(Above: A visitor to the Karin Clarke Gallery examines Betsy Wolfston’s ceramic work that is part of the Eugene Biennial Award Winners — One Year Later exhibit, on display through August)

By Randi Bjornstad

It is bittersweet as the Karin Clarke Gallery opens its latest show, Eugene Biennial Award Winners — One Year Later, both energizing and exciting because it showcases last year’s award winners have created since then and also melancholy because one of those talented artists has died in the meantime.

Gallerist Clarke introduced the Eugene Biennial concept three years ago after the city of Eugene closed its longtime Jacobs Gallery, located in the Hult Center for the Performing Arts, throwing the future of publicly supported art displays — chief among them the annual Mayor’s Art Show — into doubt.

In the summer of 2016, Clarke stepped into the breach by inaugurating her own juried Eugene Biennial Art Show, after which she came up with the idea of a follow-up show in summer 2017 to display work that the 2016 winners had created since.

One of the late Beverly Soasey’s creations, Persimmons on the Stone Wall, is featured in the biennial One Year Later show

She repeated the sequence in 2018 with her second Eugene Biennial art show, and now comes its year-later look at what last year’s winners have produced, on display through Aug. 31.

One of last year’s winners, Beverly Soasey, died suddenly on Sept. 16, shortly after being diagnosed with cancer.

“The biggest question I had in putting this show together was how much of Beverly’s work we might be able to include,” Clarke said. “But her family and friends were so generous in sharing her work that we have a large variety of some of her most recent art in this show — it’s kind of like a little gallery within a gallery.”

Soasey had completed an artist’s residency in France shortly before her death, and the show includes some of that work, plus many of her necklaces, bracelets, and cards. “She was so special to so many people, I’m glad we can include all of this in the show,” Clarke said.

The rest of the artists included in the show are Kathleen Caprario, Suma Elan, Rebecca Mannheimer, Sarah Peterman, Michael Whitenack, and Betsy Wolfston. One other 2018 winner, photographer Athena Dalene, was not able to participate in the follow-up show.

“When I visited each of the artists at their studios, I was thrilled at the variety of art they have been working on during the past year,” Clarke said. “It ranges from wall art to three-dimensional sculpture to ceramics to furniture. It really is exciting.”

Michael Whitenack’s 3-D sculpture, Id and the Ego Brothers, is part of the biennial show

Nonetheless, putting what amounts to an artistic variety show together can be a bit overwhelming, Clarke said.

“It took hours and hours to figure it all out, how to display each person’s work in a way that gave it attention and still blended with all the other work,” she said. “And the scale of the pieces is so different — It was challenging but also exciting to make it all come together.”

At the same time, by the opening day of the show, “I was exhausted,” Clarke admitted.

Still, having gone twice through the entire biennial competition and one-year-later update, she plans to continue the effort in the future.

“The biennial gives emerging artists a chance to show their work and be recognized, and the follow-up show gives the winners of the biennial something to work toward, to push themselves in new directions,” she said. “I think the combination feels very community-focused and gives people a chance to follow what local artists are doing.”

And she’s gratified by the reaction she’s seen in the first days the exhibit has been open.

“This isn’t really a typical kind of show for this gallery, and I have noticed that people are spending much longer looking than often is the case,” Clarke said. “There is a lot to see, a lot that people want to explore.”

Since Clarke instituted her biennial show sequence, the Eugene Mayor’s Art Show has been reconstituted. It is on display through August in the Maurie Jacobs Community Room (formerly the Jacobs Gallery) on the lower level of the Hult Center for the Performing Arts.

Eugene Biennial Award Winners — One Year Later

When: Through Aug. 31; opening reception 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 2

Where: Karin Clarke Gallery, 760 Willamette St., Eugene

Gallery hours: Noon to 5:30 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday

Information: 541-684-7963; kclarkegallery@mindspring.com; karinclarkegallery.com

A Rebecca Mannheimer painting, Connection, is part of the show now on display at the Karin Clarke Gallery