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Jo Hamilton and Irene Hardwicke Olivieri open exhibitions at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art
Jo Hamilton, I Crochet Portland, Mixed crocheted yarn, 2006-2009. Image courtesy of the artist.

EUGENE, ORE.- The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon looks at the work of two Oregon artists in “Contemporary Oregon Visions: Jo Hamilton and Irene Hardwicke Olivieri.” On view from April 1 to August 3, 2014, the exhibition presents two substantially different but equally innovative approaches to figurative art.

“Both artists are deeply interested in the complexity of human relationships and reflect this interest through densely layered and colorful imagery,” says Jessi DiTillio, co-curator and JSMA assistant curator for contemporary art. “And both are Oregon artists. Together, their work shows a small slice of the diversity in Oregon’s artistic production today.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, Hamilton and Olivieri will present a talk on their work on Wednesday, April 16, at 5:30 p.m. A reception follows. On Saturday, May 10, at 1 p.m., Olivieri will lead a gallery tour highlighting the works featured in her new publication “Irene Hardwicke Olivieri: Closer to Wildness.”

“Both artists are academically trained, but they’ve transformed their work over time,” says June Black, co-curator of the exhibition and JSMA assistant curator for the arts of the Americas and Europe. “In the case of Hamilton, she’s moved to craft, while Olivieri’s work can almost be described as folk art. Still, both are in dialogue with contemporary art.”

Hamilton, born in Glasgow, Scotland, moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1996. The first twenty years of her career was spent painting in oils and watercolors until her artistic practice was transformed in 2006 by a non-traditional textile art exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Craft. She was inspired to combine two parts of her life that were essential to her character – her urban environment and her grandmother’s tradition of crochet. Hamilton’s work displays a whimsical and affectionate vision of working-class Portland, and she often portrays friends and co-workers from her days in the food-service industry. The exhibition includes “I Crochet Portland,” her first attempt at a “crocheted painting.”

Olivieri was born and raised in southern Texas, before earning her MA degree from New York University. While living in New York, she worked as a gardener at The Cloisters and at The New York Botanical Garden, where she created drawings of tropical palms and the insects that pollinate them. She now lives and works “off the grid” in the high desert of central Oregon, where she raises caterpillars, water lilies, and succulents, and keeps a beetle colony. Her intimate knowledge of the natural world pervades her artwork, and language plays a key element: dense layers of poetic, visionary, and autobiographical text are interwoven with her compositions’ background and figures. The exhibition features, among other work, a selection of her inventive sculpture series “PaleoGirls,” delicately articulated mosaics of female figures and hybrid creatures, made from the fragile bones she extracts from owl pellets.

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