Sure, Barbara Chen’s smiling, dancing women are plump and cast of heavy bronze, but these fleshy figures look decidedly light-stepping. The Richland, Wash., sculptor credits that to a freewheeling imagination (she pictures poses in her mind rather than using plus-sized models) and a constant stream of music (“I listen to everything from ballet to reggae, world music to opera, and that inspires the feel of their poses,” she says). But more than anything, Chen’s work is a product of happiness. “For me, making art is like making music,” she says. “I want it to be something that I enjoy and that other people can enjoy.”
Christine Clark’s metal-and-concrete sculptures are indescribably intriguing: Their materials are both solid and soft; the curved shapes seem somewhat familiar yet are unrecognizable; a small blip of color catches your eye. And that’s exactly what the Portland sculptor intended.
Imagine crafting a piece of art without being able to really see what you’re creating, only having the vision in your mind to go on. That’s exactly what Portland woodworker Ben Carpenter does when he carves his vessels and sculptures. “After I’ve turned the basic vessel shape on the lathe and hollowed it out, I sit down in a chair with my hand-held power carver and start carving away at it,” says the 23-year-old. “But during the whole process it looks really rough and you can’t see the grain until you put the finish on, so you have to be confident that it will turn out the way you want it to.”
Kicki Masthem’s character sculptures are so popular with the people who own them that they often send her photographs showing how a particular sculpture has become part of their home. Exploring how people use gesture as a means of expression and as a way to create their own personal space as they navigate through their daily lives is what inspires Masthem to create sculptures like Oscar, Charles and Luke (below, left to right). The ideas for her figures come from everywhere. “Standing in checkout lines at stores, I check out people’s expressions,” she says. “I notice how they hold themselves, and I sense how they feel about themselves in the world.” Masthem, 44, was born and raised in Kalmar, Sweden, a small town on the Baltic coast.
After metal artist Gilles Neuray worked with resin for the first time, it became a fundamental element in his work. “Five years ago, I was making a fish and I needed something for its eyes, so I made them out of resin,” says Neuray. “I was so happy with the way the material catches the light that I began to use resin more and more.”
Water drops. Tree roots. Antlers. Soap bubbles. Everything from organisms to human organs serves as inspirations for glass artists Andi Kovel and Justin Parker, the partners behind the Portland-based esque studio. “Esque is a suffix—as in picturesque or burlesque,” says Kovel. “We wanted a studio name that acknowledges that everything that surrounds us influences us.”