Arts & Culture

WOW Hall welcomes student artist

Just looking at Sarah Refvem, you can tell she’s an artist. Maybe it’s her red-and-yellow-striped fingernails and funky plaid tights, her bright red hair, or her rainbow-hued — and paint-stained — wardrobe. But something, or everything, screams of creativity.

The 23-year-old University of Oregon student plans to be a full-time artist. Her pursuit of a bachelor of fine arts and her experience with galleries around Eugene are moving her toward her goal.

Refvem’s colorful paintings will be featured in WOW Hall’s Lobby Art Gallery for the month of October. The venue will also host an artist’s reception on Last Friday, Oct. 28 from 5 to 7 p.m.

“I’ve never shown there before, so I’m excited,” she said.

In the past, Refvem has shown paintings through the Eugene Storefront Art Project, which places works of art in empty storefronts in downtown Eugene to create pop-up galleries. She was also a resident artist at The Woodpecker’s Muse Art Gallery last spring. In September, Sam Bonds Garage displayed some of her paintings, and changing shows from the bar to WOW Hall one month to the next is a great opportunity.

“I’m hoping to continue having something always showing somewhere,” Refvem said.

Stephanie Hatten is proud of her friend’s enthusiasm and involvement in the Eugene art community. “It’s exciting to be her friend and see her come out in this way,” Hatten said.

Though Hatten studied physics in college, she and Refvem bonded over creative projects in Portland and Hatten is no stranger to Refvem’s art. “(Her art is) a big part of her life and it inspires me,” Hatten said.

Discovering Art

Though she’s set on working as a professional artist, Refvem didn’t discover her love of painting until junior year of high school.

“I feel like I’ve always had the brain for it,” she said.

Abby Refvem, Sarah’s mother, said it just took a while for Sarah to put everything together and explore painting.

“She’s always been really creative,” Abby said. “She’s kind of been blowing me away since high school. My whole house is a gallery of her work … I love having it around me because I feel I can go along this journey of hers.”

Art hadn’t been in Sarah’s future until the summer after her junior year of high school, when she attended Jumpstart, a pre-college visual arts workshop at Oregon State University. Six hours a day were devoted to painting and printmaking techniques.

“It takes a lot of practice before you make something you’re really proud of,” Sarah said. Her experience at Jumpstart gave her the confidence to pursue her talent and become an artist.

Since graduating Lake Oswego High School, Sarah attended California College of the Arts in Oakland, Calif. for three years. There she met inspiring people who taught her about mixed media, paint-making and more. She has since moved to Eugene to study at the University and to be closer to her mother.

Style and Process

Sarah’s painting style is still developing, though one trademark is clear: color.

“Color is an important aspect of what I do,” Sarah said. “Depending on how I’m feeling, different colors stand out to me. If I want to give out a different feel, different colors can do that.”

Recently Sarah has been using black-and-white photos she’s found as references for paintings.

“Working from these black and white photos is a challenge to me because I can choose what colors to use,” Sarah said. “Colors can trigger certain signals in your head.”

Two works-in-progress illustrate what she means. One is based off a picture taken in bright sunlight, so a bright yellow base is used. The other is an old picture of a family standing in front of a house, and Sarah’s blue wash creates an eerie, sad feeling.

Though she started out mainly working in abstract, Sarah has moved toward figure painting.

“I’m very conscious of what the people in the image are thinking about,” she said.

Sarah uses painting as a way to work through emotions and create visual representations of them. “It’s almost like a meditation or an outlet for contemplation. It’s a space to think,” she said. “What I’m thinking will come through the figures I make.”

Her parents have been supportive of her decision to study art. Sarah said her father helps with the business side and her mother is always there — they talk on the phone almost every day.

“Painting is the only thing I’ve been able to devote myself to,” she said. “It’s who I am. I can’t see myself doing anything else.”

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