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Sketch Pad

Eva Lake
Working all the angles
by Kathy Anderson

ainting, drawing, photography, music, collage – Eva Lake keeps her versatile fingers in all kinds of places. Her new NW Portland art space opens next month, she recently was heard speaking out about art on KBOO-FM and she’s starting up her own radio program (KPSU-AM 1450; Sundays at 1 p.m.). Eva also loves to write, maintaining an online diary and freelancing – even finding the occasional time to contribute to this e-zine.

All about Eva
Eva Lake's art is an obsessive, compulsive, metaphorical habit – she needs to paint angles.

"The Secret S," oil

"I try to stretch it out, make it move, make it regenerate," she said. "I repeat shapes that are alike, but of course are all painted by hand and are therefore all different. I take man-made elements, such as architecture, strip them down and show them as nature."

"The Secret S" is Eva's own humble approach to a renovation of the swastika. It's actually a counter-swastika, running in the opposite direction from the one that cannot be erased from 20th-century consciousness.

"Long before this last century, the swastika was – and still is – a symbol of unity and endless, positive force," she said. "It was only after much drawing that I saw what I was doing, but I was compelled to do it anyway. It's not any attempt at negativity or shock, which would devalue what I am doing, and is unnecessary anyway."

Rug burns
History in general fascinates Eva, and she enjoys reading about art.

"I started out studying ancient art and still love the Minoans and the art of the Cyclades the most," she said. "There's a connection between the aesthetics of ancient times and Modernism.

"Diptych," oil

"And I love Modernism without apology: Brancusi, Malevic and Mondrian. Jean Arp is an all-time favorite – his simplicity and concern for the organic. In my own way I am on a similar track. I'm also in awe of Yves Klein and his ideas of the endless void."

The first abstract art Eva was in contact with was the Indian art and rugs her grandfather owned.

"Triptych," oil

"All those triangles dancing in a field of color is not all that different from what I am doing today," she said.

"It's the kind of thing you forget about for many years as you are absorbing so much of Western art history. And then one day you look at your work and realize it resembles things you looked at a lot when you were two."

Collage college
Eva is greatly influenced by Warhol and Richard Hamilton collages from the 1950s. Dada, especially the Berlin Dada of John Heartfield and Hannah Hoch, meant the most to her, along with the Russian avant-garde.

"Third Eye," collage

"But all of that came to me around the same time as punk," she said, "which was cutting up all kinds of words and images in a similar way, so it's very hard to say which means more, history or my contemporaries."

For Eva, collage is an art of intuition and a found journey – and letting the pictures do the talking.

"I'm moving along and as I find a moon that glows so beautifully next to George Harrison's face, I think yes," she said, "but a sun might be better, since he wrote about it. And while you're at it, what about a dark horse somewhere for Mr. Harrison?

"But it just never works that way for me. The images find me, they talk to me, not the other way around. You can search all day for that sun, but you're never gonna find it. Because the moon already looked at you and told you it was perfect."

Bag lady
An old, flattened Bloomingdale's bag is the waiting room for all of Eva's cuttings. Everything with potential gets funneled through the bag.

"Because," collage

"Sometimes I'm just working on feeding that bag, and the collection in that bag is very important," she said. "I've got stuff in that holding area that I've had for at least 20 years. You never know when it will be the right time to use it.

"Every image, no matter what it is, means something to me, even if it is just a bit of a blue line from a cut-up sky. In fact, often I am working from leftovers of cutouts," she said. "If it meant something once, it might mean something again – in a different setting, of course."

That's why Eva thinks of her collage work as not only extremely personal and private, but also priceless.

"How do you put a price on things you've carried from coast to coast," she said, "things that cannot be repeated once they're glued down? A painting I might be able to repeat, but a collage ... never. It's a strange situation, because I know they are only pieces of paper."

Over the last 20 years, Eva has shown her work in galleries on both coasts – from the AVA Gallery in Astoria, Ore., to the "Reaction" Exit Art show in New York, plus many shows in San Francisco and Portland.

Her paintings can be seen July 2-28 in a show called "Axis" at Portland's Ogle Gallery, 310 NW Broadway.

Punk U
With a mother who co-owned a gallery in the 1960s, had a potter's wheel and kiln, and did mosaics and sculpture, art was a part of Eva's everyday life.

"Window," collage

"I was exposed to all kinds of media, and was painting and drawing when quite young," she said. "And I liked images from previous times – movie stars, nostalgia, golden-age documentary photographs.

"I collected old magazines, but as it was the images I treasured and not really the magazines, I started to cut them out and do my own thing with them."

Eva enrolled at the University of Oregon as an art student, but couldn't stand people telling her how to make art. After her first trip to Europe, at age 18, she realized that looking at great art was just as instructive, so she changed her major to art history.

Eva never graduated from the U of O, however. She dropped out to join the punk-rock revolution in 1977 London.

"By the time I ran into punk I was already not like the rest of the kids in Eugene," she said. "I was way over stuff like Fleetwood Mac and the laid-back attitude of Oregon. I was so ready for punk!

"I liked school a lot and did well, but Eugene could not contain me. I felt there was something going on in London that was a lot more important than my ancient art-history studies."

After living in London for most of '78, Eva moved to Portland. She stayed three years, then moved to San Francisco, then New York, then back to Portland.

"Crosses," collage

"In all of these places, it was never just about an art career," she said. "It was the people and the mix of cultures. And that mix is something I miss here in Portland, though it sure is changing.

"But art is my first love, plus writing. I got into music because it was something we all did – forming bands. Later I sang and danced in New York at off-off-off-Broadway shows.

"I like maybe too many things," she said, "which makes for a very interesting life and maybe out of that, can come some good art."

Eva also studied painting for two years at the Art Student's League in New York. She's now in pursuit of her degree at Portland State University.

Space program
Eva will soon have her own exhibition space where she'll show her friends' artwork. Lovelake – named after a Gilbert and George piece and Eva's online diary – will be at 1720 NW Lovejoy, Suite 107, Portland.

"4 Directions," oil

"Lovelake will officially open in August with a show of mouth paintings by Cecilia Hallinan," she said. "This fall I'll show Randy Moe and John Callahan.

"I know so many people who do interesting work and do not fit into the gallery system here. Years ago I hung my own shows and I had a lot of fun. I want to get back to that. I'd also like to do a poetry reading sometime this summer."

Lovelake will celebrate art and the artist, not necessarily "the art world, it's critics, curators, dealers, etc." Eva does not want to become an art dealer nor try to create careers.

"The best art is about life," she said, "not about itself."

E-mail Eva at eva5555@hotmail.com. Reach Kathy at kanderson138@attbi.com, and draw on other Sketch Pads.

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