The flow of figures and abstract
Photo by Cecelia Love-Zhou
A beetle and spider preserved in paint and gloss, a grid of figures who wonder about themselves in watercolor. Two different styles of art flow together to create the current show at Chemeketa’s own Gretchen Schuette Gallery. The art featured currently is by the two artists of this year’s artist-in-residency program, Clara Herbage and Rosalie Lingo of Oregon State University.
“Imagine that you’re painting in your bedroom all the time, and suddenly you get a space to make art,” Deanne explained during a talk on Oct. 4 during the opening of Rosalie and Clara’s show.
Clara, who first started as a pre-med student at OSU and born into a family of lawyers and doctors, hadn’t ever taken an art class until her sophomore year of college.
“I knew I was always creative but I’d never taken an art class before my sophomore year of college,” she said. “…I don’t know what it was. It was just sort of a connection and I decided that I wanted to take some more classes, and then I decided I was going to minor in it. Then I threw the pre-med out the window and went for a major because I just sort of fell in love with the art.”
Now, after five years at OSU, she graduated last spring and used the artist in residency program that she was informed of by her painting instructor, Shelly Jordon, to help further her art career outside of her night job as a bartender.
Clara’s art style typically follows along the lines of abstract landscapes, although during the stretch of the summer program she experimented mostly with non-objective pieces. She also used the resources provided by college as part of the program to experiment with different mediums.
“I was using new brands of paint… expensive to cheap- just sort of trying to figure out what worked the best and I made some really terrible pieces.”
Overall, she created 21 successful paintings that are currently hanging in our gallery intermixed with the figurative artworks of Rosalie.
Rosalie grew up in a very artistic family, and often went to local museums with her mother. Those trips, along with seeing how her family members, such as her cousin who became a tattoo artist, proceeded with their art without education specific to it. So far however Rosalie, who is in her last term at OSU, is the first in her family to shoot for a degree focused on fine arts.
One of Clara’s paintings, titled Visceral, contains two unexpected subjects that investigated the painting while it was drying during the night, and ended up getting stuck and died.
“When I painted that, both a beetle and a spider crawled into the painting while it was drying,” Clara said when discussing the painting. “The spider was delicate so it kinda disappeared but the beetle- well beetles have a hard shell and everything so it’s still in there and I just varnished over it.”
Rosalie’s process during the summer also diverted from her usual habits. Where she would usually sketch out a piece of artwork first, during the span of the program she mostly worked right on the canvas she was using.
There are many differences between Clara and Rosalie’s work presented in the gallery. Focusing on non-objective and abstract, Clara used many different ways- including her fingers- to apply paint to the canvases in ways that let visitors interpret her artwork practically freely. She bought her canvases, gessoing or prepping the surface with primer in order to withstand the many of layers her art generally has. Her works during the program typically took from 3 to 5 hours each and were done laid out on the floor of the gallery on top of a tarp with Clara on her hands and knees next to them.
Rosalie, on the other hand, presented a figurative style with characters that had repeated abstract shapes over a lot of them that were to represent the subject matters’ emotional minds and personalities. She built most of her canvases and gessoed with orange in order to keep the white of the canvas that, as she said, “…can really mess with your vision and mess with how the paint is appearing to you.” She enjoys using characters and figures in her work as narrative tools to illustrate the idea that humans haven’t ever really experienced not having a body and that everything done can be connected to that.
She did a collection of watercolor works and assembled them into a grid, titling the whole piece Who You Think You Are and featuring several different figures drawn around the splashes of color.
“I started that project on a whim and I produced all of those small illustrations that were able to come together into a big piece,” Rosalie said, “But I think that they’re a very managable size- both for me to work on and for the viewer to look at in the gallery.”
Despite the differences in their styles, their artwork flows along the walls of the gallery easily alongside each other.
“It’s really interesting to look at that show as their works working together as companioin pieces, because they’re unified in the color palette and they’re also unified in variety,” Deanne pointed out when describing the uniqueness of their show. “There’s so much variety in Rosalie’s figures, and there’s so much variety in the size and format of Clara’s work. I think that’s really unique for those two totally different styles to mesh so well together.”
The gallery, started roughly thirty years ago by Lee Jacobsen, was a way not only to feature other artists from the local area on campus, but as a way for students to experience having their art in a show. Now one of Chemeketa’s best shows, this is a yearly event where Chemeketa’s art students submit their pieces to be judged by invited professionals from around the region to select which ones are apart of the showing.
“Some students see it as kind of a harsh process but that’s really what happens in the art world,” Deanne Beausoleil, the current gallery coordinator starting this fall term and curator, putting together shows off and on for the past eight years, explains. “Quite often you have to submit your work, you have to put your idea out there, and then see if it’s accepted. Or, if it’s not accepted, think about how you’re going to modify it or change the way you produce things to get your art out there in the world.”
The artist-in-residency program was started in 2013 by instructor Laura Mack as a way to give artists an opportunity to use the space as a studio, and wanted the gallery to be put to good use during the summer. The first artist was Corrine Loomiz Deitz, a local artist around Salem who is known for figurative works and abstract landscapes. From there the program featured several other artists, and is now on it’s second consequetive year to have two artists use the space.
The artist-in-residency program provides the gallery as a studio for up to three artists to work in together, as well as offers such supplies as kilns and paint for use as needed.
The current Gretchen Schuette Gallery show will continue until Oct. 26 in Bldg. 3-122. The next show will begin on Oct. 31 in the same room.