March 1, 2012 in Washington Voices

Ravencraft paintings turn heads; viewers scratch them

Jennifer Larue, Jlarue99@Hotmail.Com
 
Christopher Anderson photoBuy this photo

Sean Ravencraft sits in his Spokane studio with several examples of his work Tuesday. His show at Avenue West Gallery opens on Friday.
(Full-size photo)

Art quote of the week

“Go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.”

Jimmy Carter

Exhibit

Sean Ravencraft’s exhibit “The Strange Man and Ugly Baby” at Avenue West opens with a reception on Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. The free event will include refreshments and music by Gary Burris. Ravencraft will be in costume. Call (509) 838-4999 for more information.

Artist Sean Ravencraft is on a quest.

His pursuits include understanding history, the roots of humanity and struggles with depression. He studies ancient man’s anthropomorphic figures and cave paintings where animals and phenomena including suns, moons, and wind were given human characteristics. His artistic endeavors illustrate modern versions of anthropomorphic animals as well as curious works created intuitively or from dreams.

“There is more to a work of art then just the marks and means that made it,” he writes in his artist’s statement. “My goal is to capture the viewer’s attention, hold it firmly for more than two seconds and, when they walk away, to have left them with questions in their mind.”

Questions certainly arise with a look at Ravencraft’s work. It seems rooted in humankind’s collective struggles with emotional barriers and questions of “How do we truly connect with others?”

In one large painting, a Native American figure holds a cellphone. On the phone’s screen is an animal’s skull pierced with a cross-shaped dagger. Another piece shows a bare footprint alongside a booted one.

There is a dark painting broken by glimpses of the sky; another shows figures gazing down into an abyss lit by a single light bulb.

A recent piece depicts a huge baby with a green head seated for an afternoon snack: a glass of juice and a tiny piece of toast.

The image, called “The Ugly Baby with Dry Toast,” came to Ravencraft in a dream.

“I had spicy spaghetti that night,” he explained. “I dreamed the image, quickly sketched it and then painted it. I like when people look at my work and initially think, ‘What the heck?’ ”

Ravencraft, 42, was born on an Air Force base in Florida. When his father retired from the Air Force in 1977, the family settled in Spokane. His earliest artistic lessons were in woodworking with his father and sewing with his mother. From 1987 to 1994, Ravencraft served in the Navy as an airframe mechanic. He then worked maintaining and building machines and attended Spokane Falls Community College, where he earned technical degrees in orthotics and prosthetics and automotive technology. Currently, he is pursuing an interdisciplinary bachelor’s degree from Eastern Washington University.

He also creates full and partial costumes of animals and portraits of animals with obvious human characteristics. He has shown this type of work at fan conventions, including SPOKON and Further Confusion. He has also given several lectures on costume-making and design.

Early this year, he joined Avenue West Gallery, 122 S. Monroe St., where he will be the featured artist through March.

Influenced by animals, dreams and his Native American, Celtic and German heritage, Ravencraft illustrates his desire to know his origins and make sense of today’s society by urging others to ask questions and seek answers.

It’s not only his paintings that can inspire a “what the heck?” response. Ravencraft also dabbles in performance art and has been known to turn heads when he roams around town dressed as an Afghan hound named Sylvia.

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