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Wood binds Oregon artists

A new generation of craft will be on display this month at Oregon College of Arts and Craft


Showcasing the next generation of Oregon artists, makers and craftspeople, Oregon College of Art and Craft will host its Alumni Exhibition: Works in Wood and Fiber at the Hoffman Gallery on the Portland campus beginning July 12.

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Todd Issacs sculpts large wooden bull horns

The invitational exhibit honors the college’s alumni and their realization of becoming professional, working artists. Three presenting artists include Portland-based folk-modern furniture maker Todd Isaacs, Oregon-grown metal smith and jeweler Kate Speranza and minimalist-modern furniture maker Derek Faust.

Isaacs is no stranger to worlds colliding. Born and raised in Oregon’s farmlands and forests, he moved to the big city to pursue life as an artist. Blending country boy sensibilities with urban style, his hybrid art mixes tall tales, rawhide and critters with streamlined forms, animation, and pop culture icons.

In his world, a floor lamp is shaped like an eel. A sculpted and bleached sinuous ash combines with a 1955 Buick Roadmaster tail light embedded in it: touch the metal tail light face and you will awaken the stoic creature.

Isaacs uses traditional woodworking techniques to transform solid wood into hand-crafted, sculptural pieces that straddle the fence between folk and modern art.

If you’ve eaten off one of the slick wooden room service trays at Clyde Common, the restaurant housed in Portland’s Ace Hotel, you’ve tasted the work of Isaacs and fellow OCAC alumnus Ben Ediger, who co-created the 3D design studio, Spacecraft.

Spacecraft’s designs range from custom cabinetry, hand-tooled furniture, fixtures and interiors to art-based events. Their projects show up in local coffee shops, home offices, recording studios and elsewhere. Isaacs will present both personal works — sculpted wood bull horns and three-legged, hand-stitched spider stools — as well as Spacecraft-designed utility pole tables at the alumni exhibit.

In love with metals

Kate Speranza first pursued a degree in wood-working until she fell in love with metals. Yet, she’s found a way to incorporate wood into her jewelry as the material has proven to contrast quite beautifully with metals, especially silver.

Speranza, who has worked in metal for the past 10 years, explores wood in many forms with her latest collection of contemporary jewelry, which she will bring to the alumni exhibit.

Having received her bachelor in fine arts degree in metals from OCAC, Speranza has exhibited her work in multiple shows at the college’s Hoffman Gallery. She also trained with master metalsmiths at Haystack School of Crafts and Penland School of Crafts and presented work at the regional Society of North American Goldsmiths show.

Currently Speranza has work on display in a juried exhibition at the Walters Cultural Arts Center in Hillsboro. This fall she will relocate to North Carolina to pursue a master of fine arts degree at East Carolina University.

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Kate Speranza blends plywood and sterling silver in this bracelet that she will present at the Oregon College of Art and Crafts Alumni Exhibition.

Language and lineage

OCAC alumni Derek Faust’s work grapples with information systems through an investigation of their physical and visual language. Be it a dot and dash of Morse code or the notched holes inside a cassette tape, there is a language that has a direct lineage to our own self-image, he said.

“Looking at the way we store information can be a portal into looking at how we perceive ourselves,” said Faust in an artist statement.  “From the processes we use to infuse materials with data, to the way we archive information, we distinctly value some information more than others.”

With an eye for minimalism, Faust is a wood furniture maker, installation artist and printmaker. He owns the design firm Doppler Studio, LLC.

Faust will present examples of his woodworking designs, such as a slender minimalist cabinet highlighted in vibrant green, grabbing an unexpected niche at the exhibit.



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