Common Treasures

Lauren first approached me with the idea for our Spring Show, "Common Treasures," in the fall, but the idea has been occupying her mind for some time. "I've wanted to put on this show ever since I started volunteering with Creative Growth, when I first moved to Oakland," she explained. Occupying a large, light-filled former warehouse in downtown Oakland, Creative Growth has been offering studio space, instruction, and gallery representation to artists with physical and mental disabilities since the 1970’s. Now with a satellite gallery in Paris, the center has become an institution within the outsider art world. Its artists are represented at galleries, art shows, and museums worldwide. Their work is shown everywhere from the Venice Biennale to the Museum of Sex in New York, and Creative Growth has even partnered with the likes of Vans and Anthropologie.
For the upcoming show at ESQUELETO, we asked a group of CG artists to create an installation of large and small multimedia wall hangings, all riffing on the theme of “the necklace” (we are a jewelry company, after all). Lauren and I have had the pleasure to lead several workshops over the past couple months in the Creative Growth studio, and the unfolding result is something really magical. Each artist brings their unique vision, talent, and material preferences to the table as we build an installation that weaves together ceramic, fiber, and painted elements. In the coming weeks, we’ll return to the studio to assemble the individual elements into larger garland-like wall hangings, to be hung in the ESQUELETO Oakland gallery space. On the facing wall, we’ll be showcasing the work of two other Creative Growth alumni, Maureen Clay and Aurie Ramirez, whose delicate-glam rock drawings and psychedelic papier-mâché sculptures form a conversation with the collaborative work. All pieces will all be available for sale, with 100% of proceeds going to Creative Growth. We can’t wait to share this two-month show with our Bay Area community, and hope to see you all at the opening on First Friday, April 7th at our Oakland location.

Creative Growth Artist Bios:

