When tensions regarding Texas’ new abortion law exploded late last year, mid-valley artists Cora Freyer, Angel Black and Eileen Hinckle felt the need to do something.
They were angry at the restriction placed on women’s bodies, and decided to show their support for the right to choose via a painted mural by the name “Project Venus.”
The mural is on Christina Jancila’s business Marie Jane’s Cannabis Connection in the alley between Southwest Western Boulevard and Southwest Washington Avenue in Corvallis. It depicts the Venus of Willendorf symbol against the backdrop of a night sky, with the words “We Care We Control” curving along the wall.
The three young women artists wanted to paint a piece that talks about reproductive rights in general but with a different perspective — hence the historical symbolism. The mural combines the old with the new, with a painted QR code in the lower left corner that informs viewers about the message and process behind the project.
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“There is so much shame and isolation around this issue,” Hinckle said. “We wanted to support people who are going through their own difficult processes.”
Hinckle, Freyer and Black make up the P.P.L. Collective, which stands for People Painting Landscapes. They met during the pandemic, painting at the Walnut Barn at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park, and through The Arts Center in Corvallis.
It was not easy finding a business owner to allow the women to paint the mural on their wall, however. They said the harsh rejection they faced fueled an intense anger and will to find someone who would proudly display their message.
“I felt dismantled, like somebody spit in my face,” Freyer said of one rejection letter that was particularly harsh.
But once they found Jancila, the collective felt reinvigorated with the outpouring of support and excitement from everyone who worked at the female-owned business. And not only were the three artists painting for others but for themselves as well.
“Art as a process is intense, and this brought up stuff for each of us,” Hinckle said. “It was a way for us to process our own stories.”
Black emphasized the importance of body image in the piece, and celebrating body types that are not culturally accepted.
“It’s a feminine view on the body rather than a masculine view,” Black said.
The painting process was completed Nov. 23. It wasn’t easy to coordinate schedules, plan around the rain and stay warm in the chilly Oregon climes, but the group’s dedication was strong and the project was finished quickly.
The piece is especially relevant locally, as Oregon is the only state in the nation that has no legal restrictions on abortion.
The collective is thinking about doing a “Project Venus 2,” maybe even another mural on which they can collaborate with other artists.
“There isn’t a lot of dialogue in general around the issue,” Freyer said. “We’re hoping to bridge that gap.”
Joanna Mann covers education for Mid-Valley Media. She can be contacted at 541-812-6076 or Joanna.Mann@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter via @joanna_mann_.