Claire Browne was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and raised in Pittsburgh. As an adult, she 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, she subsequently returned to the U.S. and enrolled at Claremont Graduate University in California to pursue an art degree. There, she had the privilege of studying with Roland Reiss, Neda Al-Hilali, and other professional artists from Los Angeles, which had become a major art center.
Claire remained in Los Angeles after completing her degree, reveling in the cultural diversity and unconventional lifestyles of a city so different from any she had previously inhabited. In 2000, she began to exhibit her own work at Newspace Gallery. At the time, Claire’s artwork was strongly influenced by the vast sky she could see from her California hillside home, and her beach walks in Santa Monica. To this day, her work is informed by the expansive landscapes and ocean views the West Coast has to offer.
In 2010, a move to Portland led to a dramatic change in Claire's work. Amused by the popular slogan, “Keep Portland Weird,” she enjoys creating new pieces from old posters stapled to telephone poles and other materials from the urban environment. Claire continues to pursue this new genre, finding great satisfaction in working slowly and celebrating the handmade in an increasingly digitized world.
The attic of our old house in Pittsburgh with the various debris and objects, traces the beginning of what I now call my art making. There were buttons and bottles and shreds of paper, broken toys, old tattered doilies – these I formed and reformed until a “piece” was made.
My current body of mixed media paintings is textured and layered; visual responses to the ever-changing landscape of Oregon, where I now live. The fall color, the moving clouds, the snow on Mt. Hood, flowers and plant colors, and the wildness of the desert and the mountains capture me. I also find Portland an exciting city in which to live with its image of weirdness and quirkiness; its emphasis on community and individuality; the aesthetics of the Willamette River and the acres of forest. All of these influence my current work.
The layering of image and materials is important to this work. Images of daily life pile up and become entangled. Bits of the underlying layers emerge, suggest the passage of time, and the ephemera of life in the city. Materials include shredded paper, old photographs, netting, textiles, posters, Japanese paper, ribbon, thread, tissue paper, and string. Additionally, layers are achieved by using gel, paint, modeling paste, caulking, and other acrylic-based media. There are often ten to twelve layers, which are individually sanded until the resulting image is achieved.
My most recent work has developed from my background in fabric arts and repetitious mark-making. To me, the transition from using thread to create lines with a pen or pencil, circles, squares, semi-circles, and other marks seem a natural outgrowth of that history. I see the works as being on the borderline of drawing, knitting, weaving, and writing. I find a satisfaction in working slowly in a fast-paced world.
- Claire Browne, January 2016