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Celebration of life theme depicted in paintings
The Oregonian, July 8, 1985

by: Catherine Van Horne

Designed around a central theme of dance and celebration, the artwork of Portland artist Sara Harwin has a universal appeal.

Her serigraphs and paintings often depict joyful dancers from diverse nations and backgrounds participating in celebrations common worldwide or to a specific culture.

Hopi Indians, toga-clad Greeks and a traditional American couple in bridal gown and suit dance their way through cultural weddings on several of Harwin's prints while Jewish ceremonies are played out on others.

"A theme in my work follows the idea that celebrations are universal around the world," said Harwin, who markets her serigraphs and other art nationwide. "We all have happy occasions, but they're often so fleeting that we don't take the time to let them light up our lives. My interest is in bringing back those moments to life."

One of Harwin's serigraphs, L'Shanah Tova Tikatevu, has been selected as a UNICEF card print by the organization's greeting card operation.

The print, whose title translated means "may you be inscribed (in the book) for a good year," shows dancing men celebrating the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. According to Jewish belief, the Book of Judgment is opened during that period.

"It's a time of great reflection on the year past and the year to come," she said. "It is said that God reviews the year with you and inscribes in the book what your following year will be like."

UNICEF selects only 330 prints per year from the thousands of entries received for the greeting card program, Harwin said. From those 330 prints, UNICEF member nations select the designs they wish to use in their countries.

Harwin will learn in January which countries have chosen her design, and the cards probably will be printed and distributed in 1987, she said.

The cultural celebration themes that run through Harwin's work reflect the interests in dancing, music, folk tales and heritage she has had since childhood. She credits her family and her upbringing for allowing her to become sensitive to people from other backgrounds and lands. "I remember as a child discovering that there were certain groups of people who had no right to do things that I had the right to do. It seemed so cruel and ugly. We're all alike - we have the same joys in life, and that's what I express in my work."

Harwin received a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Michigan, where she began experimenting with printmaking and her dancing figures.

"At that time I was trying a number of prints with the dancing figures. I just sort of knew that they were going to be successful. I tried a lot of other things but never had the same feeling."

Her artwork, which also includes paintings, papercuts and collaborations with artists who reproduce her designs in other media, often is exhibited nationwide. Her work also is part of permanent collections in Michigan, California, Massachusetts and Cannon Beach.

Harwin said her work extended her boundaries and allowed her to reach out and touch people.

"Life to me is extending your boundaries as much as you can," she said. "Life is to share, and I can do this through my work."

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