By the Seaside

Blossoms and beauty in La Conner

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Now that he enjoys four other artists as congenial partners for his well-placed Seaside Gallery in La Conner, owner Mark Conley can breathe easy.

Running a gallery all by himself had been too much work. Next, when he operated it as a large co-op, difficulties only multiplied.

The gallery welcomes visitors with a museum-like atmosphere. You won’t trip over vases, paperweights and snow globes here. The paintings and photos are well-lighted and given their own space. 

Conley’s photography is modestly displayed on the interior walls.  His “Pink Kink” celebrates the still-happening Skagit Valley Tulip Festival: it’s a bug’s-eye view of looming blossoms. I liked the depth and feeling in his “Winter in Silvana,” with its snow-blasted tree, white sky and distant patch of blue sky, as well as the nicely composed “Sunset on Fir Island.”

The “anchors” of Seaside are two of the best-known painters of the Skagit Valley: Alfred Currier and his partner, Anne Schreivogle. I‘ve followed Currier since Ted Lindberg’s book, Impasto, put him on the map as a leading Northwest artist.

He, as much as anyone, embraces the dictum that “the subject of a painting isn’t the image, it’s the paint.” Currier plans out his carefully in advance. He typically doesn’t paint in the open, but does take his sketchbook out to record the shapes of hills, trees and human figures.  He prepares his canvas with gesso and transparent washes in colors complimentary to those he intends to paint on top of them. Then he draws the design elements. The final painting is heavily but harmoniously textured with a palette knife in brilliant oils, which have become his trademark.

I’ve heard grumblings that Currier was in a rut with his preoccupation of tulip fields and stooping farmworkers. But these recent paintings are fresh. In “Red,” a blue shadow lies across a field of white tulips, the dawn sky filled with creamy-yellow clouds as a blue-hooded worker gazes thoughtfully into the distance. “Abundance,” a huge 30” by 48”, shows the fields in late-afternoon sun, the mountains darkly shadowed. I’m glad to see he hasn’t lost his magic.

Two other gallery members each have a generous number of works on display, both in the realistic style. Dave Nichols, a retired Whatcom County judge, has carved a niche for himself as a skilled and prolific artist: “Far from the Office” is an idyllic scene of a solitary sculler in a mountain lake. The delicate brushwork is sufficient reason to take it home. 

Mark Bistranin shows several landscapes, boats and barns, which are craftsmanlike. “Hill Ditch Serenade” rises to the best in a symphony of nicely moderated golds, mauves, greens and blues. The skies here and in his “Shaw Island Ferry” are finely wrought.

At the time of my visit, Schreivogle had yielded much of her space to Currier for a special exhibit. I was disappointed not to be treated to her charming, semi-abstract paintings of birds, cats, bugs, musicians and domestic scenes. Her color choices are exquisite and her sense of composition (and humor) are infallible, but I just found out I can see them from 5-8pm this Saturday, April 26, at a kickoff party for the opening of her new exhibit, “Memoirs of a Bird.”

Skagit Buffet
More Visual...
Pioneer Museum
Bringing history into sharp focus

If there’s one museum I love to get lost in, it’s the Lynden Pioneer Museum on the city’s Front Street.

The 28,000-square-foot space has an amazing series of exhibits that take visitors back in time and give them a glimpse of city life, the agricultural history of Lynden, modes of…

more »
River's Edge
Seasonal sights in Mount Vernon

The River Gallery on Landing Road near the lower Skagit River, once a commercial greenhouse, is a natural home for art. The light is perfect and it’s roomy enough to show off works by 38 artists—more than most museums.  I always look forward to the harmony and balance of the exhibition…

more »
Studio Stats
An abundance of art

As the Whatcom Artist Studio Tour has grown near, organizers of the event that sees dozens of area artists opening their creative spaces for public perusal for two weekends every October have been highlighting on their Facebook page the various painters, sculptors, journal-makers, jewelers,…

more »
Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Harvest Happens

8:00am|Bellewood Acres

98221 Studio Tour

10:00am|Fidalgo Island

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Church of Brunch

10:30am|Gretchen's Kitchen

Bellingham Repertory Dance Open Rehearsal

11:30am|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Wild Mushroom Show

12:00pm|Bloedel Donovan Community Building

Fresh-Milled Whole Grain Baking

1:00pm|Bread Lab

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

The Answer Tour

6:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Dog Day Afternoon

4:00pm|Ferndale Library

Dig Into Fall

6:00pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Restoring Gut Health

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op


8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library


9:30pm|Green Frog

Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 CWWarrenMiller
All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Quail Class

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island

6:30pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Hawk Talk

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

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Coping with a cooper's hawk


Comedy Open Mic


Spectrum Dance Theater Lecture and Demo

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

see our complete calendar »

CWWarrenMiller Bellingham Farmer’s Market Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1 Village Books Trove