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Visual

Taking Flight

Welcome to the birdhouse

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Nestled between the North Cascades and the Salish Sea, the Skagit Valley has long been a haven for birds. In the doughty village of Edison, where the Samish River dwindles to the bay, local residents liven up February’s gloom with a cheerful bird festival.

The Cascadia Weekly previously wrote about the frolic of chicken races and educational programs that took place in early February, but, after viewing the Edison Bird Festival Invitational, I thought it was worth pointing out that the feathery fun continues through the month at the town’s Smith & Vallee Gallery. 

Kathleen Faulkner’s iconic work beckons you into an exhibit of bird-inspired works by three dozen artists that explore the bird experience from egg to extinction. Her oil pastel, “A Gulp of Cormorants” is a restful study of a social gathering; in laudable understatement, it’s a quiet piece in a show dominated by some pretty loud ones.

You will know how it feels to be a mouse, facing a gallery of oversize portraits of predatory roosters, owls and herons. My favorite in this “loud” category would be a playful rendering of a swan and two Jurassic dragonflies done in splashy green, blue and red by Amy Armitage.

Offering the feel of feathers and flight are two monotypes by Kris Ekstrand Molesworth, in careful shades of yellow and blue. 

On the west wall, some 30 small works jostle for space, among which stand out a nice three-color serigraph, “Heron,” by Kristen Loffer Theiss; “Mother,” a semi-abstract, cartoonish but fetching linoprint of nestlings by Jessica Gigot; and a lovely woodcut by Natalie Niblack, “Bittern.”

A stately linocut print by Nicolette Harrington, “With Peace on their Wings,” anchors the center hall with monochrome, patterny outlines of geese, reminiscent of an Escher print.

Don’t overlook the most evocative piece in the exhibition: a delicate chiaroscuro by Ann Reid. “Will we save the Western Snowy Plover?” powerfully and darkly suggests the bird could be walking toward extinction.

Tucked away in a back room I found another treasure: David Hall’s digital print, “Hummingbird Nest in the Kiwi,” a sensitive, harmonious composition—and one of the first to have sold.

Todd Horton, an Edison favorite son, shows two paintings in his trademark style of a realistic figure in negative space, smeared or dripped upon. His “Selflessness” assembles a crow and two nicely drawn chickadees in a pleasing rain of paint drops.

For sheer fun, there are the works of two preeminent pranksters: John Robbins’ large, whimsical abstract, “To Be, a Bird” and that of RR Clark (also known as FishBoy), “The Boys,” constructed of wood, canvas, paint and colored pencil—already sold at a bargain price.

And beyond category is Pieter Vanzanden’s hilarious and scary scupture, a tyrannosaurus-size egg on wooden articulated feet, entitled “GM—OH!” Impending doom. On its own it brings us back to evolutionary beginning and suggests a terrible apotheosis.

But hey! What about the five, hand-felted and painted, soft sculptured hats by Penny Berck?  You could wear them at Halloween—or at the next Edison Bird Festival parade. Be a rooster, a woodpecker or a bluejay!

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