'Objectified' on display at college through Nov. 29

Sarah Fagan says there’s one rule in Painting 101: Paint odd numbers of things, rather than even.

“If you paint flowers in a vase, paint five instead of four, so it’s not too symmetrical,” she says. “Symmetry is distracting. When there are two of something — a diptych (two flat plates attached at a hinge) a double portrait, a pair of images — the viewer will automatically search for meaning, perhaps profound meaning.

“And if you paint two of something, you better have a damn good reason.”

Fagan has just such a reason — she wants to spice up the still-life genre, so she’s created several acrylic-on-panel paintings currently on display in “Objectified” at Mt. Hood Community College.

“I decided I would break the rules and paint in pairs,” she says. “Let that bowl invoke thought when coupled with another object. My reasoning behind certain pairings is varied and vast. They may be as abstract as objects that are prominently featured in a dream, or as simple as objects encountered on a walk in the woods.”

Fagan says pairs of objects or groups of objects allow viewers to create narratives and sense mystery or place.

“All in all, ‘two of something’ commands attention.”

Fagan facts

A New England native, Fagan studied English, studio art and art history as an undergraduate, has taught preschool and edited an art magazine.

She relocated to Portland a few years ago and earned a graduate degree in bookmaking/printmaking from the Oregon College of Art and Craft. Since then she’s dedicated her life to painting, printmaking and developing children’s classes in the arts, specifically bookmaking, which she offers at schools, stores, galleries and private events around Portland.

As a painter she concentrates on still-life works.

“I think of my object paintings as portraits or scientific specimens, exalting the everyday object in a confrontational point of view that celebrates each curve — and each connotation — brought to mind by its isolation,” she says.

She also expounded on what went into her paintings on display at Mt. Hood. Here are some of her thoughts:


“This image is inspired by objects found and collected on an Oregon shore,” she says. “The smooth stones and worn driftwood were frankly beautiful, and this is an homage to that beauty. One of my less mysterious compositions, it is an outpouring of love for summer, in its brief elegance here in the overcast Northwest.”

Sweet Tea

“Honeycombs are beautiful,” she says. “ I found one at a farmer’s market, bought it and painted it. Like ‘Souvenir,’ this piece was in praise of summer. It is also a study of the symmetry found both in the manmade world (the honeycomb) and in nature (the lemon slice).

“I started thinking of how man and nature come together in various seasons (this being summer).”

Time Together, Time Apart

“Here I combine natural and manmade again, and explore the bilateral symmetry that exists all over, from gingko leaves to pencils to playing cards,” she says. “The composition is a pyramid. I painted it when the weather started to turn this September, when fall felt like it was coming despite the periodic heat waves. The final composition was meditative to me, putting some balance in a world of changing seasons and changing responsibilities.”

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