In an increasingly harried world, where fomo is widespread and news stories barely hold our attention for more than 24 hours, Terry Furchgott’s paintings are the antithesis.
Her latest body of work features portraits of women at home performing routine tasks. In “The Garden Within,” a woman in yellow sits on the edge of a bed while pulling a sock onto her foot. A pair of slippers is placed on the floor next to a trash can. A floral border frames the relatable scene.
“Each one of them is complete in herself in that moment. She doesn’t need anything else,” said Furchgott. “I think it’s important for young women and for women to say ‘I can be complete in myself.’”
“Garden” and more than a dozen of her richly colored paintings will be on display next month in the exhibition “Intimate Interiors: Women at Home” at harris/harvey Gallery on First Avenue. Furchgott is celebrating personal space. Through depicting daily tasks, the artist elevates the ordinary and focuses on being present.
In “Secret Life of the Home,” a woman takes a break from chores to sit down in a chair and read. A basket of laundry is on her right and a broom on her left. She’s engrossed in the book nestled in her hands. The border of the painting depicts men mounted on horses, battling one another in the desert. It’s a sharp contrast to the woman in the center of the frame.
“I like the mystery of it,” said Furchgott. “You don’t know whether she’s reading about that battle or you don’t know whether she’s not real and the battle is real.”
Furchgott’s paintings have a meditative quality — an intentional quietness that is reflective of the artist herself. Last summer, she celebrated turning 70 years old. The artist says she’s now entered a new stage of her life. She’s going against the cultural norm of constantly being on the go in favor of carving out time to sit quietly. Given the current state of chaos, Furchgott makes an effort to stay grounded. When she’s not in her studio, Furchgott enjoys gardening, cooking, meditating and doing yoga. She recently began taking sewing classes at Seattle Fashion Academy.
Furchgott’s adoration of color and pattern is showcased in “Intimate Interiors.” She often mixes elements of eastern and western culture in her works. The appreciation comes from her travels around the world. After college, the Long Island native moved to England. Later, she spent two years traveling through the east, with much of that time spent in India and Nepal. Furchgott spent several more years in England, and in 1979, she and her now ex-husband moved to Seattle. She was attracted to the natural beauty of the area and the Buddhist meditation community. The couple have three children.
Furchgott’s career includes constructing public art projects, gallery shows and teaching for the last 20 years at Gage Academy of Art. She now teaches workshops so she can have more time to paint.
“I learned so much from teaching,” said Furchgott. “You learn a lot more about your own work and how you do it and how you might do it more consciously from teaching, because you have to show people who learn differently how to draw and how to paint and how color works.”
Furchgott has been working on the paintings in “Intimate Interiors” for the last four years. While she referred to herself as a slow painter, Furchgott goes through an extensive process before she even starts on the final product. For this series, she began by taking photos of models performing various household activities, such as ironing, in her home. She changed the photo to black and white so that she could distinctly see the shapes as well as darker areas. The next step involves creating a “color study” to determine which hues work best together. Her goal is to ensure harmony between multiple elements of each painting: composition, rhythm, subject matter, color and use of dark and light.
“All those elements have to come together as one to make it work as a picture. And the more you can do that, the more that you can have them all enhance each other, the better the picture will work,” said Furchgott. “I can feel when it goes click and it’s okay.”
Over the years, Furchgott’s work has mirrored the different phases of her life and is mostly centered around women. She finds people’s faces particularly alluring.
The professional artist has taken great care in showing the dignity and beauty of “women’s work” in her latest series. Further, the paintings are an interior examination of oneself.
“What do you do when you’re not fighting against something? When you get to a place where you’re not saying this is right and that’s wrong, but it’s just you,” said Furchgott. “Then you have to find something where you can be complete, just you, and that’s hard to do too.”
WHAT: “Intimate Interiors: Women at Home”
WHEN: May 2 – June 1; artist talk, May 25, 1 - 2 p.m.
WHERE: harris/harvey Gallery, 1915 First Ave., Seattle
Lisa Edge is a Staff Reporter covering arts, culture and equity. Have a story idea? She can be reached at lisae (at) realchangenews (dot) org. Follow Lisa on Twitter @NewsfromtheEdge
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