Groovy as Hell: Gwen Weber and her Artistic Eye

Weber+in+her+studio

Camille Lubach

Weber in her studio

Camille Lubach , Staff Writer

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Gwen Weber, wearing a bright orange turtleneck and sitting at her kitchen table, smiles as a black cat named Mushroom walks by meowing. It is not uncommon to find Weber in her studio bent over in concentration, legs curled beneath herself on a cushioned chair. Weber seeks comfort and solitude when she makes art.

“Diligent, detail-oriented, innovative, unique, visionary, clever, and poetic, are all words to describe Gwen Weber,” fellow Studio Art Major Stephanie Juanillo said, describing her classmate. After speaking with Weber for 40 minutes, this description lined up perfectly.

Weber is a junior Studio Art and Biology double major from Portland, Ore. Her peers know her by her canny ability to mix vintage and contemporary apparel. “She is the supreme fashion icon… Also—groovy as hell,” said senior Studio Art major Caroline Hall.

A theme of 60s and 70s vintage clothing and psychedelic imagery weave throughout Weber’s work. Her studio space is personalized with handmade William Morris seat covers and an electric tea kettle. Located in the art department, the white walls are decorated with posters and photographs of Arts and Crafts and Art Nouveau designs.

“I don’t like making art in front of other people,” she said, describing her creative process. Audiobooks, podcasts, or Florence and the Machine play through Weber’s headphones as she works.

In addition to music, Weber stays stimulated by making embroidery works. “It helps me listen,” she said, challenging the notion that one cannot multitask and pay attention. Beginning at just 12 years old, Weber carried her thread and needle to doctor’s appointments and classes, keeping her fingers working while remaining focused. 

A recently embroidered work of Weber’s features two hands intertwined atop pale yellow and blue type that reads, “To Have and to Hold,” representative of her long-distance relationship with her girlfriend. 

The piece was painstakingly made in back-stitch, so tightly woven that the tabby weave beneath does not show through. “Every time I would make a stitch in the project, it’s like… I’m thinking about you, I’m thinking about you,” Weber said. She draws this analogy between the artistic processes and building relationships. “It’s not all big gestures, it’s about showing up and doing the work.”

Weber continues to show the link between art and love, “Being a lesbian is really important to me and it is something I was so ashamed to talk about for so long,” she said. Producing art featuring lesbian and female sexuality is how Weber gives voice to this central part of her identity. 

In the classroom and on social media, Weber advocates for female and non-white artists. “Where are the women? Why are they only talking about the white men?” Weber asks in response to the overwhelming focus on male artists in the historical and contemporary art scene. Painter Lee Krasner and screen printer Clorita Kent are two examples of exceptional female artists that Weber admires. Kent’s weaving of text and image is central to Weber’s own work. 

“I like the way she blends spirituality and the mundane,” Weber said. She notes Kent’s clever use of satire in comparison to the cynicism of Andy Warhol prints. 

Weber went on to list the multiple works she is currently developing. Art zines, which are small self-published artist books filled with stories, comic pages, or illustrations are Weber’s latest exciting projects. Her personal collection of zines were acquired from friends and years of art fairs. Collecting is one of Weber’s major interests, which range from music posters to vintage brooches.

 As a collector, biology major, and self-proclaimed maximalist, Weber is frustrated with consumer culture and the resulting waste. “We live in an era where people buy stuff and throw it out. I like to store stuff and repurpose it and use it.” Weber does her part by shopping secondhand. 

Before the pandemic struck, Weber regularly attended estate sales. She is primarily drawn to the clothing at these sales, and treasures each item she acquires. “I feel like you can get to know people through their clothes because it’s so close to their skin,” she said. Imagining the wearer’s life and the story behind each article of clothing makes the purchase all the more personal.

“It mattered to somebody so I’m going to try to treat it well.” Weber’s hope is that people feel the same with her own clothing she’s sold. 

 

To explore more of Weber’s style- Instagram.

For WIPs and vibrant prints-Instagram.