Inspired by Woody Guthrie, who traveled the West as an
itinerant sign painter during the Great Depression, Delaware native
Diane McWhorter picked up a brush early in the ’70s to try her hand at
sign-painting in the remote Four Corners region of the Southwest.
Sidetracked by a short-term romance with a Carmel Valley cowboy, she
came to Eugene to visit an aunt in 1975. “I found the Saturday Market
and set up a sign-making booth,” she says. “My first client was Humble
Bagel. I’m still in the market 43 years later.” McWhorter moved on to
silk-screening, making cards at first, then t-shirts, tote bags and
caps. She’s had her own booth at the Oregon Country Fair since 1984.
She got to know The Radar Angels performance troupe at the Fair, and
took part in the Angels’ first Jell-O Art Show at the Maude Kerns Art
Center in 1988. “I’ve been in every show,” she says. “This one is the
30th. I’ve used it to express what was going on in my life. A Barbie
doll was my alter ego, remodeling a bread box with building materials
made of Jell-O.” Her discovery that thin sheets of dried gelatin won’t
rot and turn to mush has allowed her to construct elaborate sculptures
that last and to fashion hair ornaments and flowers for sale at her
booth. Ever since her surprise coronation as Queen of Jell-O Art in
2012, McWhorter has joined The Radar Angels on stage in song and dance.
The 2018 Jell-O Art Show can be seen 5 to 8 pm Saturday, March 31, at
the Maude Kerns Art Center, 1910 E 15th Avenue in Eugene. Follow
McWhorter’s musings at gelatinaceae.blogspot.com.
photograph and story by Paul Neevel
Eugene Weekly / 29 March 2018