Welcome back for part two of Gordon Wilson’s contribution to the exhibit. I will be stepping aside once again and letting you enjoy his work and words.
The current paintings were completed during an ongoing sabbatical making use of preliminary work completed on location in Italy and Germany. The paintings are the result of personal experience and response to specific places including reference to history and those living in those environments. Most of the work was completed in the studio and involves reordering and reflection on past images to better express the response to place.
As part of the sabbatical proposal, the work benefits from manipulating images as part of the process. This includes altering basic elements–contrast, color temperature and intensity. Images, sometimes from different locations, are combined in many of the paintings to influence the composition of the final images and to express the intended meaning.
I have been experimenting with photo transfer and trying to understand why a photo in a painting–particularly of a person, has the ability to create tension and content. I have 5 paintings currently in the Art Spirit Gallery small works exhibit, two contain photo transfers. I have other unfinished paintings with photo transfers. I would like to include two similar portraits in the same painting, one painted and one photo transfer. The process I have been using is an acrylic transfer using photos and acrylic polymer.
All of the paintings included in this exhibit have been painted on canvases gifted to me by artist and mentor, Ben Moss. The canvases all came with some sort of surface preparation. Some were toned with a single color and others with textural brushstrokes in a variety of colors. In some the influence of this preliminary work was subtle while in others the preliminary brushstrokes and colors are evident in the finished paintings.
Thanks for joining us, and as a reminder, Gordon is represented by the Art Spirit Gallery in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. You can see more of his work on their webpage.
Hello again. Today we will take a look at the paintings Gordon Wilson presented in the faculty exhibit. I am going to take a step back and let the paintings and Gordon’s words speak on their own.
I have been fortunate to travel numerous times to France as a part of Whitworth’s semester-long Art In France program. In 1992 I began plein air painting after being introduced to Jeffrey Hessing and Jim Ritchie in Vence, France. Since then, my work has been primarily painting, including painting in Vence at Jim Ritchie’s villa and later in Germany, and Italy.
Four of the last five summers were spent in Orvieto, Italy. Prior to this I painted in the south of France for a number of summers. Once I discover a place that is rich in visual experience and content, I find it important to continue to mine that space for material for paintings. Becoming more familiar with an area allows for a growth in understanding and observation.
After my first experience in Europe, I became attracted to places that combined landscape and cityscape with history. When seeking a painting location, the number one consideration is composition, but I am also looking for meaning–some sort of story-telling element/content element. Painting on location provides a front row seat to the subject. The painting experience is direct and influenced by all surroundings. One can feel connected to that specific place and express that experience in the painting. These plein air paintings are usually completed on location over a space of a few days.
Part of the plein air observation process is observing those living within each environment. Those Paintings with a figure include a particular environment and a person related to that environment. For instance, in one painting, my wife’s German friend, Simone, is explaining the location of Croatia to my wife using two spoons. Behind Simone is a well-known Munich cathedral and a German train station, two locations referenced in the conversation. Because of the pandemic, travel has not been possible, so I have been going through images I have from the last several years, looking for both rich visual experience and the potential for content in combining images. The next paintings will use manipulated and combined images from this storehouse of images.
Gordon is represented by the Art Spirit Gallery in Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. You can see more of his work on their webpage.
Hello again. We continue our look at the piece presented by Julie Gautier-Downes.
I asked her to describe the content of her work in paragraph and this was her response, “I unpack my experiences with dislocation, loss, and longing in my installations, sculptures, and photographs. My studio practice explores the emotional resonance of abandoned domestic spaces. In photographs, sculptures, and installations, I lead viewers on a journey through abandoned or distressed homes, creating both the visual and emotional experiences of the places I explore. Each method offers a different angle of inquiry that feeds my pursuit of connection to absent figures. As I was feeling trapped in photography’s limitations of two-dimensional renderings of space and object, installation and sculpture offers the freedom to give viewers a more precise sense of a recreated place and the things I find there. The work shares environments that might be not easily accessible, both physically and emotionally, to my audience. I photograph and reassemble these distant, disused spaces to give them back importance. My work follows me through the exploration of themes that animate and questions that arise about the abandoned houses of others who were, for whatever reason, made to abandon them.”
