AUS Commencement 2018 celebrated our latest graduates’ transition from student to alumni, while also celebrating many others in our community, including the support systems that help our grads complete their degrees.
One such celebration was the inclusion of globally-minded art pieces decorating Commencement, provided by local artist Doe Stahr of Deer Creek Studio. A pottery and textile artist, Stahr supplied AUS with 14 large textile paintings to display throughout commencement, including four on the main stage.
Stahr’s 30-year career as an artist is multicultural, informed by cultures from around the world, and rooted in the indigenous artwork of the Pacific Northwest. Stahr herself is T’saawkaawkw of the Dakleweidee, Killer whale clan, and was adopted into the Killer whale clan in 1996 in Haines, Alaska.
As she and her husband Michael Clyburn set up her art displays before Commencement, Stahr explained how many of her different pieces were painted during specific moments in recent history and current events. For example, her website shows and describes a piece she created in response to the 50 year commemoration of the March on Washington. She infused this painting with African textile design styles and quotes from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and quotes from the speakers at the commemoration event. She jotted down quotes while listening to the live radio broadcast. Each work of art is, in her words, “about the community that’s represented.”
Some of the meanings behind her paintings are public, and some are kept personal, but all hold spiritual resonance. Most of her paintings feature repeating patterns, which tie into this spirituality. As she explained while setting up her art displays for AUS Commencement 2018, “The repetition is the prayer. I pray for all kinds of things. I pray for the historical moment that this piece may be anchored in.” With humor, she added, “And I pray that the paint doesn’t drip!”
Her textile painting materials are also rooted in values of environmental and social justice, and sustainability. Each painting starts with a large sheet of polyester felt, manufactured from recycled plastic bottles. The paint and mixed media materials, such as buttons, are purchased from Northwest thrift stores “that serve the community.” For example, much of her recycled paint is purchased from a thrift store that helps support a local animal shelter.
The textile paintings are durable enough for outdoor display and were even, according to Deer Creek Studio’s website, “designed for use on round banquet tables.” When asked about this in person while setting up for the event, Stahr went one step further, explaining “These are designed for use on tables, just like these.”
It was particularly good news to learn of the paintings’ durability, because two of her paintings were on display at the outdoor entrance to the Magnuson Park hangar that hosted AUS Commencement 2018. (Pictured here with two of the AUS event volunteers who helped direct students and guests to the door.) While Seattle weather was mostly sunny and mild that day, the afternoon also brought intermittent bursts of wind and rain lasting for a few minutes at a time.
On her collaboration with Antioch University Seattle, Stahr explained, “I am particularly honored to serve Antioch because of their mission, and the vivid diversity of their student body and faculty. This diversity is mirrored in my art, which seeks to serve our beautifully blended communities here in Western Washington.”