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Cathy Bloom

Cathy has been at RWS since late 2014 when she came for the clay facilities. She eventually realized she wanted something more private because, though she loved having people around her working, she recognized she was limiting herself. In her private studio she is able to be much more bold and experimental. “I feel like I have a nest to hide away in.” Until quite recently she made sculptures in clay of animals, plants and abstract natural forms. While her background is in sculpture she has a deep love of drawing. After several years of working with those more technically demanding processes, she felt she needed a more direct medium like ink on paper to be able to change things freely and explore new content. This led her back to drawing and a journey of looking more closely at the natural world, and what started out as flat drawings evolved into 3 dimensions. "I started folding the paper, adding layers and cutting out windows so you could look inside. I feel more at home with this sculptural approach.” While working on these paper constructions last summer, Cathy started looking more closely at the weeds and insects on her walks around Portland. Attempting to draw these creatures in detail became part of her exploration. "Their bodies are constructed in the most amazingly inventive ways. Sometimes I feel both drawn in and a bit horrified when I look at how insect legs and mouthparts work." There are countless dramas playing out in the lives of these characters and so many mysteries to try and decipher. One morning she noticed a stag beetle as it struggled across the lawn at Deering Oaks. A stag beetle is about 2.5” long with antler-like mandibles coming out of its head. She was moved watching this creature struggle along through the grass, going up and over and falling down. She wondered where it was going. “And the fact, as far as I understand, they live in the rotted stumps and they stay in the grub cycle of their life for years before they decide to pupate and become a beetle. And then they start walking around and mate and lay eggs that know when to come out…but they only live a season.” After reading up on these beetles and their life cycle was surprised by her own emotions of empathy and admiration for these magnificent beings. While she works she consults insect field guides and has images that she’s taken from previous seasons, but she can’t wait for spring when all the little creatures start to reemerge. Cathy has always had the desire to create a story about what she observes, and she looks for ways to hint at what’s going on in order to draw the curiosity of the viewer. "When I look at bugs and their world among the plants, there is only so much that I can tell by observation. I want to retain that sense of the unknown in my drawings and constructions.” Looking around in the weeds she often experiences visual confusion. Where does the plant end and the insect begin? You could think you see a leaf but moments later as you shift your position it turns out to be a praying mantis wing. This gives Cathy a sense of the creatures and their environment being one.

In the studio Cathy is exploring ways to allow the viewer to discover different details by shifting their viewpoint of the piece. The problem of defining things spatially in her drawing reminds her of the limitations that arise when she looks for insects in the field. Both observing bugs and drawing them present challenges and this is reflected in her artwork. "I am very curious to see where this relatively new approach for my work will go next. I wonder if at some point I may bring the human being into the picture as well.” When Cathy was a young child she had a lot of freedom to rummage around in the woods and fields. “They were all treasured memories of being shorter than the ferns, for example, and imagining it was something bigger than it was.” She remembers often coming home eager to tell the story of what she had seen. Her current work feels very closely connected to those early experiences, and, for now, she is happy to allow herself a long time to incubate the work. Contact Cathy by email,


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