This article first appeared in Inland 360 of the Moscow-Pullman Daily News on Thursday, July 21 2016. By Jennifer Bauer
MOSCOW — The black cloth half body of “Lothar” overlooks the works of his creator, Sara Joyce, at the Prichard Art Gallery.
Odd-shaped, button pupils stare unblinkingly at the viewer. Four white button teeth dot his gray smile. “Lothar” once stood on Joyce’s bedside table watching her bedroom door, said gallery director Roger Rowley. He came from her dreams, as did many other unusual beings that appear in her paintings and sculptures.
Joyce is one of two Idaho women, both named Sara(h),both obsessively creative, whose work is on display this month at the gallery. The other is nationally known, Moscow-based tapestry weaver Sarah Swett, whose obsession takes the form of a novel woven in wool.
“SARA Joyce: Myth, Dream and Dramatic Episodes”
“Self-taught visionary artist,” is a label Rowley feels comfortable applying to Joyce.
She spent her life making contemporary art in Idaho, beginning when she was in her late 30s raising a family in Pocatello. Later she lived several years in Genesee. During her life, Joyce put no emphasis on showing or selling her work. Since her death at age 87 in 2011 in Moscow, other artists have rallied behind her importance to the state’s art scene.
Joyce’s works, which include paintings and sculpture, in both cloth and clay, can appear childlike, primitive or crude but she was very conscious of that, Rowley said. Journals on display in the exhibit show her thought process and the development of characters and forms that recur in at least 300 pieces of work she created that are open-ended in terms of story and meaning. This can be seen in paintings on display like “Long Ancestral Arm” and “Night Sea Crossing,” where a figure with outstretched paddle-like arms floats in a boat under a yellow moon.
This is the second time the Prichard has exhibited Joyce’s work.
“I think she’s becoming better known for what she’s done,” Rowley said of her legacy. “I still think there’s some work to be done there, resurrecting the work of someone who really does need to be recognized.”
After showing in Moscow the exhibit will travel to Helena, Mont., and Idaho Falls.
“Text, Textile, Tapestry: Time and Tales in Cloth,” by Sarah Swett
Swett’s creative process is magnified to larger-than-life scale in “Rough Copy,” a series of 13 tapestries she created in an attempt to cure her addiction to writing fiction.
She is well-known in fiber circles for her incredibly detailed work. The first tapestry made in the series, “The Sketchbook,” which measures nearly 6 feet long and 4 feet wide, appears at first glance to be a giant typewritten scrap of paper covered in coffee ring stains and handwritten notes. “A Field Guide” looks like a library card with signatures and correction fluid smeared across one entry. In “Receipt,” Swett manages to create the illusion of a piece of clear tape with yarn. “All Burned Up” is a jagged fragment of text that appears burned.
Each tapestry took at least a month to create, said Rowley, who added this is the first time the entire series has been on exhibit locally. Upstairs at the gallery one can find Swett’s most recent work, in a vastly reduced scale, “Tiny Tapestries,” “Embroidery” and “Mobiles.”
If You Go
What: “Text, Textile, Tapestry: Time and Tales in Cloth,” by Moscow-based tapestry weaver Sarah Swett and “SARA Joyce: Myth, Dream and Dramatic Episodes”
When: Through July 30
Where: Prichard Art Gallery, 414 S. Main St., Moscow
Of Note: Gallery summer hours are noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.