The playful visions of Claudia Cave | Oregon ArtsWatch

In terms of area, and even if it occupies two rooms, Claudia Cave: Interiors and interiority is not currently the largest exhibit at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem.

But after a few minutes of getting lost in one of the playful and surreal worlds depicted in his paintings, it starts to feel like it could be. Cave’s “interiority” can be represented by the fixed boundaries of vaguely Suessian architecture, but once it occupies your own interiority, the spectacle takes its place.

Fall officially arrived on Wednesday and Hallie Ford is thankfully open to the public, so you can step outside the house and experience that “fall art” vibe. Masks are mandatory and the museum is open with a maximum capacity of 45 visitors at a time, so timed entry tickets are strongly encouraged. Check the museum’s website for the latest Covid protocols to plan your visit.

Claudia Cave, “Light House”, 2008, gouache and watercolor on paper, 34 x 41 inches, Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University, Maribeth Collins Art Acquisition Fund, 2008.068. Photo: Aaron Johanson

The Cavern exhibition draws on pieces already acquired by the museum, but also includes an impressive number of loaned pieces. According to curator Roger Hull, this is the first time Cave has had her own exhibit at Hallie Ford, even though she has lived in the Willamette Valley for much of her life. “We collect his work because it’s so fascinating and it’s local,” he said. “She grew up in Corvallis. It is part of our mission, to promote local art with our other collections.

You hardly need to know Cave to appreciate his work, which Hull at one point described as “an anthropomorphic approach to architecture,” but it helps. A pamphlet written by Hull, professor emeritus of art history at Willamette University, makes an excellent introduction. Less than half a dozen pages are filled with a brief biography and analysis of Cave’s themes, influences and style.

Claudia Cave, “An American Tradition,” 1983, pencil and colored pencil on paper, 22 x 22 inches, collection of the artist.

It turns out that Cave’s artistry flourished from a specific seed: a magazine she met as a child.

She was born in Salem in Salem in December 1951. Her father, Lyle, worked in a local cannery. Her mother, Sherlee, was an office manager for an architectural firm in Salem. Thus, the family house in Keizer had in its interior books on impressionist painting and copies of Architectural summary. “It was the only magazine we had at home all the time,” Cave says in notes prepared by Hull. “I looked at every problem. I was fascinated by the way things were put together.

This vision of architecture via glossy magazine was complemented by his paternal grandmother’s home in southeast Salem. According to the notes: “It was a very outlandish house. Everything was a little offbeat, and that fascinated me. I loved staying with her and looking around her house. This left him with a penchant for “embarrassing things that aren’t quite right, that somehow don’t work.” It comes back to my work.

“Approaching” is an understatement.

The houses and structures in Cave’s work are expressionistic and absurd, with crooked fireplaces, gutters that seem to have their own mind, and ribbons of Rapunzel-like hair floating through scenes that will surely resonate in so many different ways. that there are spectators. . Picasso, Crazy magazine and Dr Suess’ Whoville were among the visual frames of reference that unpredictably swept through this journalist’s stream of consciousness during a recent visualization. Parents, beware: it is a show that, more than others, would appeal to children.

Claudia Cave, “Excavation”, 1995, gouache on paper, 33 x 41 inches, collection of the artist.

Certainly, virtually every piece in the exhibition exhibits a savage sense of abandonment and playfulness.

A, Lodging, represents two structures. One vaguely resembles a classic red and white barn, and features nearly a dozen tiny windows near the roof and an impossibly large one below. The building next door is a mishmash of wacky: a door to the outside (or is it inside?) Opening onto a wooden plank walkway that ends in a small ladder accessible from the ground by a rope; a staircase leading nowhere; pipes that seem to meander through the outside of one but inside the other. And the houses are connected by a fireplace that they share. One can only imagine what the house in Grandma Cave must have looked like to inspire visual craziness and mystery so delicious.

The people who occupy these surreal scenes, more often than not, are just as bizarre. The woman in Preserve your memories look at a family photo album. While the images in the photos are “realistic,” the woman herself looks a bit like a red and black striped capital “C” has been stretched and shaped into a person.

Claudia Cave, “Refuge Mask”, 2002, gouache on paper, 20 x 18 inches, Bonnie Hull collection.

Another woman, sitting slightly outside the frame, has an incredibly long arm outstretched in the scene, which is dotted with other weird elements: look closely and you’ll find a small sperm whale near the first woman’s shoulder. Through the window of the room is not the outside, but another inside, whose most important feature is a fragile chair built of sticks.

