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Sm{art}: The Disarming Catherine Eyde

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I fall more in love with the work of Catherine Eyde every time I look at her art. Her colorful renditions of women, creatures and landscapes both ordinary and fantastical walk the line between twee and haunting, like a gorgeous, uneasy mixture of Grimm's fairy tales, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and feminist sci-fi.

from Red Sky, Velvet Cushion, from the Land Escapes collection by Catherine Eyde, in which a bright blue stream runs past green, red, yellow and purple hills under a red sky

Left: "Messenger" (mixed media on paper) from the Bellydancers and Birds collection; right: "Red Sky, Velvet Cushion" (acrylic on wood) from the Land Escapes collection

I first became familiar with Eyde while living in Tucson, where she still resides with her daughter. (Lucky Tucsonans: Eyde frequently holds shows in town, though the reach of her acrylic and watercolor paintings, drawings and mixed media on both wood and paper is hardly limited to Arizona.) Someone handed me a bookmark for her Art for the Imagination exhibition that caught my eye right away, adorned as it was with her "Bee Lady" print in which a half-woman, half-honeycomb creature stares serenely forward. While images of "Bee Lady" are unfortunately not online, bumblebees are a recurring subject in Catherine Eyde's work, along with deer, the surreal, and Eyde's family, including her daughter and her sister, bellydancer Susan Eyde.

Of all Eyde's collections, my favorite at the moment might be Women in Space. Eyde's ethereal protagonists travel and converse under skies of brash, unexpected colors, often including a mysterious eye as a star. With its imagery of women carrying suitcases, employing rocket ships that look like Cinderella's coach, and interacting with only semi-Earthly creatures, Women in Space presents sci-fi as a domain of capable females, as if it could never have been depicted as anything else.

"To Recover, Identity," from the Women in Space collection by Catherine Eyde, in which a woman in a spacesuit and helmet carries a disembodied head in a helmet among blue vines and fuchsia flowers against a green background   "Rest Stop," from the Women in Space collection by Catherine Eyde, in which the same spacesuit-dressed woman stands on a blue ground looking back at the pale green rocket ship in which her grey, helmeted cat still sits, all in front of an orange sky

Left to right: "To Recover, Identity" (acrylic on wood) and "Rest Stop" (watercolor on paper) from the Women in Space collection.

For 2011, Ms. Eyde has taken on an ambitious project called ART 365, in which she creates a new drawing every day. When I first found this out, I both salivated and worried, wondering "Will the pieces be lower quality since they're done so quickly?" Oh my, no. While texturally different from her paintings, Eyde's dreamlike drawings still stop me in my tracks. Take a look at this one, for example:

"Circus Girl" by Catherine Eyde, a pastel drawing in which a girl in a clown shirt cries from her four eyes in front of several closed and apparently empty circus tents

"Circus Girl" (printed with archival inks on Museo Portfolio Rag)

I also appreciate how Eyde's art incorporates a sense of place, and not just in the Women in Space pieces. Her penciled drawings and wood paintings, especially, often have a distinct desert vibe. Bees aren't the only hot-weather animals depicted as non-threatening (or even charming) either:

"Snake Scarf" by Catherine Eyde, a drawing in which a girl wearing a long-sleeved shirt, a skirt and kneesocks rides through cacti-dotted hills of sand on a giant red bicycle with a green, two-headed snake wrapped around her neck like a scarf

"Snake Scarf" (printed with archival inks on Museo Portfolio Rag)

"Circus Girl" and "Snake Scarf" are two of the many drawings that Catherine has on Etsy. In addition to offering contact information for potential sales on her website, Eyde sells one-of-a-kind reproductions of her ART 365 pieces for as low as $25 in her Etsy store. The store's biggest draw for me, though, as usual with Catherine Eyde's art, is the opportunity to simply sit and observe. I find her work sometimes sorrowful, sometimes inspiring, but always evocative.

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Wow, I love her style! I'm

Wow, I love her style! I'm admittedly not an artsy person, but her drawings really appeal to me because she combines two of my favorite themes: girlishness/femininityand fantasy. I may have to order a couple of her prints from Etsy to decorate my new apartment - hope they have the snake scarf drawing.