McCool and Friends

Creating worlds with art

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

From childhood, Anne Martin McCool found comfort and self-expression in art. Early influences, by creative masters such as Paul Klee, Kandinsky, and Georgia O’Keefe, still show strongly in her work.  She admits to using “symbols” of her beloved Northwest landscape, but it’s the spirit of the paint that dominates in these abstractions. 

On a recent visit, McCool’s attractive gallery on a choice block in downtown Anacortes was shared between her paintings, some by Cathy Schoenberg, and the fabric wall art of Louise Harris. Each employs a congenial palette of warm reds and orange, cool blues and greens.

McCool’s painting “Color Wall,” inspired by a visit to Egypt, suggests a ghostly minaret emerging from an Oriental carpet. It is flanked by two Harris panels: “Double Vision” and “On the Roads Again.” Together, the three make a welcome centerpiece to the show.

Several other large McCool canvases command attention. Her recent “Spring Opening” dominates the north wall. Dashes of pure red enliven dominant, transparent greens and blues. A few wrinkles of texture don’t frame the colors, but have a rationale of their own. Her smooth brushstrokes blend one color imperceptibly into the next.  This is a beautiful canvas, which provides continual interest.

In “Villa Windows,” five muted columns ascend into an azure sky set with moons the color of oranges; they are energizing but peaceful. In “Journey,” the eye is drawn to a pale, vanishing human figure floating into the distance above a dawn horizon, leaving behind hills—or temples—and a single, green leaf. 

McCool’s style is strong and her vision consistent. Her paintings are decorative, but not merely so. There’s much to delight the eye and to wonder about without taxing the mind—as if Kandinsky had returned just to make everybody happy.

Louise Harris has sewn since she was in high school and quilted for 20 years. Traveling to exotic locales where she saw colorful costumes gave her a love for “primitive” materials. She soon abandoned patterns to cut and sew freehand. She dyes much of the cotton fabric herself, works the surface by stamping, tye-dyeing in shibori technique, or incorporating photo transfer. She sews smaller pieces of contrasting colors together and quilts them into fascinating mosaics. 

In Harris’ “Garden 2050,” brilliant red and orange forms support twisting violet and green as if they are branches, reaching upward toward the light. “Double Vision” is a complex geometry of right angles and rectangles stitched and pieced together. The very striking “Forest Medley” features fern leaves bleached in reversed color as the centerpiece of other, harmonious (commercially obtained) prints. 

Cathy Schoenberg, a Guemes Island resident, is known for her impressionist portraits of dreamy-looking women in tropical settings.  She places them within a flattened space, wrapped in foliage or resting upon tiles. Many of her small pieces—“Monday, Tuesday,” “Lupe,” and “Step Back”—will be found tucked away in the back of the gallery. The women portrayed—or the same young woman, sometimes with a cat—appear to be deeply absorbed in their environment. Is Schoenberg riffing on Gauguin? 

In any case, once you have studied those works at Anne Martin McCool gallery, you can seek out more, out of doors, displayed in the alley north of Pine Square in Mount Vernon.

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