It is not easy to hold the infant on my hip while painting on my canvas in my bathroom – but I do it. Why? Because I am an Oregon pioneer - a pioneer with a pink hammer. Between juggling baby feeding times and art exhibition hangings, I drink coffee to stay sane. (Something that even pioneers had!) This last year has been an explosion of opportunity as I move from being a closet artist to “bathroom artist.” Literally. With a three year old and a one year old, there are only snippets of time in which I can go and paint. It is a tough (but fun!) gig. When the tougher days start to get to me, I can remember my pink hammer. When I go to hang my artwork at libraries and coffeehouses I take my pink hammer - the only hammer I’ve ever owned. It was given to me by a true art pioneer, both figuratively and literally! It was given to me as a wedding gift by the late, great Roger Cooke and his wife Edna. All artists from this side of Oregon owe a great deal to Roger Cooke, because he pioneered the art culture of this area. Roger's mural artwork of the Oregon Trail can been seen on the Ace Hardware building in downtown Sandy, OR. His artwork can also be seen in the Leaning Tree section of the greeting card racks. He even has a mural on a firehouse on the east coast. Roger definitely made it trendy to be an artist from Sandy, OR. I first knew him as an elderly Elder at the local church I went to growing up. He was always a kind, soft-spoken man with an ambling gate. After hearing his life story from one of Edna Cooke's good friends I can see why "first world problems" were nothing more than a small annoyance.
I was told of the scarcity that the Cooke’s endured before Roger became famous. The refrigerator would be bare and money non-existent, so wise Edna would throw a potluck at the Cooke home. After the meal, she would slip away into the kitchen and kindly wash everyone’s serving dishes. But not before saving the leftovers in her Tupperware, filling her refrigerator up! No wonder Roger painted his pioneer women after her! They knew and had gone through hardships; perhaps this is why he was so relatable even though his works can be found nationwide (he even has a mural on the East Coast). But that’s what this Mt. Hood corridor is all about - the pioneers. The Oregon Territory was founded by the most brazen and enduring of the Native Americans and settlers. Remember that next time you find yourself on Pioneer Blvd, in Sandy, OR, gazing at the covered wagon on the Ace Hardware building. I remember it every time I use my pink hammer.