Tuesday, January 23, 2007

a better juried show

Published in the Volcano Jan. 18, 2007
Pictured: "Know by Heart" oil on paper by Bethany Hays

The Second Annual Regional Juried Art Exhibition at the Fine Arts Center, South Puget Sound Community College is far more consistent in quality than the first go-round last year. There’s nothing that really blows me away; it’s all rather typical modernist painting, sculpture and photography. But the overall quality is right there.

The Juror’s Award, which carries with it a solo show next year, goes to Bethany Hays, whose three oil on paper paintings dominate the back wall of the gallery. Each of her paintings is approximately five feet tall and three feet wide, with a consistency of subject matter and style that makes the three of them look like a single painting presented as a triptych. All are paintings of children and animals with writing. The children are painted with broad strokes in thin washes of chalky color combined with collage materials such as paper and leaves. The animals are mostly contour drawings in overlapping free-flowing lines. Her colors are particular effective for their semi-transparency and for being value keyed. This is particularly noticeable in the center painting, “Know by Heart,” which depicts a child in a bunny costume and a large goose. The poetic lettering in the background reads: “Sweet vanilla rose breath Made sugar toesy nose breath.” For art lovers from the Olympia area, Hays’ paintings will bring to mind works from the late Louise Williams.

Easily overlooked because of its placement in the gallery is Michael Stone’s digital photograph “The Search.” I did not ask about specific techniques, but it looks like this photograph was severely manipulated in Photo Shop or some similar computer paint program. It pictures a series of eight identical suburban homes receding up a grassy hill (that’s a very loose definition; actually you can’t tell whether the hills are covered with grass, trees or shrubs). Four policemen search in front of the houses with guns drawn. But these aren’t normal looking policemen. They look like plastic figurines, and each one is absolutely identical. It is a very bizarre fantasy scene like Joe Friday searching for the Stepford Wives.

Mollari Sederberg’s “Moodusa” is a sculpted cow’s head in polymeric steel and acrylic with Medusa-like snakes for hair and a glittery gold metallic finish like that of a custom car. It’s really quite startling and beautiful.

Diane Kurzyna’s “Bag Lady,” plastic wrap, Wonder Bread wrappers and tape, is another in her series of life size and lifelike figures made from recycled plastic -- this one notable for the artist’s careful choice in placing the wrappers to create dot patterns on the hat and dress and an All-American “tattoo” on the woman’s arm.

Susan Christian has two of her signature long, horizontal images of curtains. The best of these, called “Handel” has a pair of feet in the center with background colors in off-white tones tinged with blue, green and peach. She displays a deft sense of placement and use of open space in this one.

Most of the sculpture shown is typical figurative stuff. The best of these is Aisha Harrison’s “Ambition,” a strange head glazed with dark slashes of brown and black. A different kind of sculpture can be seen in Michael Born’s three monumental welded steer sculptures, each of which is a lyrical line drawing in space, and each of which mirrors two identical forms.

One of the more unique pieces in the show is Bill Fleming’s “Vision #1” a mixed-media drawing on cardboard. This piece is six or seven feet tall and only a foot wide. It is a drawing of a house created from multiple stacked boxes. Fleming’s drawing style is deceptively simple and hard to describe, but it reminds me a lot of Blake Haygood’s drawings of fantasy machines (some of which were recently seen in the Neddy Award show at Tacoma Art Museum.

Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.

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