The attic of our old house in Pittsburgh, filled with the various bits of debris and forgotten objects, traces the beginning of what I now realize was my art making. There were buttons and bottles and shreds of paper, broken toys, tattered old doilies – these I formed and reformed until a piece satisfied me.
I was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and raised in Pittsburgh. As an adult, I moved to Wiesbaden, Germany, and traveled around Europe to the United Kingdom, Austria, Italy, Spain, The Netherlands, and France. Inspired by the continent’s art, architecture, and textiles, I returned to the U.S. and enrolled at Claremont Graduate University in California to pursue an art degree.
I remained in Los Angeles after completing my degree, enjoying the cultural diversity and unconventional lifestyles. In 2000, I began to exhibit at Newspace Gallery. At that time my artwork was strongly influenced by the vast sky I could see from my California hillside home, and by frequent visits to Joshua Tree, California.
In 2009, I moved to Portland, where I enjoy living near the waterfront—the morning mist over the river, the skies at night and the view across the water to the east. I am still a frequent visitor to Joshua Tree. I’m inspired by the endless, arid landscape of desert wildflowers and Joshua Trees, and the visible stars that alter space and time. I work in Portland in a large, old brick building where my studio looks out on the city. The contrast between the city of Portland and the serene desert allows me to see each with renewed eyes.
I have had solo exhibitions at Newspace Gallery, Los Angeles; AndrewShire Gallery, Los Angeles; Ruth Chandler Williamson Gallery, Claremont, California; Loyola Law School, Los Angeles; Riverside Art Museum, Riverside, California; and other galleries throughout the West coast. My work has been included in the Pacific Coast edition of New American Painting, and reviewed in the Los Angeles Times, Artscene, and Artweek, among others. I have been an adjunct instructor at UCLA, Santa Monica College, University of LaVerne, and Chaffey College.
Drawing has always been at the core for me, whether in paint, graphite, collage, or ink. I began as an artist with a background in fabric arts. To me, the transition from using thread to creating lines with a pen or pencil seem a natural outgrowth of that history. I see the works as being on the borderline of drawing, knitting, weaving and writing. I’ve become especially interested lately in ancient writing systems such as Egyptian scripts and Buddhist texts and have been moved by the Dreaming paintings of the aboriginal Australians and by the textile paintings of African art on cloth and bark.
Recently, I’ve been working with India ink and a nib pen, drawing the lines continuously and mindfully. I lean toward the absence of control while keeping in contact with the subconscious. I begin with layering and using gel to attach recycled papers, envelopes, and old posters. This creates a subtle texture and a sense of time. The papers are not laid down as a grid, but haphazardly, so I am working with lines going in different directions. Sometimes I draw with my non-dominant hand, or cover the previous work on the canvas so that I can’t see what I’ve already done. The form that emerges from many hours of this often surprises me.
I invite viewers to discover the unexpected, honor the moment, and the infinite power of time.
- Claire Browne, November 2018