Artist Sean Healy brings his vice-filled artwork to Pacifics Cawein gallery

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Portland artist Sean Healy created this piece using cigarette ashes, butts and filters. His work appears this month in Pacific Universitys Kathrin Cawein Gallery.“The funniest reaction I’ve had to it is, ‘Why? Why would you use this kind of material?’ And in a way,” artist Sean Healy said, “that’s the right reaction.”

Healy’s artwork is on display now in the Kathrin Cawein Gallery at Pacific University. The pieces in his show, which is titled “Smudge,” are made using cigarette ashes, butts and filters — and beer.

“I am a proponent of not using traditional art-making materials,” Healy said. “It’s freeing. I go into the studio and see where a concept takes me.”

“Smudge” is about vice, he told an audience of mainly students who came to hear him talk about his work last Wednesday. It’s also about the youthful belief in invincibility—and the inevitable consequences of merging those two volatile elements.

“As I’ve been getting older,” he said, “I realize that the decisions you make as young people are not necessarily the best decisions. This kind of glorifies bad decisions ... makes these vices goofy.”

One thought-provoking piece contains 7,500 cigarette filters standing on end. “I’m trying to condense everything down into a single idea,” Healy said. “I’m trying to take everyday material that people ignore and reconstruct it into something engaging.”

Originally from Brasher Falls, a small town in rural upstate New York, Healy has lived and worked in Portland since 1995. He holds a bachelor of fine arts degree in printmaking and video arts from the School of Art & Design at Alfred University. He is represented by the Elizabeth Leach Gallery.

In addition to exploring concepts with art in his studio, Healy is well known for creating public works of art, among them installations at Portland State University, The Nines Hotel and Pioneer Place in Portland.

His work at FBI Headquarters in Houston, Texas, was named one of the 40 best public artworks in the U.S. and Canada by Americans for the Arts.

“Healy’s work is unique, innovative,” gallery director Junko Iijima said. “It is different from paintings on the wall or sculptures on pedestals.”

The free show will be at the gallery through Nov. 26. Located in Scott Hall on Pacific University’s Forest Grove campus, the gallery is open from 1 to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

More information is available online or at 503-352-2870.

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