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Washington Voices

Valley painter shows world’s beauty, damage in landscapes

Clara Woods is an art restorer and painter. She poses with her piece titled “Branch.” (Dan Pelle)
Clara Woods is an art restorer and painter. She poses with her piece titled “Branch.” (Dan Pelle)

Clara Woods makes things more clear and fixes what is damaged. She does art restoration, touching up aged pieces by artists including Charles Russell or contemporary artist’s work that has been torn during transport.

With her own art, she tries to clearly illustrate her view of the world’s beautiful parts as well as its damaged parts. She touches upon religion, poetry and memories depicted figuratively or in landscapes. There is depth in her work; hidden meanings felt but somehow just out of reach. Even the artist isn’t quite sure where the images come from. “They just come out,” she said. “I create art because I have to. It leaves me no choice.”

Her “must haves” for restoration are cotton balls, a liquid mixture of her own secret ingredients and brushes with which she gently touches up great works of art. During an interview, she received a call from a church member. The church has a painting for her to look at. “I get work from word-of-mouth,” she said. “There was a time that I had so much work that I had to refuse calls.”

Woods does not have a computer. Her work takes place the old-fashioned way with handshakes and phone calls.

The focal point in her studio/gallery space, 1817 E. Sprague Ave., is a large vintage drafting table she found in a thrift store that serves as an island in the center of the room. She also has a dry mount press that flattens out rolled or creased paper.

Her own paintings decorate the walls. Done in oil, they are a mix of traditional and contemporary; the simple studies of a branch, a bone, a spine, a landscape, and a chicken are somehow made mysterious and majestic and her figurative studies are curiously posed.

A new thought-provoking series, reminiscent of paper dolls, are pages from works including the Old Testament cut and torn into silhouettes of a man in a wheel chair or an apple core.

Woods, 50, speaks visually, subtly relaying her dreams, thoughts and observations to a viewer. She does not show her work outside of her own gallery space because she paints “for the joy of it, not to please others and I want my work to stay pure. Here, I can do what I want.”

Woods grew up in Silver Star, Mont., where she painted as a child. “I fell in love with color. Mixing red and yellow to make orange was, and still is, magic to me.”

She moved to the Spokane area about 25 years ago for something new. She did picture framing and worked at Spokane Art Supply where she was taught to clean oil paintings. In 2000, she traveled to Slovakia to study art restoration. Now, she is called upon to rescue and preserve the ancient form of language called art as she “writes” her own stories with a brush dipped in oil. 

The Verve is a weekly feature celebrating the arts. If you know an artist, dancer, actor, musician, photographer, band or singer, contact correspondent Jennifer LaRue by e-mail

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