August 2013: Chris North & Margaret van Patten

Chris North creates ceramic sculpture. Her theme is the direct result of living in the Portland area and responding to the deep connection to land and to water that northwesterners have. It is connectivity that drives her sculptural work—the connection of inanimate objects to a phrase, a theory or an encounter. In her “Cervidae Series”, Chris explores how much duplication of form there is in the universe—from the geometry of crystals to the geometrical pattern of beehives. So too the contour of an antler, like the branch of a tree, like the branches of coral. Discarded, they become artifacts. She is fascinated by the process and rate that an antler grows. When antlers are growing, they are covered with a hairy skin called “velvet” which is full of nerves and blood vessels. Beginning in the spring, antlers can grow as much as quarter inch per day. Once daylight begins to fade in early winter the bone erodes at the base and the antler falls off. The antlers are now a carrier for other life forms, like mollusks fastened to a rotting pier—the life forms are alive, multiplying, bursting.

Margaret van Patten is a printmaker, working primarily with a variety intagio processes, including drypoint, acid etching, mezzotint, as well as techniques like stenciling and collage. She likes to manipulate the copper printing plates in such a way that leaves the ghosts of the history of the process. These layers and the history of the imagery provide the initial context for the work and symbolize a cycle of decay, development and regeneration. This new body of work focuses on the theme of conflict, particularly internal and external contradictions. Elements placed randomly in the image begin to create a dialogue. Disparate objects interact together, expressing conflict by making them simultaneously real and unreal. This type of juxtaposition can create a subtle but tangible friction. I play with space and composition in a way that alters a familiar subject by putting it in an unfamiliar context, discarding the traditional pictorial space. This embodies the “intimate” vs “public” self divide, provoking feelings of estrangement and tension. “Using imagery such as water, teeth, animals, the human figure, I am trying to explore more complex personal, social and political issues.”