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Mary Lynn Portera, a local ceramic artist and Chattanooga native, stands with a few of her pieces at the Bluff View River Gallery. Portera is a featured artist in next month's exhibit and will be showing off some of her mixed media and found object sculptures.

In 1992, Mary Lynn Portera displayed a collection of her sculpture work at the opening of her mother's small art museum in the Bluff View Art District, River Gallery.

Next week, her work will be showcased as the gallery celebrates its 20th anniversary.

"I think art is in our lives, whether we realize it or not, whether we focus on it or not," said Mary Portera, gallery owner. "It is there."

Originally a single family home, then apartments, the River Gallery features an eclectic collection of work by American artists. All the pieces, from sculptures to jewelry, are for sale.

Mary Lynn Portera, a mixed media sculptor, works with all found objects and recycled materials. She makes frequent visits to the scrap yard to collect gears, copper, whatever looks good to her.

"A lot of times, I don't know what any of this stuff is," she said, "but guys will come in and say 'oh, this is blah, blah, blah...' I'm just intrigued by the way it looks. The design element is what speaks to me."

She got her start in graphic design, as a student, but preferred working with her hands.

For the anniversary show, Portera has created about 25 pieces, including vases, bottles and bells. Her children, Lakeland, 10, and Mary Kathryne, 12, assisted in the process.

All of the pieces are made from either red or white stoneware, with portions painted in earthy tones of greens, blues and reds.

"I want them to look like they were dug out of the ground," Portera said of her pieces. In some of the works, she has used metal pieces to make impressions in the clay. There is a theme of repetition and circles she incorporates, she said, to represent life cycles, an idea that is also represented in her use of recycled objects.

She credits her grandmothers for her inclination to make something new from something old. Both grew up during the Great Depression, she said, and were reluctant to throw anything away.

"They would just make things. Sometimes it was functional and sometimes it wasn't."

She grew up going to craft shows, watching demonstrations, seeing the artists' processes, understanding the value of their work.

"That's started to come back," she said. "Seeing the process helps understand the price."

Portera will be conducting a workshop at the gallery during the second week of August.

When she is not creating art herself, Portera teaches at the Baylor School. This summer, she has been keeping an online journal of her process, in preparation for an assignment that will have her Advanced Placement students doing just that, this coming fall.

The 20th anniversary show will also feature the work of painter Eric Fitzpatrick, with whom Mary Lynn Portera became acquainted on a European travel excursion more than two decades ago.