Sara Siestreem

  “Umpqua Eden,” Acrylic, graphite, color pencil, and charcoal on BFK Rives paper. Printed with permission on page 59 of   Honoring Our Rivers   Issue 18.

“Umpqua Eden,” Acrylic, graphite, color pencil, and charcoal on BFK Rives paper. Printed with permission on page 59 of Honoring Our Rivers Issue 18.

Sara Siestreem is a Hanis Coos artist from the Umpqua River Valley of Oregon’s southern coast. Her primary language is painting but also works in photography, printmaking, drawing, sculpture, video, and traditional Indigenous weaving. Siestreem created and runs a weaving program for the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians. She teaches studio arts and Indigenous studies courses at Portland State University and community education courses at Pacific Northwest College of Art. Her work in institutional reform relates to curatorial and educational practices regarding Indigenous fine art.

About this painting: 

"Umpqua Eden" is about an ancient village site at the mouth of the Umpqua River in Winchester Bay, Oregon. My ancestors have lived and fished in this place since the beginning of human history on this land mass. It has been vacant and waiting our return for a hundred and seventy years. This land was returned to us this year by the U.S. Government. This summer we will occupy it once again.

About her process:

"I make abstract paintings. My painting process is based on observations of Nature combined with a
formal structure and improvisational practice. I recognize that Nature generates new life through rhythmic cycles of elemental interaction. I see this in biologic life cycles, geologic and hydrodynamic events, and in the astronomic elements that affect the seasons.

"My second observation of Nature is that basic designs repeat themselves from one form to the next
structurally; matter organizes itself in predictable and repetitive ways. Informed by the first observation, I follow a formal structure in my painting practice. I combine color field painting, gesture drawing, and color theory. These three elements represent a natural system, a rhythmic cycle.

"Through combining these elements, I am seeking my second observation. As I create a visual noise
through this improvisation I am looking for basic forms from nature to emerge. When something elemental shows itself to me, I refine the picture plane to support that event. My hope is that in the same way we receive an energetic charge from contact with the land, other animals or a natural event, these paintings will affect the viewer."