting really soothing, especially applying the dyes.” He explained. “It's like doing a coloring book, all the lines in and you just put your color into that,” said Lê.
For Lê, silk painting is also a form of meditation. He must be very focused and careful when drawing the outline with resin because it can’t be changed once the resin is on the silk. Although painting is relaxing, the dyes run on contact with the silk so he can’t completely control the outcome.
“You have to live with a little bit of perfection,” he explained. “Well, you do the best you can, with a lot of things out of your hand. And with art is the same thing.”
“I do my best, but there are things I can't control cannot control. And it allowed me to learn to accept that. “
When he first started silk painting, he entered some of his early work in a competition at the country fair. He won first prize in his category since he was the only one!
At around the age of 50 he started silk painting without any art background beyond casual photography and sketching. He started with photography as a way to document and “fix a memory” while he traveled.
Later, he moved on to sketching his observations in notebooks since photography was so expensive. Although he didn’t consider himself an artist, he now realizes that those experiences led him towards silk painting. Over time, he intuitively learned about composition, lighting, and colors through evaluating his candid photographs and casual sketches.
He said he started to become serious about painting on silk after traveling in his native country Vietnam while working for the CDC. He sketched his impressions of the country and the people he encountered.
“I sketched scenes of people in their daily life as they work the hard earth for a grain of rice, ride the waves of unruly seas, or walk the city streets like tumbling leaves blown by a harsh winter wind. Many hang on the margins of life, but they keep their balance with resilience and grace.”
“After coming back home to the US, I felt that I wanted to fix those memories,“ he recalled. “I started painting the people that I sketched so most of my early paintings have to do with scenes of Vietnam.”
Other sources of inspiration include music he loves, other artists, history, and current events. Lê said he primarily creates for his own pleasure, to process the world around him, and to communicate his ideas. Some of his recent work includes a portrait of George Floyd and a painting about COVID-19.
Since moving to Oregon, nature and local scenes also inspired his work. He described the Pacific Northwest’s scenery as a paradise for artists.
“In my landscape, I always put people in it,” he explained. “We're part of nature, nature is part of us.’
Dr. Chính Lê is a retired physician currently living in Corvallis. During his medical career, he served as a member of the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and as a consultant for the CDC Global AIDS Program/Vietnam Bureau in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Lê doesn’t consider himself a professional artist. He said didn’t get into creating art until he neared retirement. He doesn’t display his work in for-profit galleries, he is a member of the Corvallis Art Guild and primarily shows his work through their events and non-profit galleries.
He shares his art and his wife Jeri’s art through his website. In addition to the Corvallis Art Guild, Lê is also involved with the Yaquina Art Association and Oregon Coast Council for the Arts.
Thank you to the artist for allowing us to share his work!