Musing On the Fringes of Downtown
Woodpecker’s Muse expands artistic possibilities
by Suzi Steffen
|Artwork by Jean Denis
Half a block southwest of the Vintage stands an old house on Broadway, kitted out with Halloween trimmings. Profiled rats scurry across the house, spiderwebs encircle the porch and tombstones pop up in the front yard. One of the tombstones shows a list of Eugene galleries that have bit the dust in the past few years, including Opus VI, Fenario, La Follette and Ink Thirsty. A non-holiday-related sign for the Ultimate Hair Salon sits side by side with a sign for the reason behind all of the decorations: The Woodpecker’s Muse art gallery.
Why, with a tombstone for all of Eugene’s lost and gone places for viewing local art downtown, did gallery proprietors Carrie Burt, a fiber artist, and Doug Kacir, a fine woodworker, decide to open this space in May? Sitting in the middle of their current show of portraits by Eugene artist Jean Denis, they both laugh and roll their eyes. It’s not a new question, though the gallery has only been open since May, just after they moved into the house behind and above the business spaces.
Burt and Kacir, like many others before them, left L.A. in search of a slightly different life and, in Burt’s case, to get out of the title insurance business after the market collapsed. Kacir earned a BFA in ceramics in the late ’70s, but he never pushed to become a ceramics artist; instead, needing to fund his life, he apprenticed as a carpenter and worked for many years in the field. His skills, Burt notes, have been quite helpful in prepping the gallery space, which was at first one large room and has now expanded into the hair salon as well. “They close the door if they’re doing a perm or something,” Burt says, “but otherwise it’s a way to extend the gallery.”
For the 12 artists who participated in a recent group exhibit, this means their work stays up for much longer than it otherwise would have, and it means that all of the people coming in to get their hair done sit in a space filled with art from the likes of Jud Turner, Victoria Woollen-Danner and others ranging from metalsmiths to photographers to paper artists.
Burt says The Woodpecker’s Muse is her work and essentially her life right now. She hasn’t had time to do much of her own stuff, but just behind a couple of the gallery’s doors, her sewing machine and works in progress attest to the possibilities when she can catch her breath and get a little time in the studio. Meanwhile, Kacir is working on remodeling a next-door house, so he can be at his nongallery work “by walking about 12 feet,” he says. The gallery’s not quite downtown, so it took some time to get it into the First Friday Art Walk rotation, and though Woodpecker’s Muse happily participates in the Last Friday Artwalk, most of the galleries on Last Friday lie in the Whiteaker.
The current show, “Faces: The Human Yearbook” by Jean Denis, contains untitled portraits of mostly Eugene-area people, with thoughtful/playful labels that viewers can switch around. Who’s the organic farmer, and who’s the biologist? The viewer decides. This show is up through the Nov. 4 First Friday (there’s also a reception during Last Friday on Oct. 29), after which Burt and Kacir start mounting the new exhibit of UO art student Sarah Revfem’s paintings.
“It’s tough to sell anything over $20” in Eugene right now, Burt says, but they’re both committed to providing space for Eugene artists anyway. Slightly off the beaten gallery path, the Woodpecker’s Muse won’t be on its tombstone anytime soon.