Meet Victoria Tierney: Bandon Artist

Bandon is becoming an increasingly well-known town around Oregon and beyond. The beaches are gorgeous, the cheese is hard to beat, the Cranberry Festival is hoppin, and the golf is world-class. A quieter but strong claim to fame for our fair town, however, is the depth and breadth of the art world. From the visual arts to music to theater, Bandon is alive with creativity, and in the inner circle of that world is Victoria Tierney. Her life’s journey started in New York and took her through places like France, San Francisco, and Los Angeles where she made her name as a visual artist and art director, working with famous artists such as Judy Chicago and Lloyd Ziff. Her journey has brought her to little Bandon, Oregon where she has grown roots and the art community, and we couldn’t be happier about it.

Victoria Tierney’s art journey began in New Rochelle, a suburb of New York City. With a brilliant sculptor for a mother who had a gallery in the city, she grew up immersed in the arts and spent every Saturday taking classes at the Museum of Modern Art. From the get-go, she explained, there was visual arts. She also spent time going to musicals. Her father worked on Wall Street, but there was art in his family as well; his artistic claim to fame was that his cousin was the lyricist Larry Hart of Rodgers & Hart, the Hollywood duo that wrote a number of songs for musicals. After Harts death, Richard Rodgers went on to partner with Oscar Hammerstein and formed another musical duo, Rodgers & Hammerstein.

After graduating from high school, Victoria chose to attend Oberlin College in Ohio (a choice she made partly due to the fact that it was co-ed), where she studied French. There she met her first husband Craig who was into arts and theater, and after a couple of years and a summer in France, she transferred to University of California Berkeley to study art. While in the Bay Area, she designed costumes for the San Francisco Actors Workshop. There, she met Judy Davis, a set designer who had also been working as an advertising artist for Cost Plus Imports. Davis had been commissioned to design a stained glass window and asked Victoria if she’d like to take her job at Cost Plus. Victoria had been working as a mail clerk in an advertising agency, so she jumped at the chance. She had to transition quickly from drawing only people to drawing furniture and decor with a crow quill pen and India ink.

In 1965, Victoria’s path took her next to New Haven, Connecticut when Craig wanted to continue a Master’s degree in architecture at Yale University. She took a job as an art director for the Sunday Magazine of the New Haven Register Guard, and as the youngest on staff, she was passed all the concert tickets and got to see Buffy Sainte-Marie, Bob Dylan, and others.

Her personal art changed and evolved during her stint in New Haven; while pregnant with her son Blake, she found herself compelled to draw on round surfaces, starting with ping pong balls and progressing through billiard balls to finally a globe. When the young couple moved to Manhattan in 1967, Victoria sold ping-pong ball earrings she had created while pregnant to high-end fashion emporiums including Saks Fifth Avenue and Lord & Taylor. She then worked as the assistant art director at New York Magazine with Milton Glaser, one of the most celebrated graphic designers in the country who became her most important mentor. Glaser is known for such iconic images such as the “I Love New York” logo and the psychedelic poster included in Bob Dylan’s 1967 Greatest Hits album. This job, working with Glaser as well as influential writers such as Gloria SteinemGail Sheehey, and Tom Wolfe was, Victoria says,”…a dream job; probably the best one I ever had.”

That globe made the next journey with Victoria and her little family when they moved west again in 1969. Herb Blau, provost of the California Institute of the Arts and formerly of the San Francisco Actors Workshop, offered Craig a job as assistant dean of the design department, so the next stage of their lives began in Los Angeles. Victoria became active in the feminist movement in Los Angeles and got involved with well known feminist artists Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro. The art installation,”Womanhouse,” was the brainchild of Chicago and Schapiro and is still a symbol of the Feminist Art movement. Another of Chicago’s works entitled “The Dining Room” is now a permanent exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art.

Victoria and Craig divorced a few years after moving to Los Angeles, and Victoria found herself in need of a job. She started working with a friend of Milton Glaser designing record jackets for big name artists such as Ringo Starr and The Allman Brothers.

Around the same time, Victoria’s 7-year old son Blake came to her after waking and launched into a vivid description of a dream. She had to stop him to get a pencil and recorded Blake’s dream. She took the book to a number of publishers in New York City, using some contacts she had made while working at New York Magazine. The companies all told her that something about the book needed changing; the book was too scary or not scary enough. Victoria finally found Joanna Cole, the children’s book editor of Doubleday, who liked the book just as it was (Joanna Cole certainly knew what she was talking about; she went on to write the popular Magic School Bus book and video series).

