Ric Gendron’s multicultural attractions

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Among the cultural attractions of the Skagit Valley, none shines brighter than the Museum of Northwest Art (MoNA) in La Conner. And “Rattlebone,” their current exhibit, shines brightly too. You need to see their stunning selection of paintings by Washington artist Ric Gendron.

Gendron, a member of the Colville and Umatilla tribes, paints figuratively, but with a strong expressionist impulse.  His canvases, which are rich with fresh, multicultural references, transcend the usual repertoire of symbols you might associate with Pacific Northwest art. 

For example, in the eponymous painting entitled “Rattlebone,” a muscular figure splashed with red twists away from the viewer. Is he headless, draped in dark hair or in shadow? Does he writhe in a dance or twist in pain? Whichever it is, the image burns into the mind.

When you look at Gendron’s “Columbus Day,” it pays to know that Native Americans don’t celebrate the October holiday as a happy event. Across the top of the canvas, there are three metallic crosses. Beneath, the outline of a coyote framing a gleaming human skull. Both mouths fuse into a band of ragged teeth. There are many such teeth in Gendron’s canvases. Think about them. Teeth bite and tear—teeth flash when mouths make false promises.

Fortunately, torment is not the dominant mood of the collection; Gendron offers delicacy, beauty and whimsy, as well. But ambiguity is never far away.

There are many portraits in which the subject regards us without expression, as if to say: furnish your own agenda. “Gentle Giant” may be a self-portrait of the artist as tourist on a street in Mexico. His unlikely companions are a coyote, a naked baby and a schoolboy.  Are these his psychological baggage? The composition is ingenious and fascinating.  Everything is harmonious and masterfully drawn, but the effect is surreal.

In the lovely painting, “The Way Home,” four handsomely clad Indians ride across an autumn meadow framed by snow-capped mountains and lush forest. But each carries a delicate, oriental parasol! Is this a subtle joke or a symbolic melding of the “Indians” of the West with the Indians of the East?

For many viewers, “Angels” is their favorite. In a nighttime garden, three young girls dance beneath a starry, indigo sky. One, winged, is the source of angelic light. It may be Gendron’s vision of a visit by his granddaughter from the afterlife. Nothing could be more graceful, delicate and moving.

Adults and children alike will appreciate this important and fascinating visual experience. In the gallery upstairs, MoNA offers viewers a happy selection of paintings and sculpture from the permanent collection, entitled “Geology.” These, too, are worth your attention, although in some cases the connection to “geology” may be only in the mind of the curator.

Ticket Cascadia
More Visual...
Indelible Images
Worlds of wonder at Whatcom Museum

Thanks to a recent viewing of the exhibit “Spineless: Portraits of Marine Invertebrates,”  I’m now convinced that an underwater denizen dubbed the “stubby squid” (Rossia pacifica) is my new spirit animal.

Like the dozens of other up-close-and-personal photographs taken by marine biologist…

more »
Story Paintings
David Kane’s tall tales

“Where does one go after reaching the pinnacle of artistic achievement—a solo retrospective at the Frye Museum?” asks the promo flyer for David C. Kane’s exhibit of his paintings at i.e. gallery in Edison.

Kane, a lifelong teacher of art, is a master of technique. His touch is light,…

more »
Skagit Scene
River Gallery’s seasonal visions

Twice a year, Sylvia Strong pulls together some of the best painting, sculpture, glass and jewelry from the Skagit region to show in her gallery, a well-lit former greenhouse. It affords plenty of space to display a selection of small, affordable pieces by 38 invited artists.


more »
Handling the truth


Lynden Book Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Skagit Community Band

7:30pm|Maple Hall and Brodniak Hal

98221 Artists Studio Tour

10:00am|Anacortes and Guemes Island

Harvest Happens

10:00am|Bellewood Acres

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

The Fungus Among Us

10:00am|North Lake Whatcom Park

Lynden Book Club

12:30pm|Lynden Library

Sunday Market

1:00pm|Alger Community Hall

Praise the Salmon

1:00pm|Fairhaven Village Green

Living Proof

4:00pm|Village Books

Benefit Variety Show

6:00pm|BAAY Theatre

Greg Proops

8:00pm|Upfront Theatre

MBT Once Lydia Place
Handling the truth


Word Sprints

6:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

October Chores in the Garden

6:30pm|Skagit Valley Food Co-op

Crossing Zion

7:00pm|Deming Library


8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library


9:30pm|Green Frog

Swinomish 2016 Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1
Handling the truth


Halloween Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Anti-Inflammation Menu

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Beet Inspiration

6:30pm|Gretchen's Kitchen

Polyamorous Particulars

7:00pm|Village Books

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Raptor Management

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

see our complete calendar »

MBT Ben Folds Northwood Steak and Crab Everybody’s Store Swinomish 2016 Artifacts Wine Bar Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 MBT Ben Folds Andrew Subin Bellingham Farmer’s Market Village Books Lydia Place