(provided by Creative Growth)
Working with fabric scraps, embroidery, crochet, and a constellation of baubles and beads, Eleanor crafts whimsical sculptures that blur the line between formal artwork and functional objects. Her plush forms both intrigue the eye and beg to be handled. Eleanor focuses her work almost exclusively on animals, manipulating faux fur and decorative objects to express the animal’s essence and imbuing each creature with an ornamental quirkiness altogether unique to the artist.
Maureen paints with thickly brushed impasto, layering colors repeatedly until the entire composition has been covered several times. She has an intricate sense of graphic design, and while her work appears abstract, her subjects are often distorted versions of fish and food. Her recent work in sculpture gives the illusion of otherworldly meteors, though they are made of papier-mâché and actually much lighter than what they would appear. Employing the use of paint pens to achieve complex, constellations of color, Maureen morphs otherwise mundane rock-like forms into exquisite pointillist asteroids. Looking at these “rocks” with their radioactive neon and metallic hues, the natural and unnatural may be at odds. However, it is exactly that clash that draws people in and gives the viewer a glimpse of the surreal.
Consumed by mythological tales, D’Lisa Fort’s work is rich with symbolism and elaborate storylines. Though personally reserved and mostly private in demeanor, the constant dialogue of scenes and characters she envisions provide a secret escape that we are only so fortunate to take part of through her art. From galactic queens and Medusas to spell-casting wizards and bow-tied skeletons, no magic is lost as D’Lisa lays out her storyboard. At the moment she is working on a tarot card deck, from which our own mystic stories and unpredictable fortunes might be revealed.
Sher-ron is a talented multi-media artist and painter. Her use of vibrant hues and layered compositions are a common theme in her work and she often looks to wildlife, whether that is animals, flowers, or foliage, as inspiration for her brightly colored pieces. Her drawings and paintings have a dynamic energy found in abstract expressionism and action painting, though Sher-ron is steady and careful to execute her work. When creating original fashion pieces, pillows, or wall hangings, she utilizes a grab-bag of small textural materials including sequins, paper, lace, and beads.
A vibrant presence in the Creative Growth studio, Natascha Haehlen channels her creative enthusiasm into bold work in wood, ceramic, and textiles. Natascha chooses the colors she uses in her work on a whim, usually going with the color that “feels right.” Similarly the abstracted flowers and other figurative forms that she incorporates into her pieces are drawn from her head; imaginative reinterpretations of what she observes around her. The fluid lines and rhythmic patterns that tie it all together call to mind Natascha’s other passion: dance. Whether in the woodshop or on the dance floor, Natascha is quick to share her genuine excitement with those around her.
Carol Hiltunen works with various media ranging from textile sculpture to watercolors to explore her fascination with flowers and other natural phenomena. Using bold stripes and color blocking, her attention to line quality and color shines in her pillows and weavings. Even in her black and white work, the vibrancy of her color work manifests as repetitive, gestural dots and parallel lines. The result is a kaleidoscope of floral imagery and abstract symbols that reveals new details with every glance.
Gail’s creative realm is most vividly expressed through her textile projects. Be it embroidery, crochet, needlepoint, or knitting, she submits to the yarn for evocative inspiration. Red is her favorite color, but on occasion her color palette has been influenced by ice cream or frozen yogurt flavors. Though cats and other pets are predominantly featured in her work, she is sadly allergic to her subjects, instead spending time with these companions through the voyeuristic lens of her art. An eager participant, Gail also has multimedia interests and has begun experimenting with animated film. In addition to her activities here at Creative Growth she attends jewelry making classes at the Albany Library, and is desperate to learn how to cross stitch.
Aurie Ramirez’s sophisticated, delicately rendered watercolor and ink compositions create an ever-expanding fantasy world where fragments of 18th century dandyism, neo-Victorian decorum, psychedelia, Venetian masquerade, Glam Rock sex and Punk fetishism are repeated and transformed. Aurie’s work is largely inspired by the Addams Family and as a devoted fan of the rock band Kiss, she frequently pays homage to the group by painting the band or adapting their audacious fashion sense to otherwise mundane things like coffee cups or rainbows. Aurie has exhibited her work in shows at White Columns and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York, Jack Hanley Gallery, Los Angeles, ABCD in Paris, and Collection de l’Art Brut, Lausanne. Aurie’s work is included in the private collections of Nicolas Rohatyn and Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, Eileen and Michael Cohen, Martin and Rebecca Eisenberg, Donald and Mera Rubell, among many others
Larry Randolph is an artist and a poet. Extremely verbal and outgoing, in the studio Randolph works methodically, drawing inspiration from animals and a variety of source materials including tear-out ads and magazines. Working primarily in ceramics or drawing, Larry’s work has a narrative quality that instantly charms the viewer. His early pieces consisted of relief sculptures of different sets of twins. Inspired by a media image or personality, Larry translated each set of twins into his own unique visual language, full of hot colors and a Pop sensibility. Currently, Larry has been exploring ceramics and working in series, creating an entire safari of animals, a pod of whales in unlikely shades of purple, yellow, and brown, or nostalgic snacks like Hostess Ding Dongs and Snow Balls. His work has been featured in the November 1989 issue of California Magazine and on Bay Area Back Roads in an interview with Host Jerry Graham.
Proficient in ceramics, textiles, and printmaking, Julie Swartout is fascinated by repetitive elements found in nature. In her hyper-saturated compositions of various food items, the artist showcases how one food item can have infinite variation. Bananas or apples come to life with idiosyncratic characteristics, like a wavy dimple or a perfectly placed freckle. In painting, Swartout’s depictions become sculptural by the sheer build-up of acrylic paint.
Christine Szeto’s fiber arts, ranging from quilts to sculptures, reflect the artist’s outgoing personality and quirky sense of humor. Born in California to Chinese parents, Christine utilizes language and text as pattern, often embroidering English and Cantonese translations. Other motifs within her fiber works include flower and animal designs.
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