By Randi Bjornstad
As an art form, the word collage comes from coller, the French verb meaning “to glue,” and it generally refers to paper, fabric, metal, wood or other objects of various shapes, sizes and colors affixed to a background that synthesize into a single piece of work.
The technique reportedly originated with Pablo Picasso and his fellow Cubist artists in the early 1900s, continued during the Dada Movement of the 1920s and never went away, evolving into yet more forms — photomontage, three-dimensional, digital — ever since.
Eugene artist Beverly Soasey has refined the medium into an artistic signature that combines artwork and objects that reveal unexpected relationships or even tell stories.
Her new show, “Where Art Meets Science” — on display now at the Karin Clarke Gallery — is a perfect example.
“I think Beverly (Soasey) brings more to the art of collage than most people do,” Clarke said. “She doesn’t just use ‘found’ objects but often incorporates them into a theme or story with her own original paintings or drawings. I think she starts with a couple of objects that relate to each other and then starts adding to them to create the piece.”
As with much art, people are free to take away their own interpretations of Soasey’s work, Clarke said. “I might focus on the contrasts of color and complexity, while others may see something entirely different, like a small piece of text or an image that draws them into the piece in a different way.”
Margaret Coe, also an artist as well as Clarke’s mother, calls Soasey’s assemblages “very much about balance and design” that draws on her long career in graphic design and teaching. Soasey also was executive director of the nonprofit Jacobs Gallery for 10 years, until it closed a year ago.
“Her art is so interesting because she often takes the challenge of finding related items from different time periods and brings them together in a way that is perfectly balanced and well settled,” Coe said.
This show gave Soasey an opportunity to seek new connections between the two “and from that, tell a story,” the artist said in a statement accompanying the exhibit.
“My process began with the search for scientific subject matter, from vintage lab equipment, glass tubes and old glass slides that depict imagery of things being studied,” and from there she paired the objects with drawings and items from nature, she said.
One piece, called “High Tide,” examines the flow of the tide and how it affects the creatures that live in it as well as the humans that use it for navigation or recreation.
Another, “The Bee Keeper,” begins with an antique glass slide containing parts of the bee’s body and pairs it with Soasey’s original technical drawing of a bee and and a mounted bee specimen, along with photographic images of a beekeeper and perforated paper pieces reminiscent of a honeycomb.
One of the simplest and most evocative is “Eat or Be Eaten,” which juxtaposes an actual three-tined, wood-handled fork with finely detailed drawings of a similarly shaped bird’s skull on the left, paired with a drawing on the right with a drawing of a waterbird seeking its own food, snippets of writing and a stencil of a large ampersand.
Many ideas for Soasey’s extensive assemblages reflect her penchant for both traveling and collecting as well as her curiosity about finding relationships between the natural and human-made worlds.
“My art becomes part of that process,” she said.
Where Art Meets Science
What: An exhibit of assemblages by Eugene artist Beverly Soasey
When: Through Jan. 28
Where: Karin Clarke Gallery, 760 Willamette St. in downtown Eugene
Hours: Noon to 5:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday
Information: 541-684-7963, firstname.lastname@example.org or karinclarkegallery.com