Thursday, April 23, 2015

Susan Aurand and Lucia Harrison at TESC

Published in the Weekly Volcano, April 22, 2015

Susan Aurand, The Diver I (lower detail), 2015, oil on wood panel, overall 44" x 12", detail 21" x 12"

Lucia Harrison, Beneath the Forest Floor II, 2015, handmade paper, watercolor, ink, photopolymer prints, and thread,  9” x 1 ¾” x 9”
The latest show at the gallery at The Evergreen State College is a two-person show with longtime and recently retired TESC art faculty members Susan Aurand and Lucia Harrison. Each has taught both art and science classes, and each brings meticulous observation of nature to their work. Stylistically they are much alike, especially in their paintings and charcoal drawings.

One of Aurand’s charcoal drawings was the first piece of art by a local artist I saw when I movied to Olympia in 1988. I was impressed with her technical skill and with the lush tones of her hyper-realistic drawing, even though I thought at the time that the subject matter was a tad trite. There are two charcoal drawings in this show from the same period (1986). “Anna’s Idea” and “No One Could Account for It” both picture young girls and birds drawn in exquisite detail. Two earlier charcoals (from 1974) are detailed views of flowers. The drawings are crisp and rich in dark and light contrast with the blackest blacks and white that glows like snow in sunlight.

More recent work includes a group of landscapes painted on wooden and mixed-media constructions with carved and painted feathers, specimen bottles and other objects on structures shaped like houses with peaked roofs. Local art lovers should be familiar with these because works from this series have been shown often at Childhood’s End Gallery.

New to me is a group of paintings from her “Driver” series. There are four of these, each a vertical panel made up of five-to-seven sections with something different painted on each: grass, sky, reflections in water, and textured panels that could be anything from old fence boards to pieces of rock.

Harrison’s “Ancient Forest of Fraying Pan Creek” is a mixed-media installation that is hard to describe consisting of circles of hand-made paper with leaves, roots, paints representing, among other things in nature: decomposing leaf litter, Mount St. Helens ash, minerals from unknown volcanic eruptions — hung on the wall and hanging from the ceiling and displayed in Plexiglas trays.

Her prismacolor drawings from Red Salmon Creek are mounted on board and arranged in a set of 10, including “beaver,” “kill deer,” “red winged blackbird” and other images from nature, mostly seen in extreme close-up with density of detail. These are realistic but not as photographically realistic as Aurand’s paintings.

Like Aurand, she also shows paintings and charcoal drawings taken from nature. The charcoals in particular are similar. Had they not been labeled I would not have been able to tell which were by which artist.

Harrison is also showing a number of intricately constructed and painted (or drawn and lettered) art books that are simultaneously records of nature observation and stand-alone works of art.

Both artists are highly skilled, and their work reflects a deep love for their subject matter and for their craft. Teachers from all over the Puget Sound area should bring their students to this exhibition, and when its much-too-short run is over it should move to other venues from colleges to major museums. It would be an ideal exhibition for the Department of Ecology.

"Nature: Observation, Metaphor, Transformation," 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday and Wednesday, 12:30-5 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, through May 6, The Evergreen State College Gallery, 2700 Evergreen Parkway NW, Library 1st floor, Olympia, 360.867.5125

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