By Ann McCreary
Most art exhibits feature an artist’s best work – the finished products of hours, days or months of labor.
The exhibit that opens Saturday (Sept. 28) at Confluence Gallery and Art Center in Twisp takes a different approach, providing insights into the process that artists go through to arrive at a piece of art.
Called “Artist Practice,” the three-person show features work of painters Donna Keyser and Kayla Darch, and ceramics of Matthew Armbrust. In addition to their completed artwork, the exhibit includes sketches, studies, photographs and mistakes that illustrate how art moves from concept to creation.
To prepare for the exhibit, each artist agreed to produce at least one piece of art every day for two months, and submit their uncensored work for display at Confluence Gallery.
“It’s a behind-the-scenes, documentary approach, showing the thought process from conception to product,” said Nicole Ringgold, Confluence Gallery director.
“The point was to get us all producing a lot of stuff, to try some different things and not be concerned whether it was a success or not,” said Keyser, who curated the exhibit. “All of us wanted to go about looking at our art-making process, and do it every day.”
Documenting the process of creating art illustrates how ideas change course, and how some approaches to making art may go awry, Keyser said.
“It was a chance to explore failure. Embrace failure, maybe,” she said.
Keyser creates large paintings that often focus on the theme of paradise. She gets many of her ideas from photographs that she takes of anything that catches her eye. “I have hundreds of thousands of pictures,” she said.
She often paints with acrylics on large pieces of birch wood, approximately two feet wide and six or seven feet tall. The tall, narrow paintings are something “like a Japanese scroll.”
Keyser said she enjoys working on a scale that “is the same size as me.”
In some of her paintings she’s allowed the wood to show through the paint, rather than trying to cover it completely. “I don’t torture it so much,” Keyser said.
Keyser produces her art in a studio at TwispWorks, next to Matt Armbrust’s ceramics studio. Working toward the exhibit gave them a common goal “and something to talk about while we were working.”
Armbrust’s focus is on creating functional ceramics that bring beauty to objects often conceived of as mundane.
“A cup or mug is a daily thing,” he said. By making that common item a piece of art, Armbrust said, he turns it into something “covetable [that] adds to the level of involvement” of the person using it.
He will display notes and sketches he uses to design his ceramics, as well as “mess-ups” – ceramics that have broken in the kiln or otherwise didn’t turn out as expected.
Armbrust is currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree through Central Washington University. He is also involved with the Spartan Art Project in the Methow Valley, working with two other local artists to convert a travel trailer into a place to exhibit and produce art.
Painter Kayla Darch draws her inspiration from the outdoors and the history of the Methow Valley. Darch grew up on a Methow Valley farm and produces her paintings in a workshop inside a barn on the East County Road.
She paints with bold colors and brush strokes in almost abstract style, exploring ideas of home, work, play and the role of physical surroundings.
Darch’s work in the exhibit will include a series of white paintings on black burlap. The burlap was used as table runners at Darch’s recent wedding, and after the wedding Darch experimented with painting the fabric.
“They kind of look like negatives,” Keyser said.
The opening of Artist Practice will be 4-8 p.m. Saturday (Sept. 28). The display continues through Nov. 2. Confluence Gallery, 104 Glover St., is open Wednesday through Friday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m.-3 p.m.