I asked Julie how this particular image connects to her wider body of work, as well as how her work has continued to develop since this piece was created in 2014 and she had this to say, “This photograph is from a series called “At A Loss.” In this work as with most of my conceptual work, I think of my work as a portrait of a person through what they leave behind. This work is about absence and the missing figure. I hope the viewer will think about the person who occupied the house and the challenges living in such a location presents. Separate from the history or mystery about the occupant, I hope the viewer will enjoy catching the fleeting beauty of these structure as it decays. When I was making this series, I often returned to a location over and over, each time the house would be a little more worn down, until eventually it would completely collapse. That process of discovery/rediscovery and of returning to one seemingly forgotten place gave me a feeling of purpose. In making this work, I sought to share these forgotten spaces, that once provided shelter and comfort, to remember what they once were before they fell apart.
Since 2014, my work has changed in form, but remained the same in concept. I suppose it feels like my work has progressed on the same trajectory of inquiry. I have continued to share the same types of domestic spaces following a loss or trauma. In 2014, I was starting to recreate abandoned spaces in three-dimensions, but over the past six years I have done this more, with more success. I honed my construction skills and matured in the way objects were presented. I created whole rooms, pieces of rooms (such as one wall or corner of a room), and more recently miniature dioramas. I incorporated other media (painting) and technology (light boxes and projectors) to recontextualize the 3D houses. However, in each of these forms, I continue to offer clues to the missing figure and a moment in the domestic decay.”
Thanks for joining us as we took a closer look at the work presented by Julie Gautier-Downes. My final question for her had to do with what she was working on at the moment (late 2020), and here is her response, “I have found the pandemic to be really hard on my creative process. During the first half of 2020, I struggled to keep the Richmond Art Collective functioning and juggle child care. In August, I started a Master’s of Social Work program; taking classes has kept me busy.
In my creative practice this past year, I have found myself returning to the utilitarian art forms (sewing, quilting, knitting, etc.) that I loved during my adolescent years. I have found myself being more attracted to the process of making as opposed to the process of storytelling. Though not conceptual this process has offered me a needed break from the daily stress of the pandemic.
Currently, I am working on collecting materials for a new series of dioramas. I hope to have some time over the holidays to start making some new work.”
For those interested in seeing more of Julie’s work you can find her online at
Welcome back. Over the next couple of days we will take a look at the piece presented by Julie Gautier-Downes and what she had to say about it as well as other things she has made. But first, her Artist Statement:
“Where we are going there were no lit-up houses only dying ones.” -Eugene Richards
In any given landscape there are moments, which tell a story about a place and the people that dwell there. In a metropolis or a ghost town these moments of loneliness and abandonment that can be looked over or forgotten. It is in these spaces that there is an opportunity to see and understand the world in a different way. By exploring, collecting and photographing the world as an archaeologist or detective gives intensity to the seemingly banal and ordinary.
The absence of the human figure in the work provides a space for the viewer to project themselves into the desolate and abandoned environments that are captured. By pairing photographs of these deserted and abandoned environments with found personal items it provides fertile ground for narratives to emerge. The items collected are items one might find in a family album or desk drawer and provides a strong connection to the missing figure.
The types of spaces that are captured range greatly from the haunted skeletal frame of a failed dream house to a forgotten city by a manmade sea that has a vibrant past. The ghostly representation of the locations exposes moments of quietness, sadness, and abandonment. In some cases, these places are desolate due to a tragedy or economic down turn and the images and collected items speak to the way in which it happened.
It is the universality of loss that allows the viewer to find the beauty in these abandoned spaces and objects. With the hope that it enlightens them to see how sublime life is and how connected we are to each other.
I asked Julie if she could share any other specific information about the location of the structure we see in this image, to which she replied, “This photograph was made in the Eastern Sierra on Highway 395 just south of Mono Lake. I saw the house while I was driving back from Bodie (an abandoned town from the Gold Rush) in Northern California. Other images from this series were made in the disused towns around the Salton Sea and in the Mojave Desert (specifically the Morongo Basin eastern San Bernardino County).”
