Arts and Entertainment

Vashon's Blue Heron to feature woodwork, works of woods June 6

Rebecca Strong began working on her tree series after an injury. - Courtesy photo
Rebecca Strong began working on her tree series after an injury.
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Rebecca Dvorin Strong, known for her abiding interest in dark and light interiors and landscapes, began a new series of tree paintings in fall 2006. These oils and gouaches will be featured, along with fine woodworking by Island artist Steven Caldwell, at Blue Heron Gallery in June.

The exhibition will open 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, June 6, with a reception with the artists, refreshments, and live music by Richard Person, Jim Hobson and George Heidorn.

Strong began work on this series of paintings after an injury restricted her physical movements.

“An image came to me of a tree — I saw myself as a tree growing inside a too-small enclosure, and I became obsessed with drawing and painting that image,” Strong said. “I envisioned my tree self, not only with its branches and leaves compressed against the boundaries of the enclosure, but also weighed down and held in place.”

She researched devices used by arborists in the protection, support, healing and training of trees, then used that imagery in her drawings.

“Weights hang heavily on the branches, pulling them down and wires hold the tree upright and in place,” she described. “The trunk is enclosed inside a black plastic tube and one limb is bandaged. Finally, the roots are tied up in knots, literally the condition of a tree confined to a too-small pot. I had never before made such a deeply personal and symbolic painting arising directly out of my unconscious.”

Her process for creating the small black and white gouache (opaque watercolor) paintings involves applying layer upon layer of white paint, from milky translucencies to white opacities, onto black paper, allowing the image to emerge gradually from darkness to light.

“Whether I am working in charcoal, gouache or oil, it is of the utmost importance to me to produce paintings that will draw the viewer in through the evocative quality of the paint surface itself.”

Strong said she is looking for “a reciprocal personal communication between artist and audience.”

Woodworker Steve Caldwell’s degree in fine art has led him to create large custom cabinetry projects, but he has always enjoyed using his talent for more artistic, yet functional, pieces.

“My dad was a building contractor, so as a kid I was always making something from wood scraps,” he said.

Working on a commissioned bench from the Tramp Harbor studio where he has crafted his work for 25 years, Caldwell said, “This is my first furniture show in 20 years. It’s fun to do it again after so many years. So often, I’m trying to come up with a design to meet peoples’ needs. I’ve made a little bit of everything.”

Whether it’s the massive walnut rocking chair crowned by a beautifully carved fish, an intricate maple jewelry box, simple cherry end tables or whimsical child-sized stools, art and function run parallel in Caldwell’s work.

“I often start with drawings to get ideas. Much of my work seems to be Asian-inspired — and I love birds.”

Caldwell currently shows his artisan-crafted furniture at Seattle’s Northwest Fine Woodworking. He also works on commissions. When asked if he would make more rocking chairs, he laughed and said, “Yes, I guess I would, but right now I have to finish this bench.”

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