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Art comes to life as studios around Clark County open their doors for annual tour

In front of a few spectators inside her Hough neighborhood art studio, Sharon Svec discussed a tapestry work she was creating. Svec quickly hinted, as she prepared to soak the antique portrait of a dancer on a piece of fabric, that she viewed it as more than a two-dimensional piece of art.

“I’ll get her bath started,” Svec joked.

Fifty artists throughout Clark County opened their studios Saturday and Sunday as part of a self-guided tour. The seventh annual tour featured various types of art — including painting, fiber arts, mixed media, sculpting, ceramics and print making — and was organized by Artstra, a nonprofit arts advocacy group in Southwest Washington.

Svec’s studio, inside a Vancouver garage, was Linda Bifano’s seventh stop on the tour.

“It’s amazing, the diversity of the arts and the mediums,” Bifano said of the tour.

Bifano, of Portland, said she had never heard of the process Svec was displaying. Svec’s tapestries, several of which were displayed Sunday, undergo similar processes.

After spreading light-sensitive dye on a piece of fabric, Svec places a photo negative on top of it. She then exposes the combination either to sunlight for 10 minutes or, on a cloudy day, an overhead reptile light for up to 40 minutes.

Svec then soaks the work (hence her bath joke) before adding other fabric designs or spray paint.

On Sunday, the artworks featured portraits of early 1900s dancers from the American Denishawn School of Dancing and Related Arts. The school’s founder, Ruth St. Denis, was a pioneer in modern dance.

“It was so risque and not accepted,” Svec said of the dance form at the time. “I really love, you know, the way they were committed to their art form against all odds.”

That spirit resonated with Svec, who was forced to set aside her own passion for dancing five years ago. While pregnant with her child, a doctor told her that she might have a rare pregnancy condition.

Svec ended up not having the condition and gave birth to a healthy child. But as she awaited the more positive news, she was forced to cancel a performance she had choreographed.

Still reeling from the cancellation, Svec came across a photo of one of the Denishawn dancers. She decided that, rather than emulate them through dance, she would create works of art in their honor.

One day, her imagination sparked as one of her pieces waved in front of a heater. To Svec, it seemed as if the dancer in the portrait had come to life.

“So I’m like, now I can have a dancer,” Svec said. “I had that feeling that I was performing that dance again.”


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