It would be a stretch to call these two works of art "paintings." Instead of oil, acrylic, or watercolor, the deep, brown-toned stains on these two wood panels were created when Alexie Hoffman applied layers of coffee, tea, and wine.
"They make beautiful stains, but also they're conversational drinks. You go have coffee, tea, or wine with someone to get to know them," says the recent Seattle Pacific University graduate.
Hoffman's senior show, on display in the Seattle Pacific Art Center Gallery in Spring 2011, explored images of hearing and vision, centering around the idea of what it means to truly "hear" and "see" other people.
Hoffman first became interested in images from anatomy and the science of hearing through an SPU class called "The Physics of Sound" and conversations with a friend's mom who is an audiologist. Her junior year, Hoffman did a drawing of cilia, the hairs of the inside of the ear, which "look like little trumpets."
Anatomical images both interior and exterior fascinate Hoffman. She notes that hands — a notorious drawing challenge for art students — vary in shape a great deal from person to person. In these two pieces, she based the wood-burned images of the American Sign Language for "hard-of-hearing" and the letter "H" on drawings she did of her own hands.
She hopes the pieces will cause viewers to reflect on how people with disabilities make themselves heard — and consider what barriers they face, in a metaphorical sense, to hearing other people.
"In such a noisy world," she says, "I try to appreciate silence, but also find ways for those who have been silenced to be heard."