Corvallis artists use pandemic to explore mysticism

B Y  J E N N I F E R  M O O D Y

Sometimes, it gets to be too much:

the worry, the isolation, the ongoing unprecedented-ness of the global pandemic caused by the virus called COVID-19.

When the waves get too high, artists often cope by stepping out of themselves, said Joan Truckenbrod of Corvallis. 

Then they take a breath and look back in.

When they do, their fear turns to fodder.

That’s what led Truckenbrod and more than a dozen other Corvallis-area artists to create “Mysticism in Time of COVID,” an exhibition open through this weekend at the Truckenbrod Gallery, 517 SW Second St., Corvallis. 

Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Friday, March 26, and Saturday, March 27, but visitors also can make appointments for private tours before the weekend by contacting Truckenbrod at or exhibition coordinator Brenda Congdon at

An overview of the show also can be seen online at

Isolation can be inspiring, but it can also lead to artist’s block, said Truckenbrod, who owns the gallery and contributed some of her own work to the show.

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Joan Truckenbrod, "Connective Tissue."

“There are times as an artist, even though we all have studios, where you feel incredibly inhibited; like you can’t work. Somehow the shroud of the pandemic comes over and stops you from working,” she said.

"At some point, your emotions get so tangled that, finally, it's like you rescue yourself by stepping outside of that experience,” she went on. “Looking back in precipitates some interesting artwork.” 


The 16 artists in this month’s show — or 17, if you count the music for the video work by Greg Power, Congdon’s son and a Los Angeles-based musician currently sheltering with his family — all contributed something different for the theme. 


Visitors to the gallery will see the idea of mysticism reflected in works of glass, paper, and fabric. They’ll see oils, acrylics, and watercolors. They’ll see lithographs and quiltwork and writing and woodblock prints and poetry and photography. All the artists have their own stories to tell and all have their own ways of doing the telling.

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Screenshot from Brenda Congdon's "There's Nothing Else to Consider."

Congdon, for example, tells part of her story through a video camera. She shot video of, among other things, the views through her windows and the local flora and fauna.


“I called it, ‘There’s Nothing Else to Consider,’ and it was basically about the whole COVID kind of thing, where we’re not traveling and we’re focusing more on things around us, more on the experiences around us and noticing things we haven’t before,” she said. “Things you don’t usually pay attention to.”


The video is shown on a monitor in the art gallery during the day. At night, passersby can watch it through the windows as it flickers across the walls. That, too, is part of the experience. 

Congdon is the founder of an Art Book Club, which meets monthly in Corvallis — online, at the moment — for local artists to talk about books related to art. Participants in the book club became the exhibitors for the show. 

Several factors fed the theme's idea, she said. The participants were already talking about the feeling of unreality that comes with pandemic-induced isolation, but they also read and talked about a group of artists in the Puget Sound area in the 1930s who incorporated Asian and Native American mysticism into their work. Together, they read one of the works featured in the exhibit: Skiing and the Poetry of Snow, by Art Book Club member John Frohnmayer, which explores mysticism as part of the sport. And one member of the group had done a dissertation specifically on spirituality in abstract art, which further spurred the discussion.


The lack of day-to-day normalcy was really the catalyst, however. “We don’t have those regular connections anymore,” Congdon said. “We focus on different things now. Time moves like sand. We don’t know what day or month it is. It kind of takes you to a different plane, almost; a dreamlike quality to it.” 

Both Congdon and Truckenbrod said they hope viewing the works will prompt visitors to connect with their own inner mysticism.

“Hopefully we’ve touched on something that makes them pause and kind-of reflect on what’s happening with COVID, and how they’ve stepped out of it, and what helps. How does art help that?” Congdon said. “Hopefully we touch on something that will speak to each of those visitors as they go through.”

Another message, Truckenbrod said, is one of hope.


“We’ll get through this,” she said. “We don’t ever say that on any of the artwork or any of the show information, but it’s forward-looking. We can deal with this. We can deal with it creatively and we’re going to get beyond this and be able to make work.

“We’re going to be able to come out of our studios.”

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Joan Linse.


Bonnie Albright, Jessica Billey, Carlotta Collette, Brenda Congdon, John Frohnmayer, Katy Gollahon, Michele Griffin-Campione, Julie Kahn, Maureen Kinevey, Joan Linse, Mary McDermott, Karen Miller, Sara Morrissey, Lauren Ohlgren, Greg Power, and Joan Truckenbrod

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Karen Miller.

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Jessica Billey.


Through March 28, 2021

Truckenbrod Gallery  

517 SW 2nd Street, Suite 1

Corvallis, OR 97333  

(across the Street from Bodhi Bakery)

Hours: noon to 4 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays in March

This unique exhibition features a diverse group of creative artists and members from Corvallis' Art Book Club. The artwork covers the breadth and depth of experiences embodying the ideas of mysticism expressed during the pandemic lockdown. Each artist has  expressed his or her unique individual vision.

Some artists are painters creating ephemeral environments enveloping viewers in imaginary worlds. Woodblock prints embrace the resonance of winter environments. One is also the cover of a book written by a club member, Photographs capture the power of a mystical experience, as does a glass  installation complemented by glass masks suspended on the windows with the feeling of fragility. Special paper is used for an installation with suspended layers  embodying elements that have burned edges and are sewn together with hand-stitching. Hand-stitching is also in fiber art with intense colors and dynamic forms. Fiber artists exhibit works created by hand. Video art is projected in the evenings and shown on a monitor during the day, including sound that creates an immersive environment. 

The gallery is open Friday and Saturday afternoons with a limited number of people in the space at one time. Visitors are invited to make appointments for private showings. Masks are required for group and individual visitors, Please contact Joan Truckenbrod for appointments at