CVG Show: Caroline Cooley Browne

Caroline Cooley Browne in her Bainbridge Island studio.

An art professor I knew used to say that red is not a color, it’s an emotion.

No doubt, red is emotional. Put it next to its complement green, and red becomes so red that it can jump out of a chair. Caroline Cooley Browne knows how to make red jump out of a chair. Her pastels on paper are so full of emotion that she could easily paint the couch in Sigmund Freud’s Vienna office. Instead she choses to paint chairs from her Bainbridge Island studio.

The rich hues of oil pastels and the simple geometric shapes of her tables and chairs become an entire family of feelings and emotions. Spend some time talking with Cooley Browne, and you’ll soon realize how important community and family are to her. Whether she’s using pastels or weaving yak twine to make vessels, she’s busy building a community of similar objects where no two are exactly alike. A family. “I’ve always loved repeated units — it’s a theme of mine,” she said.

Part of the emotion in Cooley Browne’s work comes from grief. In 1982 when Browne’s brother died in an auto accident, she used a set of oil pastels that her sister gave her to work through her sorrow. The result was a series she calls The Hallway. “In some ways, something that’s real tragic can spur you into doing something with great depth,” she said. “My art became more internal, conceptual and meaningful,” she said. “Chairs became a metaphor for me, people, how we live together and interact.”

Later that sister gave her a small-frame loom. She began rag weaving rugs and pillows. But a couple of years ago, she started weaving three-dimensional baskets out of yak twine her husband brought home from Bhutan. Once again, she began to repeat the forms she was creating. Referring to her woven piece she calls The Hive, which you can see at tonight’s CVG Show opening, she said, “…after I started making a few, I thought I’d make a community.”

Cooley Browne also had a piece in the 2008 CVG Show and has shown her work at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, the Bainbridge Library and other galleries both on Bainbridge and in Seattle. You can visit her Web site at

During February, The Artful Blogger will talk with some of the artists whose work is showing in the Collective Visions Gallery’s annual show. The show runs from Feb. 2 to Feb. 27. That doesn’t give enough time to highlight all the artists involved, but I will do my best to reach as many as possible. If you have any suggestions for The Artful Blogger, you can reach me at