Wewer Keohane: ‘Dream’ to reality at the Art Base Annex
If You Go…
What: Wewer Keohane, ‘Evolution of a Dream’
Where: Art Base Annex, Basalt
When: Through June 4
More info: www.theartbase.org
Wewer Keohane is something of a treasure hunter. She mined her dreams and decades of collected ephemera — antique paper, silk, fortune cookies — for a dizzying solo exhibition at the Art Base Annex in Basalt.
“I collect things, you’ll notice,” she said with a laugh on a recent walk through the show, “Evolution of a Dream,” which opened May 13 and runs through Sunday.
Keohane works out of a studio on Cattle Creek Road in Carbondale and has long been a prominent visual artist on the Roaring Fork Valley scene. Her work also is in the permanent collections at the Denver Art Museum, New Orleans Museum of Art and the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
The most often recurring visual motif in the show is a paper shooting target. As in much of Keohane’s work, a dream inspired her to start working with the targets. Keohane has a doctorate in depth psychology and has published several books on dreams, an area of expertise that makes its way into much of her work. After a dream about two deer facing one another, she dug into her ephemera library looking for the right materials from which to shape the dream animals into a piece of art. She stumbled on a cache of shooting targets, which she’d bought — along with antique piano sheet music and patina-colored dictionary pages — from a collection in Maine in the mid-1990s.
Along with her portrait of two deer made from target paper, there are various other animals and birds cut from it along with a stirring self-portrait that Keohane made for her 65th birthday.
Given the heated national debate about gun control, working with targets in art might reasonably conjure a pro-gun or anti-gun sentiment in certain viewers.
“A lot of people go, ‘Is this a political statement about guns?’ No. It’s not,” she said. “It can be, but it’s about targets. … I love the paper and this is a better use of it for me than target practice.”
“It’s more of a mixed metaphor,” she added.
In her handmade “Book for the Brokenhearted,” the metaphor extends to human relations, where targets are juxtaposed with portraits and suggest how people might target one another emotionally.
“I like that so much is left to the viewer,” said Art Base Director Genna Moe. “You’re not telling them what to think because there are many connections they can make on their own, leading to new thoughts and discoveries.”
Viewers often find deep personal connections with Keohane’s work. She recalled a man weeping at the sight of a mask she made years ago for a booth at the Carbondale Mountain Fair because it conjured a specific memory. It often makes sense for others to find a piece of themselves in works inspired by her dreams, Keohane believes.
“Maybe I made it for them and I didn’t know it,” she said.
She often puts her pack-rat collection of materials to unique use. In “Backbone,” handmade paper fans out from a book with the found vertebrae of wild animals running across it like a spine. Keohane and her husband saved their small paper fortunes from fortune cookies for the first 20 years of their marriage, and she eventually put them to use in the collage piece “Family Fortune.”
The show also includes a series of drip paintings inspired by last year’s lunar eclipse. Keohane shaped birch wood into perfectly round panels — their roundness playfully reflecting the exhibition’s shooting targets — and painted each of them in identical conditions over the course of a month, letting the power of the moon shape the drip works’ differentiating details.
“I got fascinated with the idea of what it would be like to do something every day of the month, to do one pour daily and have everything be the same — the viscosity of the paint, the angle of the piece, and see what happens with gravity,” she explained.
The show also includes two examples of the tea-kimonos that might be called Keohane’s signature work. Inspired by a dream of a kimono, she weaves these intricate decorative garments out of dried tea bags — they’ve made their way into art school lessons, museum collections and earlier this year inspired a composition by the acclaimed Boulder-based Ars Nova Singers.
“They take so long and they’re so hard on my hands that I only make about one a year,” she said. “But I’ve been doing them for 15 years.”
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