Eugene artist and arts administrator Beverly Soasey wasn’t big on telling the story behind her assemblages. She wanted people to find their own stories in her work. Indeed, that is the way people look, standing in front of her art for lengths of time, examining the pieces and trying to figure how they add up.
At November’s First Friday ArtWalk — less than two months after Soasey died suddenly of ovarian cancer — friends, collectors and collaborators gathered in Oregon Art Supply’s exhibition area to view a collection of her work and share stories about the artist.
Each piece in the exhibit Collected Memories was brought by someone who either purchased or was given it by Soasey. The title of the exhibit refers to things that inspired Soasey’s work — found objects that held memories — and to the memories of the collectors who brought in their art.
At the top of her webpage, Soasey included a quote from Hermann Hesse: “It seemed to him that whoever understood this river and its secrets, would understand much more, many secrets, all secrets … He learned from it continually. Above all he learned from it how to listen.”
Most likely, Soasey chose this quote in the same way she selected the objects used in her art: because it spoke to her. The Oregon Art Supply exhibit reflects the way she listened to things but also the way she affected people’s lives, the way they listened to her.
Beth Robinson, who collaborated with Soasey for four years, brought in several works for the exhibit. “The search was important,” she said. The two artists often searched for objects together. I asked Robinson where they conducted this search.
“Everywhere and anywhere,” Robinson said.
They had a rule to use the same objects in their art, which was possible because Soasey used the actual objects and Robinson photographed them. Their last show together was 2017’s Unspoken at Maude Kerns Art Center, where I had the good fortune to meet Soasey.
She spoke to me about her work “Wired Differently,” a self portrait that referenced a conversation in which someone said, “She sure is wired differently.”
Included among the people who spoke on First Friday were Robinson, Anne Bumb Hamilton and Rebecca Mannheimer. Hamilton also collaborated with Soasey.
“This is a smidgen of what she did,” Hamilton said of the art on display. “There’ll probably be another show to remember how beautiful she was.”
Mannheimer brought in an assemblage titled “Control Issues.” She acquired it when her husband told Soasey he liked it, and she gave it to him. It is not as complicated as pieces like “He Learned From It How To Listen,” an assemblage that includes a map, a compass, a photograph, images of birds dressed wearing suits and the quote by Hesse cited above.
“Control Issues” features a photograph of an adult woman and a boy. The boy is sewn in with thread so he appears to be bound by the adult. Except for the complex stitching, it is an uncharacteristically simple image that is incredibly powerful.
The owner of Oregon Art Supply, Mannheimer is an artist working primarily with paint. She collaborated with Soasey at the Hult Center when Soasey was director of the Jacobs Gallery. After the gallery closed in early 2016, Mannheimer and Soasey brought the annual Small Works of Art show held at the Jacobs to a frame shop in Eugene.
This year Mannheimer decided to put together Collected Memories instead. Unlike the small-works show, which was timed with holiday shopping, the art in this exhibit are not for sale. The collectors want to hold on to their art, more precious now than ever, and to the memories and secrets they might continue to tell.
Collected Memories, work by the late Beverly Soasey, runs at Oregon Art Supply through December.