Discovery

A frequent commentary chronicling the creative and intellectual
excitement of discovery at Washington State University.

Brought to you by Washington State Magazine

Archive for the ‘Visual arts’ Category

Postcards and Dreams: Inspiration for Claudia Fitch

Claudia Fitch’s artwork at Qwest Field: “The Colossal Heads”

Claudia Fitch’s artwork at Qwest Field: “The Colossal Heads”

Anyone who happens to drop by the WSU Museum of Art between January 13 and April 2, 2011 will notice the display of creativity from Claudia Fitch. Her collection spans more than two decades (1987-2010). Fitch graduated in 1975 with a BFA in painting from the University of Washington and received her MFA in painting in 1979 from the Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia.  She currently resides and works in Seattle, and her art is displayed at both the Greg Kucera Gallery in Seattle as well as the Adam Baumgold Gallery in New York.

The majority of Fitch’s art exhibitions have been featured in New York and Seattle, but she has had her work featured as far away as the Netherlands.  Her first piece was a miniature cityscape in the midst of a real cityscape in New York, which creates an interesting contrast.  Some of Fitch’s fellowships include the New York State Council on the Arts, through Sculpture Space, Utica (1989), the Artist Trust Fellowship in Visual Arts, Seattle (1992), and the Art + Architecture Program Fellowship, European Ceramics Work Center (2006).  Fitch was also commissioned to create artwork for the Eastgate Park and Ride in Bellevue and those visiting Qwest Field in Seattle might have noticed her creation entitled “The Colossal Heads.”

On January 20, a reception and lecture on Fitch’s artwork were held in WSU’s art building.  During the reception, visitors to the art museum had the opportunity to stroll around the room and peruse Fitch’s creations, while munching on snacks or sipping drinks. It doesn’t take an expert art critic to notice that Fitch’s work presents a strong contrast in medium and shape.  Fitch has created a range of pieces, some of which are 3-D, attached to the walls or sitting on the floor, as well as traditional pencil-drawn pictures made to hang on the wall.  She easily combines 2-D and 3-D structures and plays with a range of shapes to create a final product.

Keith Wells, curator of exhibitions in the WSU Art Museum, writes that Fitch “cannot be classified by her materials.  In fact, her accomplishments in painting, draftsmanship, sculpture and installation make it difficult to categorize her by medium or technique.”

Claudia Fitch, Interior, 2000

Claudia Fitch, Interior, 2000

During the lecture, Fitch discussed her work at length, for about an hour.  As she talked, Fitch clicked through slides of her artwork, displayed on the projector screen. She described the inspiration for her art, which is often related to dreams that she has.  Another interesting source of creativity is her postcard collection, from which she conducts silhouette studies as well as flocking.  Fitch’s work isn’t easily defined, and she has to trust the way that things are put together—going with her gut instinct of what feels right in order to develop a piece of artwork.  When Claudia went to school in the 1970s, she says that post-modernism was popular, and she also cannot avoid looking at art through a cultural lens.

In an interview with Debby Stinson from the WSU Museum of Art, Fitch comments on what she perceives as the message of her art: “I like to bring the bland conventional together with the personal use of art (as in a statue) and see them interplay.  I love the quote, ‘Art deepens the mystery.’…I try to let the message be an afterthought… I hope my art has humor, and my personal vision is brought to bear against the cultural convention and somehow, somewhere in the process, the mystery of art comes through.”

Claudia Fitch, Floating Mechanism (nightshade), 2010

Claudia Fitch, Floating Mechanism (nightshade), 2010

The (art) work ahead

This week Chris Bruce, the director for Washington State University’s museum of art, travels to Seattle to help sort out the disposition of the one of the most significant art donations in Washington State history – that of Safeco Insurance’s gift of more than 800 artworks. The donation of work by Northwest artists to the Washington Art Consortium, a non-profit museum cooperative, is valued at about $3.5 million.

Fay Jones' "Lotus- Eaters," a lithograph

Fay Jones' "Lotus- Eaters," a lithograph

While the donation is a done deal, Bruce, as WSU’s representative, has some work ahead in helping to decide where each work of art will go.

