Thursday, December 19, 2019

Crows and Ravens, oh my


Group show all about these ubiquitous birds
By Alec Clayton
Note: This review was written for the Weekly Volcano but there was a schedule mixup -- my fault -- and they were not able to publish it. Instead, watch for my writeup on Art House Designs next week in the Volcano.

"Hero & Trickstermixed media by Christopher Mathie, photos courtesy Childhood’s End Gallery
Images in art of crows and ravens are ubiquitous and often dramaticwe if not downright frightening. Myth and legend hold it that they are prescient, and they are known to be highly intelligent birds — revered as tricksters by some Native tribes.
Childhood’s End Gallery’s exhibition Crows & Ravens features interpretations of the clever tricksters by a dozen area artists, most of whom are well known and are regularly shown at Childhood’s End. On the upside, these are all accomplished artists. On the downside, too many of the works look too much alike, and taken as a whole the show becomes rather trite.
Please excuse me if I call them all crow paintings. Having said that, here are a few words about some of the good stuff.
"Visitation" pastel by Judith Smith

raku pot by Dave and Boni Deal.
Tom Anderson’s “Eight Points of View,” mixed media on board depicting one majestic bird in flight surrounded by seven much smaller birds, is bright and exciting with intense yellow and black-and-white contrasts, with energetic lines set off against large black masses and — the little touch that sets it above the commonplace — cast shadows in the sky as if the birds are cut-out figures set in from the surface. Anderson is mostly known as a painter of abstract forms. His crow paintings have the same kind of texture and structure his abstracts are known for.
Christopher Mathie is also known as an abstract painter but also often ventures into seascapes and animal paintings, and like Anderson, his paintings of recognizable subjects include all the same heavy impasto and energetic slashing of paint on canvas as his abstracts. In this show he has one large painting, "Hero & Trickster," and two smaller ones that look like they should be sold as a set and displayed together. "Hero & Trickster" pictures two birds perched on a limb with a turbulent sky in the background. The colors and the stormy look remind me of both J.M.W. Turner and Joan Mitchell.
One of the nicest pieces in the show is a raku pot by Dave and Boni Deal. It is a large, almost perfectly round pot with a picture of a crow on the surface. It has monumental presence and would actually be better if the images of the crow had been left off.
Judith Smith is known for her crow paintings, prints and pastels. There are at least seven of her pictures in this show. A large pastel on canvas called “Visitation” dominates the entrance to the gallery. It pictures three birds in flight, possibly fighting, over an abstract background that looks like a scene of war with fiery orange fading to brown and black and sharp orange outlines on one of the birds while the other two have see-through bodies drawn with white lines. The rich variety of lines and shapes and colors and the interaction of imagery and background make this an exciting painting.
The one piece in the show that is quite different from all the rest is Sara Gettys’ carved sintra, a type of etching, titled “Before the Storm.” This is an iconic image in black and white with bold lines and stark contrasts and an eye that hypnotically stares at the viewer.
Other artists included in this show are Kristen Etmund, Doyle Fanning, Jonathan Happ, Beki Killorin, Chris Maynard and Graham Schodda.

Crows & Ravens, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, through Dec. 31, Childhood’s End Gallery, 222 Fourth Ave. W, Olympia, 360.943.3724.

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