Devon Urquhart takes in the world differently than most of us.
She doesn’t see something for what it is on the surface; she sees it for what it could be, for how it could transform from ordinary to extraordinary — forcing onlookers to pause and understand a new definition for the objects that make up our planet.
Take the ghost, for example: A recurring character in Urquhart’s dioramic bolo ties. The ghost is so often a symbol of fear and mystery — an imprint of a life that was — but in Urquhart’s work, the ghost is you. She’s all of us. She’s walking her pink poodle; flying a kite; hanging out with her friend, the monkey. She’s filled with life and happiness.
Or consider the cicada, another of Urquhart’s muses. The big, crunchy insect is often found in the South, and they live below ground for more than a decade before surfacing for an all-out party, of sorts. Above the soil, cicadas eat, mate, and then die just a few weeks later.
The cicada’s odd life cycle always intrigued Urquhart. She has a huge collection of cicada bodies and shells, as well as other leggy and interesting insects, but for a while she was just storing them in glass bottles without much use for them.
“I was like, ‘What am I going to do with them? What’s the purpose of having them?’” she said. “And then it clicked. I thought it would be funny to put bugs in human situations.”
Urquhart, 37, makes little still-life photography scenes of the insects living it up — hosting dinner parties, taking bubble baths, smoking weed, and passing out in a bedroom littered with snacks. At the Tacoma Night Market, where she often sells her art, people thumb through the prints, pull a few out and laugh, showing their friends. The insect fiesta photos are always a hit, she said.
The Colorado-born and Louisiana-raised artist currently lives in Tacoma, where she makes art in many modalities, from bolo ties and still-life photography to ceramics and upcycled clothing, while also working part-time as a technician in the art department at Green River College in Auburn.
She left Louisiana in 2002 and moved to Seattle to attend the Art Institute, where she earned a degree in fashion design. After graduating, though, Urquhart realized she didn’t want to pursue a traditional career in fashion and went on to work as a head chocolatier for a small-batch maker in Post Alley before the shop closed when one of the owners died. From there, she worked odds-and-ends jobs in Seattle, and then, when her brother passed away in 2013, she and her longtime boyfriend, Aaron, decided they needed a change, so they moved to the South Sound.
Her quirky style and perception fit well in the South Sound, an area filled with grit and flair, and yet, conversely, she stands out. It’s part of what makes her work so exciting: You never know what she’s going to come up with next or how she might capture and reshape another art form.
“I think I look at everything and find beauty in it,” she said. “Nature is a big influence on my art. I think there’s just so much beauty in everything. That’s why I feel I’ll never do one thing. There’s so much prettiness out there.”
Her art can be found on her Instagram (@devon_in_space) and on Etsy under the same moniker. Seeing her work in person, however, is a must, so check her out at the Tacoma Night Market, where a booth of her work can often be found.
Her diorama art scenes also will be on display from April 1 through May 5 at an exhibit that showcases the work of the technicians who assist the art professors at Green River College. Her contribution, which centers around the brain, will be on view at the Helen Smith Gallery on the college campus.