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Joanne Oviatt's home and studio are in Pittsfield. Her husband, Keith, takes an active roll in his wife's art by serving as model, carpenter, mover and critic. "My sons," Oviatt says, "think that their mother is a bit strange, especially when I say that I am waiting for a gourd, rock, or a piece of wood to speak to me."

When asked where she gets her ideas, Oviatt said, "Nature and the study of different cultures both past and present provide the inspiration for much of my art. Rather than recreating nature or cultural icons, the thought process melts the images into stylized forms meant to stimulate the viewer's sense of esthetics." Joanne goes on to say, whether the material is metal, wood, paint, clay, sawdust, fiberglass or gourds, she tries to maintain the integrity of the material, but that doesn't mean that its versatility isn't stretched to the limits. "For example, we grow our own gourds" she says. "Everything about watching them grow sparks ideas. No two are the same. By treating the natural forms as the beginning of a piece of sculpture, the resulting pieces with names like 'Prayer Blossom' or 'Primitive Elegance' is a pleasant surprise for the viewer." By using acrylic clay for faces and hands along with feathers, fur and paint, the pudgy little gourds become part of the "Grandmother Series." Other odd-shaped gourds need intricate cut-outs to release their story.

The term "recycling" used with the word "art" usually conjures up the junk collage image. One of Joanne's larger sculptures is a life-sized figure titled "The Grand Design." It is created from recycled copper flashing and challenges that junk image. The figure sits on a faux rock made of recycled particle board, construction foam and paper grocery bags. A plumb bob is suspended from his right hand. The tip of the bob creates intricate designs in the sand at the base of the Plexiglas cube on which the figure sits. "It is important to practice what you preach," she says, "and recycling is part of nature's grand design." Her most resent sculpture, titled "What Goes Around Comes Around," sends a similar message.

Oviatt paints in acrylics and watercolors. Her paintings often tell a story, as in the Cornplanter series. The colonial flag is in each of the three paintings. The paintings show Cornplanter first as a young man with the flag draped over his arm. Then, he is a middle-aged negotiator with Jefferson, and the flag is thrown over the back of the chair. In the final painting, The Educator, he is an old man who helps his people learn a new way of life. In this painting, the flag is rumpled on the ground along with his discarded English cloths. A wolf, a reflection in a mirror, a chair, and a puff of smoke also help tell the story.

 

 

2009 Joanne Oviatt