This review first appeared in the Lewiston Tribune on September 24, 2010. By Sheila Petticord, of the Tribune

Sara Joyce’s work is on exhibit in Gallery I at the Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History at 415 Main St., Lewiston through Oct. 15.

Exhibit Review

Nothing needs to be added. Nothing needs to be taken away. That’s the impression a viewer has in seeing this remarkable exhibit. Paintings, drawings, soft sculpted figures and abstract works on display in Lewiston offer a rare glimpse at a master in our midst.

Sara Joyce has been quietly, steadily producing a substantial body of exquisite works during her years in Genesee and Pocatello.

The retrospective is a revelation of mastery achieved during a lifetime dedicated to creative expression.

For many of her 87 years, the artist maintained a daily practice of jotting down her dreams in the morning, sketching dream-time images and incorporating the creative process into her practice of meditation.

The result is art that is transcendent and transformative.

Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History exhibit curator Ellen Vieth describes Sara Joyce as “one of Idaho’s most original and genuine contemporary artists,” and I agree. Vieth met Sara, as she signs her works, when she moved to Genesee in the early 1980s after raising her family in Pocatello.

Vieth describes days spent talking with the artist in her studio, as Sara sketched, painted and turned discarded fabrics into beautiful objects. Sara eventually returned to Pocatello; this exhibit is the serendipitous result of their re-connection 18 years later.

All of the senses are engaged on some level in the experience of viewing this work. Indeed, it is difficult to resist the urge to touch the lively sculpted figurative and abstract forms. But to touch them would be to soil them; better to keep them in their pristine condition.

While some of her early, soft, sculpted works are doll-like, others – half-bodies, as Sara calls them – are more weighty and uniquely humanlike, imbued with the personalities of people she knows.

“Tuffets,” meanwhile, is a luminous assemblage of four fabric sculpted balls and a child’s chair, and I imagine a redheaded 3 year old admiring her new purple shoes: She seems to breathe rare air.

“Worms Dancing” appear to reflect moonlight as they writhe in their earthy abode. Abstract and paw-print shapes call to mind deep, growling “Bear Sounds.”

Chocolate Buddha

An alarm clock springs to life, happily dancing toward the viewer in “Clock Face Buddha.” The painting refers to the artist’s time of birth at 12:01.

 As in most of the works on display, a beautiful economy of means prevails, even when Sara uses impasto to express the excitement of the body electric in “First Encounter,” and sheer delight in “Chocolate Buddha.”

The colorful “Lily Beckoning” draws the viewer in immediately, and color plays a large role in many of the pieces, which reflect the gamut of human emotions. While some express humor, others reach deeper. More than one visitor has been moved to tears, Vieth says, upon seeing “Thee Mother” and other works.

“It’s a legitimate response,” she says, “even though they don’t know why. This is the real thing; it brings it into your heart, it fills your cup.”

All of the works are in private collections and are not for sale. I was initially disappointed, but now hope these extraordinary works of art will eventually be housed where we can all continue to enjoy them.

Petticord works on the news desk at the Lewiston Tribune.