Saturday, August 19, 2017

Seasons: Women Painters of Washington at Childhood’s End

By Alec Clayton 
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 17, 2017
"Spring is Beckoning" oil on canvas by A.J. Lowe, photo courtesy Childhood's End Gallery
Art galleries by the dozens have come and gone while Childhood’s End Gallery in Olympia just keeps rolling along. This venerable queen of South Sound art galleries has shown quality art since 1971 and shows no signs of growing weary. They have introduced many of the region’s best artists to its citizenry, including many of Washington’s best women artists; which is why I had high hopes for their current show, Seasons: Women Painters of Washington.
Sadly, this exhibition is crowded with art that epitomizes the most clichéd samples not of feminist art but of stereotypical “female” art — paintings in watercolor, gouache, pastel, and other media that are best described as soft, sweet, pretty, lovely. The colors, no matter the media, are “pastel,” bright, warm and summery. It’s as if the paintings are decked out in their Easter dresses with flowers in their hair.
There are a few abstract paintings and a whole lot of pictures of birds, flowers and scenery.
I almost never agree with juror’s choices, but in the case of this show’s First Place winner, I do. It is a small pastel landscape by Barbara Noonan titled “Vert Harmony.” It pictures a serene country road receding into the distance across a plowed field to a clump of trees. Blue and green dominate, with a greenish blue in the foreground part of the road, changing to a soft aqua in the distance. The perspective is flattened out in a manner much like that in Wayne Thiebaud’s famous San Francisco cityscapes, and the paint application is rich and creamy without being ostentatious.
Another excellent little landscape is Beverly Shaw-Starkovich’s “Red Trees with Shed.” This fiery landscape has burning-hot red and red-orange trees, yellow-green fields, and a hot yellow sky. The paint application is heavy and rough, and as in Noonan’s “Vert Harmony,” there is hardly any atmospheric or linear depth. The sky and trees push aggressively forward. For such a simple little landscape, this one is juicy and meaty.
For something different, Lois Lord’s watercolor “Season Ticket” is humorous and lighthearted. It pictures a bunch of people —middle-aged and older, possibly tourists, definitely casual in dress and manner — seated on and standing by a bench. It’s unclear what they have season tickets for. Possibly baseball, maybe for the bus, although I question whether the man with a little dog on a leash would be let in to either. It’s more funny illustration than serious art, but it’s fun to look at, and there are some nice watery effects.
A.J. Lowe is represented by two oil paintings that hang next to each other. They are “Retirement,” a picture of a man in a lawn chair on a tropical beach with palm trees and in the near distance someone riding a jet ski, and “Spring is Beckoning,” a painting of a silly-looking woman wearing a red, flower-patterned dress while picking a red flower. There is a profusion of yellow flowers in the background. The thing I like about both is that the people pictured are so typecast, especially the woman with her balloon-like face.

 Seasons: Women Painters of Washington, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, through Sept. 16, Childhood’s End Gallery, 222 Fourth Ave. W, Olympia, 360.943.3724.

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