Lummi Invitational

A new eye in Edison



WHAT: “Lummi Invitational”
WHEN: 11am-5pm, Fri.-Sun., through Dec. 27
WHERE: i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court, Edison

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Now you see it, now you don’t; a mysterious island mountain disappears into the mist and reappears. Someone once asked me whether it was a volcano. That’s what Lummi Island looks like from my direction, so I looked it up. Guess not. It looks different if you’re on Samish Island, or from Edison. 

Edison is where the “Lummi Invitational” exhibit will be found, in the former Edison Eye Gallery, now christened “i.e.” Parenthetically, Edison itself is constantly reinventing itself. The tiny burg of approximately 130 souls has at least five excellent eateries (if you count the famous Bread Farm) and as many galleries on the single business street. And none of them has any advertising to speak of—hardly even a legible name on the outside. It’s the inverse of the standard business model, but parking is at a premium on the weekends as folks come all the way from Seattle to partake.

But there is something inspiring about Lummi Island, and its mountain. That’s why gallery co-owners David C. Kane and Margy Lavelle put out a call for portraits of the land mass. Oddly, none of the many artists living on Lummi had anything to offer; they don’t see it as we Skagitonians do. But a number of prominent Skagit artists responded, and their work makes a fascinating set of changes on a theme. 

The most distinguished respondent is Clayton James, whose masterly “Lummi Island Purple” from the 1990s depicts the mountain in a richly royal hue, edged and haloed by a warm yellow, with equal doses of blue water and sky above and below. This is a collector’s item, for sure.

David Kane has put up a pair of his own acrylic works on burlap. Glued to a panel, burlap must present some challenges, but Kane is known for difficult achievements and wacky subject matter. Here, it gives an interesting textural effect and considerable depth to the image.

Margy Lavelle has lived in the Skagit Flats near Edison for several years, where she loves to wander, finding oyster shells and birds’ nests to render in charcoal drawings in addition to her lovingly composed landscapes of fog, watercourses and sky. She already had achieved a stunning portrait of the island mountain in her “Love is in the Air” (2008), previously titled “Promises.” This is a distinctly erotic rendition: the reclining mountain, interpreted as female, is alive with vigorous, sweeping brushwork, beneath clouds in the form of male genitalia.

Paintings by Victor Sandblom, a lifelong artist and present art instructor at Bellevue College, are instantly recognizable. His compositions resemble stage sets or bright comic book panels in primary colors and heavy impasto, adorned with formal, static human and animal elements wearing blank expressions. His contribution, “Walking the Dog,” compounds mystery with surrealism: a man in a top hat and yellow slicker coaxes a rowboat through a levitating doorframe—with the mountain in the background.

In somewhat similar style is Joe Max Emminger’s “Big Weather,” in which a darkening Lummi looms above a naïf pair in a canoe, with only the moon as witness.

Bellingham’s Ed Kamuda, who is best known for his vividly colored, whimsical, Miro-like compositions of primitively drawn elements, steps back into landscape style to give us “Lummi with Red Sea Grass,” a devastatingly lovely red field, rendered with bold strokes, anchored by the blue and black aspect of the mountain.

Edison’s own David Blakesley contributes two small works in chalk and lacquer on paper. “Black Boat Over Lummi” could be the image of a windsurfer’s kite above the mysterious, looming outline of the island. If your mouth waters from the fragrance of Tweets restaurant next door, that’s David’s cooking. And he operates the unique Shop Curator across the street, where you will find artwork, jewelry, antiques and curiosities beyond description.

Louise Kikuchi’s “Waiting for the 7:20 Ferry,” a gansai watercolor on paper, is a sophisticated, abstract take on the theme. David Hall has applied watercolor to a digital print to achieve striking reflections.  Also noteworthy is Jef Gunn’s impressionist en plein air painting, which portrays Lummi from the perspective of Samish Island.

Kathleen Faulkner’s “On Any Given Day,” rounds out the show. A dreamy, watery landscape, it features Lummi disappearing once again.

Faulkner has done as much to document the Skagit delta in beautiful artwork as any other artist. Wandering the area’s waterways in her canoe, she’s painted and drawn wetlands, reeds, eelgrass, barnacles, smelt and fingerlings, birds, mudflats and sloughs. While rumor had it that she might be disappearing, too—to repeat her canoe journeys in Connecticut—I’m happy to report she’ll be staying put for now.

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