Focusing on Fragments

Cynthia Hibbard’s “frag-ment” at Shift Gallery

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By Liz Patterson

Cynthia Hibbard’s new Shift show frag-ment is refreshing to experience.

Her shapes, patterns and printed scrape marks lead us into her subjective experience with the world—both in Seattle and abroad. By that I mean that from this exhibit we can imagine how Hibbard sees: looking closely, focusing, leaning in to get a more detailed look at a surface pattern, painting, or—for example— etchings of random marks made by bakers slamming cooling racks against the metal walls of a commercial elevator.

“The exciting thing to me about both painting and printmaking is that whatever images I encounter in daily life present a template I can build on…”

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“The exciting thing to me about both painting and printmaking is that whatever images I encounter in daily life present a template I can build on,” Hibbard said. “The supply is inexhaustible.”

Her close view translates into making, and in the gallery we are invited to step close as well, look with care, and eliminate our surroundings by pushing them to our peripheral view.

This process of looking closely and separating what is directly in front of us from what surrounds us is the first step towards abstraction. We see these steps unfold in Hibbard’s watercolor series, where she paints, from several different points of view, light striking various tarp coverings at a morning market in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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The geometric shapes that she emphasizes are separated largely by color. The tarps become planes, and as her eye moves in closer, eliminating a horizon line, her paintings begin to abstract – eliminating our point of reference. We are asked then to enjoy what she enjoys – color, patterns, and planes.

Hibbard often paints or makes prints in series and across several mediums.  Her show includes several: gouache depictions of exposed bits of excavated fresco, repurposed and collaged etchings, oil on paper paintings of images found in the surface of burnt metal and bits of encaustic monotype collaged in a fanciful way onto silk-screened images of yet another surface

This time, as well, she ventures into the third dimension with a series of welded and rusted boxes affixed with polished and powder-coated metal fragments.  The boxes are almost symbol of the “fragments” in other parts of her work.

“Zeroing in and abstracting a part of a larger scene is not my only interest in art making but I find it nearly irresistible so I return to it time and again.”

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“Zeroing in and abstracting a part of a larger scene is not my only interest in art making but I find it nearly irresistible so I return to it time and again,” Hibbard said.

At the center of her show, Hibbard’s colorful grouping of collaged woodcuts based on weathered stone blocks in an ancient Zapotec monument refer back to previous work she completed from the same imagery.

“The truth is that although I like to find new inspiration from travel that I never really have to go far to find reference material,“ Hibbard said.  “I can just look out the window at industrial debris in my wharf-side alley and I’m set. The problem, really, is deciding what to pass over and what to pick.”