Becoming a full time professional artist has been a long road for Verone Flood, but she’s always had people to help her. Growing up in a traditional upper middle class Catholic family in Rhode Island put certain constraints on her expression. Verone remembers when a high school art school teacher gave her a huge piece of paper and told her to draw a tree. “I made a tiny tree,” Verone said. “I was that inhibited.” But the teacher took a red pen and showed Verone how to fill up the whole paper, to go as big as she wanted.
Verone’s current photographic work is small in size, but big on color, expression, beauty and creativity. Her specialty is triptychs. She chooses three images that are linked through a theme, mood or narrative thread. Then she joins them together in a way that involves lines, color, and sometimes words. Her current bestseller is a clever rebus that spells out “I Love Oregon.” The “I” is Multnomah Falls; the heart is drawn in foam on a latte; the third image is the Made in Oregon sign. The piece is pleasing visually, whether on not the onlooker deciphers the message.
Although Verone earned a masters in fine arts, she worked a corporate job for many years, which brought her to Portland. While working full time, she kept up with her photography enough to have a show once or twice a year. But when Verone’s company cut 15,000 jobs in a single day – including hers – she immediately thought of Saturday Market and wondered if she could turn her art into a career.
Between Saturday Market, First and Last Thursday, and other shows and festivals, Verone pieced together a livelihood. Many of the artists she met inspired her, including two of her favorite local photographers, Audrey Heller and Jim Nilsen. Both did beautiful work but priced their photos affordably. Verone wanted to do that, too. “I’ve never wanted to make really expensive art,” she said. Verone’s grassroots sensibilities made her a natural for selling art at street festivals.
Nor does Verone believe in the necessity of high dollar cameras. Most people can’t tell the difference between images taken with her more or less expensive cameras, she said. She also likes to manipulate her shots, and considers her camera and Photoshop equal in importance. “I identify as an artist more than as a photographer,” Verone said. “My work’s about process, and telling a story.”
Verone built her career over the years, until she was hit hard by the recent recession. But in October, 2010, she found a creative way to cut costs: she moved into Milepost 5, an artists’ community of live/work condos and apartments on NE 82nd in the Montavilla neighborhood. This low-cost housing is open only to committed artists, and includes a community garden, gallery space, art store and a restaurant. “Coming here has been very liberating,” Verone said. “I didn’t know if I was going to be happy or sad about it, but I’m very happy.” She estimates the occupants’ ages range from 19 to 65. In addition to visual artists, the community includes writers, massage therapists, musicians and a theater group. The artists open their studios to visitors every first Friday.
Looking toward the future, Verone hopes to show her work more around the country. She has crammed her little Honda full of photographs and driven to festivals in California, Washington, Wyoming and Montana. When the economy picks up, she’d like to get a bigger vehicle and drive it farther.
But wherever Verone finds herself, her creative eye finds fodder for her art. ‚Ä®That’s what I like about my photography,” she said. “I can be in Mexico or I can be in Portland, and I can take a walk with my camera and be inspired.”
Visit Verone’s website at www.veroneflood.com
—by Teresa Bergen
Visit Verone’s Profile Page where you can view more images of her work and read her Artist's Statement.