Monday, October 11, 2010

Cree Rivera & Joan Vangieri: Gourds, Jewelry, Acrylic Paintings

Cree Rivera and Joan Vangieri work out of their home studio a very short distance off Highway 247. The studio is a wonderful Southwest inspired structure nestled between giant rock formations and perched high above Yucca Valley. Drawing in the scenery that unfolds out and away from their workspace is likely as close as one can get to the world as seen through the eyes of some magnificent raptor.  It’s little wonder that so much of their creativity is expressed through organic materials.
They begin with gourds which, when selected, are covered in loose soil and loam.  Back at their workspace, they peel away the dirt and detritus to reveal fantastic shapes - from whimsical, silly or phallic to an earth mother engorged with natural beauty. 
“I’ll be cleaning a gourd,” says Joan. “And as I scrape away the layers ...”
Cree finishes, “Its shape begins to tell you what it wants to be.”

Rivera and Vangieri met 25 years ago. Their works of art are displayed in every part of their home, from which they also operate their business, Four Directions Printing.  In the fall and winter, Cree holds a yoga class there. Their nest is not at all cluttered. Their sculptural art pieces are separated not according to whose hands crafted them, but in groupings based on characteristics known only to them.  They operate quite naturally like birds of a feather; one need not ask if they are ‘together.’  They have been working with gourds for more than ten years. The impetus for their artistic passion came in the form of a gourd decorated for an anniversary gift.


Once a gourd has been preened and its aspirations revealed it is taken to its full potential. They use a multiplicity of materials ... horsehair, crushed turquoise, hawk and turkey feathers, leather, rabbit fur, beads and stones, denim and dyes, and they create intricate reliefs, carving designs into the skin of a piece, or distinguishing it through pyrography. The results are brilliant.

They do not work on individual pieces together. Each artist has her own style and unique vision. The differences are reflected in their works. Joan, who has created art and painted since childhood is accomplished with a brush. Visitors will find many fine examples of her talent painted on the gourds, but also on wonderful canvases exhibited throughout. She works mostly in acrylics, but is equally adept with oils. All of her work is freehand, some of it dreamlike, much of it intricate.
One of Vangieri's paintings.
Joan Vangieri.

Many of Cree’s pieces are more three-dimensional. She may marry a gourd with formed clay to conjure an image; many are feminine characters with indigenous features, a natural expression of her native Cree ancestry. The three-dimensional aspect of her work also manifests in her jewelry. She seems a free spirit ... open, expressive, warm and unedited. That she is a skilled and popular Hatha Yoga instructor somehow seems completely consistent with who Cree Rivera is. Joan Vangieri seems the perfect complement ... deliberate, complex, contained and kind.
Cree Rivera.
One of Cree Rivera's paintings
Rivera and Vangieri are #44 on the HWY 62 Art Tour, showing the second weekend, October 30th and 31st. This is their first time on the tours; in fact, their works have only ever shown during an annual art auction fundraiser they host. The gourds, which are offered from $5 to $300, have generated a lot of funds for the Humane Society. Visitors to their hi desert perch will want to add their name to the guest list for Joan & Cree’s Holiday Fundraiser.

written by Mike Lipsitz

1 comment:

zafico said...

Beautiful work, Ladies! Can't wait to see you and your artwork this weekend.