When I asked Julie what is it she wants a viewer to take away from this image, she had this to say, “I hope the viewer will take away a sense of longing or quiet contemplation. This image shows a house that has been left behind in this idyllic mountain landscape. Because it is an exterior view, the house is mysterious, the viewer is stuck on the outside. This inability to enter the space to learn more, offered me a lot of room to build a story through the other images I juxtaposed it with in the final series, “At A Loss”.
For me this image is as much about the beauty of the landscape and the structure’s decay as it is about the ideas I hope to share. I showed this work in a show in Santa Cruz a few years ago, during the reception, I once heard someone telling others that this image was a digital composite because it was too perfectly captured and printed. I found that funny, but I did not correct him. I spend a good amount of time editing a digital image (or printing in the darkroom) to recreate the conditions I captured it in or the way I saw the scene. As I tell my students, our eyes are much more powerful than our cameras, so we have to be careful in the exposures we make and in our postproduction of the images. For me, the process of capturing, editing, and printing an image is a formal art process. After the image has been printed, I build a narrative through the images I select to place side by side to create a series.”
Check back tomorrow for more from Julie, and for those interested in seeing more of her work, she can be found online at
Welcome back for our final look at the work of Katie Creyts. Along with looking at her final piece from the exhibit, Katie answered a few more of my questions.
When asked about her use of watercolors for preliminary work rather than other materials, as well as the translation between watercolor and glass Katie responded, “I use pencil and watercolors to draw and paint out ideas for some work, though it is important to note that I don’t use them exclusively.
First off, I like the touch of these two mediums and the way they look. They don’t assault the viewer with heavy greasiness and importance. They can be ethereal, here and gone. Watercolors have a variety of properties with each color – staining, opaque, transparent, granulating – I like what they do. They relate to glass easily because you can glaze them, meaning you can overlay colors to create new colors (like how fabric plaid mixes) or deepen colors. You also can use resists, like tape, frisket, or colored pencil which relate to the etching I do on glass. Also, I have really painful arthritis in my CMC joints (from years of being a glassblower) which is very sensitive to drag – watercolors don’t bother that at all. Glass is really expensive, and there’s a lot of risk. The watercolor helps me think about color reactions and issues of opacity and transparency.
I don’t feel like I have rules in studio practice, though. Last night I was working fast and big with India ink on paper packing material. It depends on what’s percolating in my brain.”
I also asked Katie about the process of making one of her final pieces and the use and importance of opaque glass in their creation, and she had this to say, “These pieces tend to make us of opaque glass pretty exclusively. This may be unexpected for those how associate glass work with windows in cathedrals.
When I create a narrative piece with specific imagery, I want the etching to show. Because these works are not windows or light boxes, transparent stained glass is too dark to show the imagery. A lot of the powder colors I use are transparent and they are sifted on to white opaque glass. I am not opposed to transparency, I think it makes a good metaphor for the “here, then gone” wild elements of my work – it just wasn’t right for these works. In the Forest Allegorypiece downstairs (and also on her website), there’s a doily and the Clark’s nuthatch in transparent glass.”
I asked Katie to explain what is going on in “Lead/Follow”, and this is what she shared, “The ram in front is called a bellwether. The bellwether is similar to a eunuch in that it does the bidding of the shepherd in a language the sheep can understand, like the eunuch has sway with the people but doesn’t threaten the emperor’s power. This is also weird to me because a bellwether is a metaphor for Christian pastoral care.
So, we have a bellwether (notice the gold lustered bell on his collar), who is a prized and trained castrated ram, jumping off the bridge – and causing all the sheep to do the same. There’s a metaphor in there.”
Thanks for joining us as in taking a closer look at the work of Katie Creyts. Before we go, I asked Katie what she has coming up next, and this is what she had to say, “I’m working on some more ideas surrounding animals and Covid. I am looking at Aesop’s fables with their moralizing nature, and tweaking them with contemporary themes. I am in a small group show at the Saranac Art Projects in April 21 and I hope to have a couple more works completed for that.”