WSU became one of the four founding members of the Washington Art Consortium in 1975.  Because of logistics of maintenance and storage, the WAC has always been a shared collection of works on paper including pieces from the New York School from the 1950s and 60s, says Bruce, dropping names like de Kooning, Motherwell, and Pollock. The WAC brought the masterworks to this region and then expanded the collection to include photography and works from the Pacific Northwest.

So this week, Bruce and six other members of the WAC board – also museum directors – are meeting in Seattle to carefully review the Safeco donation piece by piece with a Northwest art expert. They will choose about 150 key works on paper for the WACs permanent collection. Then later this spring the remainder of the donation, along with money from Safeco for its care and transportation, will be divided among the WAC member museums, including WSU.

Roger Shimomura's "Diary," an acrylic on canvas

Roger Shimomura's "Diary," an acrylic on canvas

“By the end of March each one of us should have a wish list of pieces we would like to have,” says Bruce. He expects there will be some overlap. “Three museums might like the same Chihuly, for example.” Then it will come down to whether the specific piece fits in with the existing work at the museum, or if it fits a regional subject matter. There’s a beautiful painting by Gaylen Hansen (an Eastern Washington-based artist and former WSU Art Department faculty) that could fit well into WSU’s collection.  As well, says Bruce, some of the glass pieces from Safeco might fit well with the art on permanent display in the atrium of the Smith Center for Undergraduate Education.

Other pieces, like serigraphs by Jacob Lawrence, would be wonderful additions to WSU’s museum, but since Lawrence was a professor at the University of Washington, they’re more likely to go to the Henry Art Gallery there, says Bruce. He doesn’t anticipate tension over dividing up the remaining pieces. “We’re a very collegial group,” says Bruce.

By April, the WAC board should have done its job and the disposition of most of the works will be clear. At that time, the public will be able to see the “best of Safeco” at an exhibition scheduled to open April 21st at the Wright Exhibition Space in Seattle. And later this year the pieces coming to WSU will be shown on campus in Pullman.

Links

Safeco donating $3.5 million art collection to consortium of museums (Seattle Times, Feb. 11, 2010)

Washington Art Consortium

Safeco Insurance Art Collection

Something for a Ray-ny day

Ketchikan-based artist Ray Troll (MFA ’81) migrated south this winter for the opening of his latest show at the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture in Seattle.

Poster for Ray Troll's show at the Burke

Poster for Ray Troll's show at the Burke

Kicking off the show in December with a private, invitation-only event, the museum hosted several hundred people from tots and teens to aged professors, all eager to visit with Ray and his traveling companion and co-author paleontologist Kirk Johnson, who grew up in Mercer Island.

Troll’s work is fanciful, but accurate. Every scale, proboscis, and fin is accurately rendered. Still it’s all slightly “bent,” Ray’s words, not mine. Ray creates a dual world where the dinosaurs mingle with the modern features, like gas stations and televisions. The exhibit pairs Troll’s paintings and murals and Johnson’s research with real-life fossils from the museum’s collections.

Troll’s style is to pep it up with cool colors, 3-D, video shorts, and music that he co-created, like “Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway,” and “Paleonerd.” The videos include action-filled scenes from Washington, including a beach on the Olympic Peninsula where Johnson and Troll break nodules of hardened ancient sediment to look for fossils of “little critters.”

Searching for Concretions

(Watch all the videos at the Cruisin’ website)

Since we last checked in with Ray, he has made another trip to the Amazon last spring, where he was again wowed by the fish, the foliage, and the food. And Ray and his band, The Ratfish Brothers, have released a CD titled, like the exhibit, “Cruising the Fossil Freeway.” To hear a selection of the songs visit the band’s MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/ratfishbrothers.

If you’re looking for something fun to do on a rainy weekend, or even on a sunny day, the Burke show is fun for everyone from the smallest kid to the oldest paleoethnobotanist. It will be in Seattle through May 31.

Links

Cruisin’ the Fossil Freeway – Ray Troll’s show at the Burke Museum

Ray Troll: A story of fish, fossils, and funky art – Article from Spring 2007 issue of Washington State Magazine 

TrollArt – Ray’s official website