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‘Surreal & Real’ opens at Chemeketa’s art gallery

Michelle FitzHenry closely examines the bingo buttons in Sarah Fagan’s painting “Found” in the Chemeketa Art Gallery.

Michelle FitzHenry closely examines the bingo buttons in Sarah Fagan’s painting “Found” in the Chemeketa Art Gallery.

By Jennifer Spring Photos by Brad Bakke

At the opening for the show in early November, Fagan spoke to students and visitors about her creative process. She also discussed her strategies for transitioning from student to artist.

Fagan describes her work as object portraiture.

“I really love objects. They’re my language,” she said.

“I often pick tactile objects, things that we use, and I want to show the world how wonderful they are.”

Fagan separates objects into two categories and pairs them in her paintings.

“There’s the active object – something that you fit in your hand and then you use it to make something else with, like a pencil or a bookbinding tool,” she said. “The other object is the object of potential. I’m really drawn to blank pieces of paper, or empty bowls.

“My work is about saying a lot with what is minimal, and what really speaks to you is often the minimal thing.”

Fagan said that she discovered the power of minimal pairings while composing “Chapters,” an early piece that is included in the show.

A single pencil lies on the right side of the panel. On the left is a plain piece of paper. As she worked on the piece, she said that she found herself putting different drawings on the paper but repeatedly painting them out.

“I think after 10 times, I finally covered it over and said, ‘Oh, it’s done! This painting has to be about the blank piece of paper to be about anything at all.’ That’s when it has the most ambiguity but the most meaning.”

Fagan uses several techniques to draw the viewer’s attention.

She keeps the paintings uncluttered and uses an aerial viewpoint “to surprise people and draw them into what is otherwise a simple composition.

“Not often do you stand right on top of something and look straight down into it,” she said.

Fagan is unafraid to break conventional rules of composition. Instead, she centers her objects to create focus and uses object pairs to challenge viewers to create their own interpretations.

“Visually, I’m telling you there’s something important going on here because I put these two things together,” she said. “Your mind is going to want to find a meaning, and then, that’s it. I don’t tell you the meaning. I think the point of art is just to make the viewer think.”

Fagan analyzes the meanings of her paintings after she creates them.

“I’m painting what I feel, and I think about it afterwards. Whatever narratives you want to see in the work are just as relevant as what I see in the work,” she said.

Visual Communications students in instructor Christine Linder’s class attended the opening.

Students Liz Smith and Savannah Glitschka shared the concepts they took away from Fagan’s presentation.

Glitschka said, “As an artist, it’s really easy to get burned out. She has strategies to stay motivated. It was interesting to hear that she knows when to step away from her work.”

Smith’s take after the presentation: “Don’t be afraid to break the rules and go for it. It’s your art.”

Class members Heather Dore and Jeremy Rickson worked on the final poster for the show. The poster can be viewed online and on walls around campus.

The Gretchen Schuette Art Gallery is located in Bldg. 3. Hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Call 503-399-2533 for more information.

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