May 4 – 27, 2023
The 15 oil paintings in artist Kathy Roseth‘s exhibition celebrate the beauty of domestic crafts – rugs, weavings, ceramic tiles and embroideries from many cultures.
Roseth first became interested in domestic crafts in the early 1980s, when she saw a show of Amish quilts at the Henry Art Gallery on the University of Washington campus. She was stunned by the austere power of the geometric shapes, their pulsing colors, and the exquisite craftsmanship “that made every square inch worth looking at”. She spent the next twenty years making traditional American quilts, exploring how a simple geometric pattern establishes a framework through which fantastic color progressions and light effects are possible. Two of the paintings in the show feature her own quilts.
Roseth’s interest in artisan works intensified in the 2010s when she traveled through Mexico. The first painting she completed for this exhibition was “Talavera Onions” (2021), featuring a blue bowl full of vegetables against a background of hand painted yellow and blue Talavera tiles. The tiles were made in Puebla, Mexico, in a Mexican craft tradition that dates to medieval Spain and its Islamic-influenced culture of the 10th-15th centuries. The painting is mostly about the vegetables, as is its companion piece, “Talavera Turnips.” Both are traditional still-life paintings featuring objects on a tabletop, with the intent to represent an actual space, or something close to it. The artisan tiles contribute as decorations.
In her subsequent paintings, the compositions moved away from the tabletop and toward the creation of imaginary spaces that concentrate attention on the artisan objects themselves. “Mayan Shawl” (2023) features a densely embroidered shoulder wrap made in the Mayan town of Zinacatan in Chiapas, Mexico. In the painting the shawl hangs in an entirely imaginary space, with images of flowers and corn brocaded into the black background. The painting “Norwegian Hardanger Embroidery and Eggshells” also represents an imaginary space, with the delicate cotton embroidery implausibly bearing down on hapless eggshells.
Many of the items represented in these paintings are connected to Roseth’s past and her family’s history. She was born in Iran and grew up surrounded by Middle Eastern rugs. The painting “My Mother’s Sari” features the sari Roseth’s mother wore as a child in Nipani, India, the daughter of missionaries. The African textiles were acquired by her sister and a friend in their respective sojourns as Peace Corps volunteers in West Africa. The Norwegian Hardanger embroidery has hung on her bedroom wall for decades. She bought it in the 1990s at a fundraiser for the Lutheran-based housing nonprofit where she used to work.
Roseth seeks to capture the presence and mystery of her subjects in a spirit of deep respect for their makers and the cultures that nurtured them. She knows from experience that the impulse to make a painting is the same as the impulse to make a quilt. Artists and artisans alike want to make something beautiful, to make a home for themselves in a cold world.
Artist and Artisan: Still Life Paintings will be on display at Gallery 110 from May 4 – 27, 2023. Gallery hours are Thursday – Saturday from 12pm – 5pm and by appointment. Please join us for the First Thursday Art Walk on May 4 from 4-8pm.
Photo credit: Artist Eye Portfolio Studio
Exhibition catalog can be previewed here and purchased for $35 (plus sales tax and shipping).