Image of artist at work in the studio,

This is not Archival | New works by Hester Coucke

August 23 – September 20, 2022

Artist Talk, Thursday, September 15, 5 pm

This is not Archival is work made from cardboard and other detritus by The Arts Center’s long-time, and soon to be Emeritus Curator, Hester Coucke.

Not all art needs to be in existence forever. Some of it can be enjoyed for a while, and then make room for work by the next maker.” Hester Coucke

Over her 30+ years serving the public at The Arts Center, Hester Coucke has supported thousands of artists and carefully managed their artworks, from beginner and aspiring to well-established. It is not uncommon for a curator to get inspired to make art, and with her art teaching background, Coucke had a foundation that informs her creative impulses.

She enjoyed the freedom not all professional artists have to not maintain a specific style, medium, or technique. She ignores advice she gives others (and herself) to stick to a coherent body of work. Instead, Coucke makes small sculptural pieces from random pieces of wood, combined with found threadbare/ tattered elements, while occasionally inserting brightly colored new materials. Natural, organic detritus is combined with man-made substances, such as ear plugs product of the petrochemical industry in matching vibrant color.

Coucke, despite herself, has produced two distinct bodies of work:  images of iceberg scenes and animals which are (mostly) articulated. The icebergs are inspired by her interest in early Antarctic exploration, and all the madness which accompanies that. The temporary nature of icebergs is reflected in the temporary material she uses.

The animals stem from her perception that some animals seem impractical and outrageously designed: too large, weirdly colorful, body parts that can become pockets or bags . . . the list of oddities can go on. She combined her dual interests in animals and the Antarctic to depict the largest mammal on earth, which seems like a fish. Her Moby Dick can be seen in Browsers Books in Albany. 

For this exhibit, Coucke used inspiration from the Chinese year of the TIGER. She started small with a schematic model to see how it all works, and she then shows several studies and the final finished piece.

Coucke selected a fitting title for her last exhibit as The Arts Center’s Curator. ”This is not Archival” refers to the materials she uses, which are not meant to withstand the test of “forever” time. “Not all art needs to be in existence forever. Some of it can be enjoyed for a while, and then make room for work by the next maker,” says Coucke. She passes her long-held position to incoming Curator and Public Programs Manager, Jennie Castle at the end of September 2022. 


The Arts Center’s Public Programs are supported by Oregon Arts Commission, National Endowment for the Arts, City of Corvallis Parks & Recreation, and through member, donor and The Arts Center Endowment Fund support.