Victoria secured the contract for the book, but life got in the way as it tends to, and Victoria had trouble finding the time to finish the drawings for the book. She thought that if she could just get away to somewhere not so busy, she might be able to focus enough to see it through. In May 1977, she came to Bandon, Oregon, the chosen not-so-busy spot, where she had one friend, Mark Tierney. She had met Mark when he came to Los Angeles to visit their mutual friend Lloyd Ziff, another record jacket designer (and who later went on to be the art director for some big magazines, including Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair). In Bandon, Victoria was able to add the book’s detailed illustrations, incorporating herself, Blake, and even a window in the top floor of their house, and with the drawings, Blakes story became the book Dream of the Dinosaurs.

The friendship Victoria had with Mark evolved into a marriage, and the two months she had originally planned to stay in Bandon became 40 years. Victoria Tierney fit in well to the existing Bohemian community in Bandon (which included Bill Bradbury, later Oregon’s Secretary of State), a term of endearment used to describe whom others would call hippies. She might have been out of the whirlwind of the New York and Los Angeles art scene, but she quickly found her place in Bandon. She started as assistant curator of the Bandon Historical Society Museum and worked there with curator Shannon Applegate Mueller, who was writing the book Skookum: An Oregon Pioneer Family’s History and Lore and later received the Governor’s Art Award for the piece. She has since curated countless art shows in the area, including the annual Boardwalk Art Show, shows at the Coos Art Museum, and over 60 shows at Southern Coos Hospital. Victoria was also instrumental in connecting the Bandon art world with the AVK Arts Foundation. AVK Arts sponsored many of the shows Victoria curated and was created by Elena Karina Canavier (an accomplished ceramics artist in her own right), who became known as the art angel of Bandon.

In addition to the shows in Bandon, Victoria Tierney has curated many traveling art shows. One near to her heart is art done by Oregon prisoners entitled “Time” which traveled to ten different venues in 2011 alone. When a family member was sent to the Oregon State Penitentiary in 2005, she became aware of the vast talent on the inside and wanted others to see the prisoners expressions of their feelings and experience in their art. Under the title Inside/Outside, the show traveled to the Bandon Library Art Gallery in 2015.

Victoria’s art hasn’t been limited to the visual. She became involved in the Bandon Playhouse and the theater world not long after landing in Bandon when her son Blake and husband Mark had parts in “You Cant Take it with You.” She was hooked after going to rehearsals, and over the next 20 years, both she and Mark were involved as Playhouse presidents, directors, producers, and actors. Victoria also worked on sets and publicity.

Mark and Victoria live on 57 beautiful acres just south of the Coquille River in Bandon. The house was thoughtfully designed and constructed by Mark. Its three stories have served the changing needs of the household while the couple raised kids and created their art. Once a kids’ space, the upstairs is now devoted to Victoria’s painting and digital creations, and the daylight basement is a workshop for Mark’s guitar building. Not surprisingly, their house is full of art, and each piece has a story; it is either made by a friend or acquaintance or represents a journey. Victoria purchased one painting of a jungle scene on the Amazon she was drawn to after a month spent in the South American jungle.

In the recent past, Victoria Tierney focused much of her art energy continues to paint with watercolors and has done a series of pieces around “Pinky the Cat.” Lately, however, she has found a new passion in ArtRage, what she describes as a fingerpainting app. Examples of her ArtRage art is easy to find on her Facebook page, and she recently taught an Exploring ArtRage class at Art By The Sea gallery.

Even the outside of the house is its own mini-gallery. Greeting anyone who drives up is a sculpture of a person who looks to be emerging out of the stone from which it is carved. It is one of several beautifully unique sculptures in and around the house done by Victoria’s mother. The mosaic stepping stones leading the way to the door add color to front yard and the lush green space behind the house were crafted by Victoria. She laughs and explains that it was one of many projects that quelled a friend’s worry that Victoria wouldn’t have anything to do in Bandon.

We are extremely fortunate that Victoria Tierney’s journey has brought her to our fair town. She has led and continues to lead a full and interesting life as one of Bandon’s most prominent artists and cant help but share her love for art.

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