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Tapping Tradition
WILLAMETTE WEEK, July 24-July 30, 1986

by: Tim Sills

There's a litho studio lost in a pocket of pine in Portland's West Hills.

It's equipped with last century's best manual presses - 4-ton, cast-iron hardware adapted to turn out this city's least outrageous, most feel-good art. Though hardly heady, Sara Harwin serigraphs are definitely happy and a relief for the - esoteric-burdened eye. Harwin's pirouetting Greeks, Russians - Jews, Turks, Hopis', Swedes and, Norwegians celebrate ethnic ritual with upbeat depictions of unity in symbols of dance and spirit. Though you won't see them in Portland's chi-chi galleries, they're no less conceptual than trendier works. From exquisite and meticulous paper cutouts to an Escheresque exchange of subject and background to design detail in, costume 'and color, these prints vibraie with joie de vivre. "There's so much untapped art in cultural tradition that I have a lifetime's work ahead of me," understates the 38-year-old Harwin. Her attention to detail doesn't make that task simple: "She does an average of 150 sketches on each painting before; arriving at the final draft.

So what do you do with art that doesn't fry the aesthetic-synapse or detonate emotional-mountains? Simple. You plant it on a wall and let it grow; this stuff is as organic as a house plant. Unlike many of the bizarre wares that lose their rush soon after the first viewing, Harwin's silkscreens unfold slowly, becoming a sort of song-on-a-wall and, ultimately, like all good art, personal.

Though she's been plying her trade in Portland since 1969, Harwin never has formally - plugged into the PDX market, and she's better known in New York and Los Angeles, where her work is exhibited. But she welcomes the curious to her studio (Harwin Studios, 9101 SW 15th Ave., Portland, 245-8900; - call for appointments) and currently has a number of works in progress.

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Harwin Studios   |   9101 SW 15th Ave.   |   Portland, Oregon 97219   |   Phone (503) 246-7479   |   Fax (503) 246-7479   |