The Lifelong Creativity of Berkeley Artist Eve Pageant

When I visited her home studio, the sheer numbers of her art pieces astounded me. Every wall was covered with her paintings, and shelves were filled with her sculptures. Her art ranged from fabulous human figure sculptures to sculptural reliefs to oil paintings to drawings, the best artwork I’d ever seen.

by Lili Dubois

I first met Eve Pageant at a restaurant at which I worked in Berkeley. She would bring her current artwork and work on it for several hours at a time. It ranged from fabulous human figure sculptures to sculptural reliefs to oil paintings to ink, charcoal and colored pencil drawings.

It was the best artwork I’d ever seen, including that of the art professors in my college classes.

We became quick friends, and I found her to be a shy, modest, knowledgeable and generous person. Ultimately, I visited her home studio, and the sheer numbers of her art pieces astounded me. Every wall was covered with her paintings, and shelves were filled with her bronze and wax sculptures.

Eve loved music, and played banjo and guitar, and was learning electric bass towards the end. She often accompanied me to my gigs, where she would make pen and ink sketches of the musicians and patrons. People often mistook us for sisters, and ultimately we became sisters, closer to me than my real sisters.

Eve grew up in Indiana, where her parents were both psychology professors and published authors. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Indiana University.

One of her sisters became an ear, nose and throat specialist and surgeon. Her other sister was a brilliant biochemistry major before her own early death.

Eve suffered from severe asthma her entire life, and Indiana’s climate didn’t agree with her. As a child she had to spend entire summers in her air-conditioned bedroom, where she spent many hours developing her art skills, which weren’t impacted by her asthma.

She told me that she wasn’t able to go to camp like the other kids because of her asthma. Her parents offered to send her to a treatment center in Colorado to live, but Eve decided not to leave her family.

She and her partner moved to Boulder, Colorado, where amazingly she had no trouble breathing. But they were intrigued by the idea of living in Hawaii, and moved there. But as soon as Eve stepped off the plane, she realized it was a mistake.

Over the several months they lived on the Big Island, she had to go into the hospital several times. They moved back to the mainland, to San Francisco, where she’d briefly lived during the “summer of love,” as a teenage runaway in 1967.

But around 1978, her partner, who suffered from chronic depression, unexpectedly committed suicide. Eve was understandably traumatized by this, and moved back in with her family, who at that time lived in Palo Alto.

Ultimately, she found a home in Berkeley, where she had lived as a high school student while her father was on sabbatical.

A sculptural relief of surfers created by Berkeley artist Eve Pageant, 1949-2015.

A sculptural relief of surfers created by Berkeley artist Eve Pageant, 1949-2015.

 

She was never homeless, as far as I know, but there were times that she was so hard up that she was down to one pair of worn-out canvas shoes, and couldn’t afford another pair.

Because of her legal disability, she explored the local resources for the disabled. She found that the CLC had an extensive art program with many different types of art supplies, including a kiln. She produced a dozen or more figurative ceramic sculptures of her own design, glazed and fired them. Though they weren’t as regal in appearance as her bronze pieces, they are among my personal favorites.

Eve never had a large exhibit in Berkeley, but she’s had pieces on display in institutions such as the De Young Museum in San Francisco, and Indiana University.

On the morning of October 30, 2015, Eve was found with her bronchial inhaler mask on her face, sitting slumped over. She had been deceased for about two hours. Her death was determined to be from cardiac arrest, with contributing factors of hypertension and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). No services were planned.

Her family hopes to publish a book of Eve’s art. Eve was 66. She will be missed by all her friends and family. She was the most gentle, talented and memorable person I’ve ever known.

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