Visual

Arts at the Port

Elemental beauty in Anacortes

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

“Air, Earth, Water” is the title of the 2014 “Arts at the Port” show. It opened last Saturday and is the serious part of the wild and crazy Anacortes Arts Festival the city has thrown every summer for more than 50 years.

In a quiet warehouse at the north end of Commercial Avenue you’ll discover two conjoined exhibits: the first is a stunning collection of works by 36 regional artists selected by juror Patricia Watkinson for their “skill, innovation, imagination and poetry.“ The second is an invitational show featuring five outstanding local artists. This “invitational” is what we’re going to talk about here.

Aaron Haba is a visionary. He takes logs, branches, flowers and rope and constructs something never before seen or imagined. Or he digs a form in the earth to cast a sculpture in concrete, which he lifts with primitive levers to a standing position and polishes to a fine sheen (see “Pearl” or “December” at Camano Island’s Matzke Sculpture Garden). In another culture he would have been a shaman to guide us into the underworld. 

For the Anacortes show he has constructed “Vessel,” an outsized wooden hemisphere, from discarded church timbers…just feel its massive presence. And he puts together a forest of sticks beneath stiff, hanging cords, entitled “Requiem for Mercy.” It looks different from every viewing angle. Go figure.

Patricia Resseguie exhibits her “free-motion embroidery” internationally. She compares her fabric creations to moss and lichen, growing into “a tumble of color, shape and texture.” She began as a journalist but a trauma required a complete reassessment of her goals and identity. Art is her path to a new life. 

Resseguie’s contribution is a series of delicate spiderwebs of lichen-inspired stitchery in rusty red and green and gray. Understated in size, they may be the most beautiful pieces in the exhibition.

Kris Molesworth’s monotypes are distillations of what she sees in our sea- and land-scape. Her hands fly over the monotype plate, brushing ink, and she pulls a single wet print full of energy and subtle color relationships to illustrate her experience of the farms and oceans of the Skagit River-Padilla Bay region where she has lived most of her life. Less abstract are her vigorous, sweeping charcoal and pastel drawings.

Brian ONeill is a sculptor who works with a gravelly clay to create “vessels” not intended for functional use, but to challenge us to reflect on the relationship of their rough exteriors to the “anthropormorphic,” hidden space inside. Any of them would be a welcome centerpiece in your living room. They have a centering presence, like ancient Chinese sculpture.

Peregrine O’Gormley nails his colors to the mast. His avowed goal has been to foster awareness of the fragility of the earth and how near we are to destroying it. His life-size bronze sculpture, “How Much Longer?” stands in rain and weather on 4th St. in Anacortes: the sturdy form of Mother Earth bends backward from the strain of supporting all her children. (O’Gormley has won many awards for his art and the strength of his conviction speaks through his work.)

Mother Earth is present here, but in miniature: she has curled herself into a baseball-sized sphere and appears to be grieving. There are several other modest pieces: a tiny frog and “Calling,” an extra-large, life-sized, backward-twisting raven with wings outspread, carved from a blackened cedar drift log. Like all the other works I’ve mentioned here, it’s worth a look—or two.

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