Today we continue our look at the work and words of Katie Creyts. The following image is a preparatory work that Katie has shared with us so that we can get an idea of how her compositions develop.
When asked how her working process begins, Katie had this to say, “Here’s a sample narrative – there’s usually a trigger, something I read or saw, or heard on the radio. Now, people who know my work, are passing articles and ideas on to me. Yesterday I received an image of a buck passing in front of my friend’s car with Christmas lights strewn in his antlers. I keep this idea in my archive.
Late on Saturday night I called my husky dog, Jezebel, inside. She came in blinded – foaming at the mouth and disoriented. Then the smell hit. The punch of skunk oil was everywhere. She had been sprayed at close range, in her face. Ungracefully, I wrestled her to the shower and tried to wash it away. She winced, slipped, and shook off until we were both stinky and soaked; her thick coat would need to shed this out. Despite my best efforts to clean and Febreze her and the house, it stank as I sat at my computer on Sunday prepping for Monday night’s class.
My house has become my refuge from the chaos of the COVID-19 virus, a place where I think I can control the narrative and keep myself safe and calm. However, Jezebel brought the wild inside our shelter. The threshold was brashly breeched, and the offender, though absent, was clear. The all-too-common “conversation” between skunk and the dog made its way into my living room. Though the skunk escapade was just an unwanted interruption, it triggered thoughts about the intersection of domestic and wild.
If one scans the news, one can find current articles on viruses and their relationship with wild creatures, domestic animals, and humans. Headlines include, “Pangolins Found to Carry Related Strain”, “Tiger at U.S. Zoo Tests Positive for Coronavirus”, “11 Deadly Diseases that Hopped Across Species”, and “COVID-19 Coronavirus Epidemic has Natural Origins.” These stories purport that conditions humans impose on creatures are creating variables that are leading to disease. Zoonotic diseases are not new; anthrax, salmonella, and giardia are more commonly known versions. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome nCoV-19 is novel and the pathogen may be linked to industrialized farming. In China, both wild and domesticated animals (civets, pigs, pangolins, cats, cows, buffalos, goats, sheep and pigeons) are farmed and then sold live, creating a vitriolic “conversation” between animals and their consumers. In the western United States, we have herds of wild bighorn sheep dying of pneumonia contracted from their domestic and vaccinated counterparts, as well as concerns about humans contracting Chronic Wasting Disease from deer and elk. Here in Spokane we have a newly opened restaurant called “Hunt” serving rabbit and elk that is farm raised. Do wild elk commingle with the farm raised herds? As we sequester, we enjoy hearing stories of wild animals coming into town, but is this good for them? Is it all a tale of consequence? Can less industrial human impact create a jubilee year for animals? I have a lot of questions to explore and expound upon.”
I asked Katie to provide a little more information about “Wilderment”, and she responded with this, “I wanted this piece to appear sweet and inviting to the viewer with some sort of strange plants and textures to land on. The ram is opaque, like the rest of the landscape – belonging to it, but implicated because of his size and power – which maybe makes him seem like a “bad guy”. The sheep are sort of sparkly and innocent wandering into the scene. What happens next? Probably the ram gets infected with a flu from the immunized lambs and the wild herd he came from needs to be culled. I don’t put this in the work – it’s too depressing, but I do like setting the stage for what could happen next.”
As a reminder, here is Katies Artist Statement for the exhibit: These three works are explorations of the domestication of nature. The domestication of sheep and goats is uniquely tied to Christianity, a rich metaphor for following the teachings of Jesus that piqued my curiosity, as domestication and wild sit in binary opposition. The idea of “nature” in visual representations being utopian and human impact being dystopian. At once decorative and domestic, the material and processes of glass enrich the narrative representations in this work with colors, textures, and patterns to draw the viewer in. Then, upon drawing the viewer in, it is my hope, to prick their intellect with the peculiar line between domestic and wild in which we exist.
We hope you enjoyed this second post about Katie and her work. Tomorrow we will look at the third and final piece she presented in this exhibit.