This visual cave burrow wonderland is perhaps best illustrated by The Down Under, in which a series of scenes takes the viewer deeper and deeper inside a miniature house of a charm bracelet.

“In my childhood, charm bracelets were very popular,” Cave writes in the accompanying notes. “My sister had a lot of them, and I had a few, one from the Seattle World’s Fair. I have always loved the small items on charm bracelets. In each charm, a whole world exists. If you look closely, you are part of the experience. This last sentence describes well almost all of Cave’s work.

“For me, imagery is what comes to my mind right now,” Cave says. “They are not necessarily universal symbols. I leave it to the viewer to understand what a work means for him or herself. My art concerns others who find themselves in their own way. They don’t need to know why I specifically put it there.

Look even closer, not at the pictures, but at the lines and colors that make up the pictures, and you’ll see a level of detail that Hull best describes:

“There is a process of structuring the work with the drawing as a linear framework and then introducing color, often using a small brush with a very fine point so that each shape, pattern and gradient is the result of thousand marks of great delicacy, “he writes.” Cave’s sometimes very energetic renderings are the result of initial free-form sketches and subsequent steps requiring relentless patience and weeks of methodical work. “

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Claudia Cave, “The Down Under”, 1988, gouache on paper, 34 x 42 inches, Hallie Ford Museum of Art, Willamette University, Elmer Edwin Young Purchase Fund, YNGAF93.06

The Cave exhibition occupies two spaces. The study room which welcomes you at the top of the stairs presents ten pieces of gouache produced between 1985 and 2016. In the print study center are 18 other pieces which adorn the walls (some in graphite, others in pencil. ) and an assortment of smaller pieces in two long display cases.

The latter includes a collection of “Mail Art”, mixed works of art that were sent by the US Mail. At the time, it was apparently one thing, an international movement that ultimately inspired Cave and her husband, Kent Sumner, to exchange pieces with other artists in England, Japan, Germany, and Belgium. The notes detail:

“These objects were of the moment, ephemeral creations made from scraps of cardboard, paper, found materials and tape – vehicles for short and whimsical messages. At times the work has defied standard postal protocol, such as when Sumner sent in a hollowed-out eggshell that somehow made it to its destination more or less intact.

Cave’s artistic skill was evident even as a child, when she took art classes at public schools in Salem, but she had no plans to become an artist. With the intention of becoming a teacher, she enrolled in the Oregon College of Education (now Western Oregon University) and majored in secondary education, with a minor in art. She didn’t take much paint because of the expense; students had to buy their own supplies. She therefore focused more on drawing and design.

The culture of OCE’s art scene was apparently enough to draw him into the fold. Cave and Sumner (they met at OCE and married in 1977) both graduated with an MFA at the University of Idaho in 1980. artist after all.

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Claudia Cave, “Epitaph”, 1985, gouache on paper, 24 x 24 inches, collection of the artist.
  • Claudia Cave: Interiors and interiority will be on display until December 4, and it’s one of many shows at Hallie Ford.
  • On site is also In dialogue: Diego Rivera, which presents the painter’s painting of 1931 The ofrenda “In dialogue” with pieces from other well-known artists. Curated by Jonathan Bucci, the exhibition includes prints by Alfredo Arreguin, Carmen Lomas Garza, Enrique Chagoya and Rupert Garcia.
  • In the Melvin Henderson-Rubio gallery is Time In Place: Northwest Art from the permanent collection, also organized by Bucci. This show was in the process of being set up last week when ArtsWatch arrived, and from what has been on display so far, it’s impressive.
  • The Hallie Ford Museum of Art is located at 700 State Street in downtown Salem, on the corner of State and Cottage streets. Open from noon to 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday; closed Sunday-Monday. Admission: $ 6 general, $ 4 senior (55+), $ 3 educators and students (18+ with identity card); 17 and under admitted free. For more information, call 503-370-6855 or write to [email protected]


David Bates is an award-winning reporter from Oregon with over 20 years as a newspaper editor and reporter in the Willamette Valley, covering virtually every topic imaginable and with a solid background in arts / culture journalism. He has lived in Yamhill County since 1996 and is currently a freelance writer whose clients have included the McMinnville News-Subscribe, Oregon Wine Press, and Treat yourself, a publication focused on food. He holds a BA in Journalism from the University of Oregon and a long history of involvement in the performing arts, acting and sometimes directing for Gallery Players of Oregon and other Oregon theaters. .

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