Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Hart James: The ancients

"Understory," oil on canvas, each panel 18" x 24"
 Paintings by Olympia artist Hart James are now on display in the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, 512 Washington St. SE, Olympia.  

"Heart of the Hawthorne" oil, 2' square
I first discovered Hart James when she had a show of small collages at Olyphant Art Supply in September 2013. In my review of her show I wrote: “. . . surrealistic images, lots of gilded frames, butterflies, Renaissance figures, leafs and feathers. They appear to be delicate, and are meticulously constructed in the tradition of Joseph Cornell boxes and Kurt Schwitters collages.”

Referencing a couple of collages with female figures I wrote: “The skillful ways in which these figures are integrated with fine drawing, butterfly wings and other collage elements is simply wonderful.”

Now she has taken her imagery in a different direction with landscapes that remind me a lot of Cezanne and also of local landscape artist Kathy Gore Fuss (it seems Hart is successfully mining the history of art from the Renaissance through today).

I have not yet seen her more recent work other than in reproduction online (see but I have been impressed with those images and look forward to seeing them in the flesh (or the wood and leaf and air). Her compositions are strong, her color usage muted but glowing, and everything from tree trunks to leaves to water and air has a heavy, chiseled look with consistent paint application that announces in no uncertain terms that we are looking not at illusory pictures but at solid layers of paint on a flat surface. It may be old fashioned of me to say it, but that’s what painting is all about.

Hart James: The ancients through March 7. by appointment Mon.-Fri. noon to 4 p.m. There will be an artist reception Friday, Jan. 16 from 6-7:30 p.m. Call 360-753-8585 to set an appointment.

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