In preparation for this series of blog posts, I asked each of the participating artists to respond to a variety of questions. Over the next few days we will take a look the work of Katie Creyts and read what she had to say about it.
When asked to speak about art in a general sense, Katie responded, “The social role of art creates empathy and unique and interpretable perspectives in a time of uncertainty. Inchoate feelings can resonate through interpreted narratives, color, texture, and symbolism. I like to think of the artist as a “chien de garde” for humanity; peripheral, alert, and keen. One who crosses disciplines, growls and chews at ideas and presents work for others to do the same.”
And when asked about her work in particular, she provided these thoughts, “It is my contention that animals are now inadvertently, and to their peril, moralizing us as our lifestyles push them to the brink of extinction. An example is the bear. In the tales from 1600s it is a wild emblem of fear, in the 1800s it is a domesticated circus clown, in the 1900s it’s a teddy bear and a Coca Cola marketing gimmick, and now the bony polar bear is a symbol of climate change and extinction. The metaphor we so enjoy is being extinguished by the reality of genuine exigency. As much as I’d like to say that my works like “Bluff” or “Tickle and Lick” are fictive; they are drawn from my real and vivid fears. How can we be so tangled up and complicated as to not see both the beauty that is them and the brutal arrogance that is us? I also have included the sugary glass painting entitled “Selkirk”. In 2017, the featured woodland caribou lost its habitat in the lower 48; the last herd extinguished was so close to us in the Selkirk range. We push cultural needs on the natural and alternately want authentic and idyllic nature to be available for our pleasure. It’s an ecological, cultural, and personally, a spiritual crisis. Conserve them, then damn them. I am called to live respectfully and restoratively because I believe God creatively bodies forth in all living things. How do I fix this using my gifts and resources?”
“My work follows an illustrative tradition as I create tableaux using objects and characters out of glass. I work with glass not only because I enjoy the challenges of the material, but also because the material itself shifts from a liquid to a solid. This process seems to underscore the shapeshifting nature of storytelling and the glass color has candy-like qualities, bright and glossy or sugary reminiscent of Hansel and Gretel’s woodland discovery. I also have interest in textiles and patterning that brings the out of doors into domestic spaces, from the designs of William Morris to Marimekko. These play a secondary role in the image making process, providing texture and backdrop to the scenes.”
You can find the artworks mentioned above on Katie’s website:
Following is Katie’s Artist Statement for the exhibit: These three works are explorations of the domestication of nature. The domestication of sheep and goats is uniquely tied to Christianity, a rich metaphor for following the teachings of Jesus that piqued my curiosity, as domestication and wild sit in binary opposition. The idea of “nature” in visual representations being utopian and human impact being dystopian. At once decorative and domestic, the material and processes of glass enrich the narrative representations in this work with colors, textures, and patterns to draw the viewer in. Then, upon drawing the viewer in, it is my hope, to prick their intellect with the peculiar line between domestic and wild in which we exist.
And here is her response when I asked the following question, could you explain the use of pattern in “Habitat”? They all appear familiar. Why did you choose these particular patterns?: “They’re domestic patterns, like lace and delft – the outside brought inside, and fences. The wild sheep is facing imagery of domestication. Fences, roads, and rails present terrible obstacles for these animals.”
We hope you enjoyed Katie’s work and words, and keep an eye out for part 2.
It’s been a busy fall semester and I am finally finding some time to update you all about our most recent exhibit, the 2020 Faculty Biennial. It won’t be in the gallery much longer, so if you are planning on viewing it in person, make an appointment soon. Over the next three weeks I will be giving all of our online friends information about the exhibiting artists as well as images of all the work. Keep an eye out for more!
The “Recent Grads” exhibit, which is the first exhibit of the 2020/21 schedule, includes five artists from Whitworth’s 2020 graduating class. This video is a quick preview of the exhibit. In the coming weeks we will be posting a more in-depth look at each artists work as well as a brief interview with each participant. The final day of this exhibit is October 30, 2020.
Visits to the gallery are available by appointment only. We are currently open Mon.-Thurs. 1-3pm and Sat. 10am-2pm. Please call 509-777-4826 to schedule a visit.