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Sophia Hatzikos: Shadows dancing on eyelids

At Pacific University's gallery, an exhibition whispers its materials and speaks to the giving and taking of the land.

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Sophia Hatzikos with “Rooted.”

Somewhere the idea steeped into art practice that an artist needs to have a “statement” explaining their work or, even worse, their “process.” My preferred artist statement is one word, “Bullshit,” repeated emphatically in fifty different fonts. Sophia Hatzikos turns the pretentious art-speak trend on its head with a statement in verse, creating art for the ears to introduce us to her art for the eyes:

materials whisper,

questioning consumption

connects unsuspecting lines

signs of decay absent.

habits habitually present in a plateau of unawareness.

Like her visual art, Hatzikos’s poetry hints but doesn’t explain. It is an expression, not an exposition. The same can be said for the title of her current show at Pacific University’s Cawein Gallery: Sunlight Shadows: Dance on Eyelids. “Have you ever closed your eyes and looked at the sun,” Hatzikos asked an attentive class of Pacific University art students during my visit, “and seen the shadows dancing on your eyelids?” That, she explained, is a metaphor for her goal with art.

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Hatzikos is committed to “giving old things new life,” reflecting her commitment to environmental awareness, and her art is all earth-bound in some way. She works with raw clay, steel structures that suggest agriculture, and cyanotypes of dehydrated food waste. But an allegiance to sustainability does not make art. That takes a sensitivity to her environment, what she experiences and observes.

In her work Rooted, a wall of nine long rows of small plastic bottles partially filled with dried field corn sparkles in the gallery lights like a late summer Illinois farm lit by the setting sun. Bucolic . . . but also, living seeds in cast-off plastic echoing indigenous sustenance distorted by genetic engineering and industrial-scale agriculture. Layer upon layer of meaning in exquisitely glistening row upon row.

“Rooted.”

In Hatzikos’ installation Weight, heaps of clay lumps are perched on sections of duct pipe and coated with a syrupy chocolate-like glaze. There is a strange yumminess about its ambiguity. Is it a massive ice cream reward for a ravenous football team after winning a coveted trophy, or is it mounds of elephant dung in an African savannah polluted by mining? Hatzikos keeps us both guessing and deeply engaged in her voyage of imagination.

“Weight.”

Sunlight Shadows: Dances on Eyelids will be on display at Cawein Gallery through March 9. As you head down the country roads en route to Forest Grove, take in the verdant Washigton County farmland–the crops, the equipment, the buildings. Then, think of their possibilities as art and their life-sustaining, life-consuming roles. It gives the show unplanned context.

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This essay was first published by Portland artist David Slader as part of his most recent art letter to subscribers, and is republished here with permission.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

David Slader is an Oregon painter, digital artist, sculptor, and photographer. His youthful art ambitions were detoured by an almost forty-year career as a litigator, child-advocate, and attorney for survivors of sexual abuse. Although a Portland resident, David's studio is in the Coast Range foothills, along an oxbow of the Upper Nehalem River, where he alternates making art with efforts to reforest his land. In the Fall, a run of Chinook salmon spawn outside his studio door.

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