Visual

Camano Island Creativity

Northwest by the numbers

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

One gets the impression Karla Matzke can do anything: she paints, sculpts in stone and stainless steel, wrote the salient text of the recently published book 100 Artists of the Northwest, operates her gallery in a sculpture park she carved out of the woods on Camano Island and, not too long ago, curated and hung a stunning show of the works of 25 artists she represents (including herself).

The exhibit—which features those artists, who are also included in the book—opened last week with a reception and potluck, and will be on display through April 13 at the eponymous Matzke Gallery, located on Camano Island. To reach it, drive south on Elger Bay Road, which becomes S. Camano Drive. One mile past the gas station and deli—just past the spaceship—turn left into Blanche Way and follow the signs.

Her well-lit show—yes, Matzke hung the lights, too—gives plenty of space to some of the best artists in the Northwest. There aren’t any slouches in the exhibit and if I don’t mention some, it’s because of lack of space.

Bellingham is represented by five luscious oils by David Ridgway, who transforms views of homes and barns in the woods into interlocking colored shapes and playful patterns. His small painting, “Yellow Barn,” is so welcoming you’ll want to fall right into it. Also from his hometown is Shirley Erickson, working wonders with steel and bronze linked to fused and cast glass, resembling found icebergs.

Peregrine O’Gormley of La Conner presents his strong, massive animal and human forms full of gravitas. Among them, a fierce hawk carved from red cedar ferociously holds its ground under sheltering wings (enigmatically entitled “Minus 25%”). They harmonize beautifully with the nice forest studies by Kathleen Faulkner (Anacortes) in pastel and charcoal.

James Madison has a strong presence in wood and metal sculpture. He is a Coast Salish Tlingit and member of the Tulalip Tribes with a BFA from the University of Washington (2000). Together with his uncle, he is known for the massive sculpture fronting the Tulalip Casino. His steel sculpture in the garden, “Ancestors Moving On,” assembled from 15 joined, carved steel circles, swings in the wind, with his aspiration “to teach others of the lands that [his] own people used to walk.”

There are other notable sculptors: Ethan Stern brings blown and wheel-cut glass pieces that exhibit subtle marks of carving; their transparent surfaces reveal complex opaque swirls within. The Iraq-born Sabah Al-Dhaher has carved human forms in stone: his “Winged Goddess” lacks wings and is ominously hollow, indicating the disturbing condition of mankind.

Also commenting on the human condition are Phillip Levine’s six sculptures in bronze, steel, walnut and sand. “Far Enough” channelsGiocometti. In “Fear and Habit,” eight homunculi posture precariously on platforms surrounding a cage.

If this take on mankind appears too grim, glance at Sue Roberts’ cartoonish assembly of “The Gunn Family.”  Oh, no—Dad, Mom and kids are all packing heat!

You could relax among the subtle shading of Richard Nash’s classic abstracts: acrylics, looking like charcoal drawing. They would grace any living room.

And what’s this? Karla Matzke (yes, her again) has created three astonishingly sensual nudes in pastel: very realistic without appearing coldly photographic. In “Spooning” it feels like something very private is about to happen. How does she get her models to hold still so long when the moment captured is so thrilling?

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