Parkdale artist makes natural connections through collage

By Drew Myron

Jordan Kim at desk
Jordan Kim of Parkdale creates intricate collages that combine her professional background in ecology with her passion for art.

First you see two birds on a snowy branch. Then you see more, small and hidden. Tucked in detailed feathers you spot a map, then a message in text: The beauty of diversity … thread that connects us all.

In nearly every canvas, Jordan Kim gently nudges viewers to make connections. Blending scraps of paper with text, paint and ink, she creates colorful collages.

“I like tucking hidden messages into my work,” says Jordan, 39, a mixed-media artist living in Parkdale. “These little notes are a way to encourage slowing down, looking deeper and seeing beyond first impressions. You can look at it many times and still see something different. Each time you see more depth and layers.”

In Winter Wanderers, two birds carry tiny words tucked in their plumage. In Barn Owl, a wide-eyed bird shares space with a barn and text: We can both support people and protect nature.

Because the collages—usually no larger than a sheet of paper—are so rich with detail, people often describe her work as “painting with paper,” Jordan says.

Like painting, collage is an elaborate process. Jordan starts with a concept, then uses scraps of junk mail and magazines to create an image, adds paint and pen to highlight and define, then enhances the image through digital software. A typical 8-by-8-inch canvas can take eight hours to complete.

Her subject matter is rooted in nature and home—children, animals and landscapes, for example—and is dense with layers, texture and meaning.

Sharing intimacy with nature’s small moments is nothing new to Jordan. Blending the heart of an artist with the mind of a scientist, Jordan attended University of Missouri-Kansas City on a full scholarship, earning a degree in biology with minors in chemistry and art.

“I couldn’t decide what I wanted to do,” Jordan says. “I wanted to do it all. I’m a bit of an overachiever.”

Viewers often describe Jordan’s collages as “painting with paper.” Barn Owl is featured in her 2019 wall calendar, available through Found & Rewound on Etsy.

She went to graduate school at Portland State University, where she studied environmental management.

“I’ve always been very driven,” she says.

In 2006, Jordan joined Hood River Soil and Water Conservation District, a local government agency that helps enhance and protect natural resources. Jordan thrived with a mission that valued connections among nature, ecology and community, and worked her way from technician to district manager. At work she strove to protect nature, and at home she worked late creating art that would connect others to the wonders of the natural world.

The long nights took a toll, however. Jordan and her husband, Won, were raising their young son, Isaac, and Jordan was stretched among three worlds: work, family and art. When she became ill in 2018, she stepped down from a career she loved for a role she wanted to embrace more fully: artist.

It was a brave move for a methodical person driven by organization and structure.

“I’m not a real risk taker,” Jordan admits.

But the leap paid off. Jordan’s art business—Found & Rewound—has grown by leaps. Her artwork is featured in a greeting card line of her paper collage designs. She is represented by three agents. Her notecards, calendars and prints are available throughout the Pacific Northwest, from shops in Parkdale to exclusive sales at Hood River Stationers, and in shops in Bend, Portland and Seattle. Jordan is working on a book cover illustration, as well as more licensed artwork projects.

Raised in St. Louis, Jordan grew up in a creative family, with an artistic grandmother as a role model.

“From a young age, my grandma was a huge influence,” Jordan says. “In her house we would find all these random found objects, like a child’s prosthetic leg, and she’d say, ‘You never know, I might need that for an art project.’”

Grandma Marty encouraged young Jordan.

“She’s the person who inspired me to do my first collage back when I was in middle school,” Jordan says.

Mixed media collage of a hermit thrush and California quail in the snow surrounded by rose hips.
In Winter Wanderers, Jordan blends paper scraps with pen-and-ink images, then tucks messages within the details. “You can look at it many times and still see something different,” she says. “Each time you see more depth and layers.”

A night owl, Jordan enjoys the quiet of the late hours. By day, she handles the business details of work: filling orders, contacting sales reps and working on concepts. She is also active with Arts in Education of the Gorge, an organization that brings artists into schools. Working as a teaching artist, Jordan’s assignments range from one day to a week. At Parkdale School, she worked with youngsters to make art pieces they gave as holiday gifts at the Hood River Senior Center. In another hands-on art project, she worked with 200 students at Westside Elementary to decoupage furniture.

“The kids get excited, and I like the idea of making connections with people through art,” Jordan says. “Making
art just to make art is not that satisfying to me. Making connections is more important. I really want to know that art is connecting us with each other.”

Jordan Kim’s artwork can be viewed online at Found and Rewound or on Etsy; or locally at Hood River Stationers in downtown Hood River and Blue Canoe Cafe in Parkdale.