A visit to Eva Stina Bender's home is an aesthetic feast for the soul. Friend Cindi Dixon captures the everyday surroundings of this Swedish born painter in a montage of photographs of exquisite detail - light, shadow and reflection embracing a vision of a simplicity and joy in a life well-lived. A few are snapshots by Eva herself who inherited the simple pleasure in homemaking from her mother, whom she declared was quite "excellent" at the task.
I visited Eva recently to put the finishing touches on her upcoming "Vessels" exhibition, and was struck by the light and airiness of her front room, sun streaming in the large south facing windows. A collection of small potted, flowering plants - pink cyclamen, yellow tulips and red amaryllis - were sitting on the table, a fresh painting or two of the vingette sitting opposite, propped against the wall.
She had prepared lunch served on a simple white linen cloth in vintage green glassware - open faced sandwiches of smoked ham, grilled with a banana sliced lengthwise, grated sharp cheddar cheese and a sprinkling of curry, a small bowl of sliced blood, Cara Cara and regular oranges topped with toasted hazel nuts and a drizzle of maple syrup, and a cleansing ginger beer.
Conversation wended its way easily between us, having the pleasure of knowing one another for over a decade now. We've shared each other's joys, sorrows, and changes in life situation. I've had the privilege of watching the reflection of it all in her work, so eloquently, unapologetically and honestly executed. One of her darkest moments was losing her son Eli, just shortly after I knew her. I recall a period of mostly black in her watercolors - black leaves, vessels, and spaces - and they were beautiful, deep, colorful and elegant.
Eva says of this latest body of work, "I am dealing with loss, aging, dispossession and re-orientation... I am not saying I have lived through anything out of the ordinary. I have lost my house and community, my family situation, my marriage and my mother. Grieving is involved in all these events." Her reflections on loss and emptiness in this exhibition aren't sad, and the metaphorical parallels in shadow and darkness, are instead fresh and suffused with light. "I don't feel all empty vessels and containers are sad. Some hold air, some even joy, maybe just possibilities of change."
Recently I read an essay by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki entitled "In Praise of Shadows", in which he says, "The quality that we call beauty must always grow from the realities of life...to discover beauty in shadows, ultimately to guide shadows towards beauty's ends. And so it has come to be that beauty... depends on a variation of shadows, heavy shadows against light shadows - it has nothing else." So aptly does he state what Eva executes in her work and surroundings with such divine clarity.
The exhibition, "Eva Stina Bender: Vessels" opens Friday, March 25th at the Lynden Gallery, with an Artist's Jazz Reception featuring the Charles Muench Trio from 5:00 till 8:00 p.m. Ceramics by Casey Dixon will be included, and Front Wall Feature is Lou Schellenberg. The work will remain on display through the month of June.