Engaging the Eye

Margy Lavelle’s empty spaces


What: New paintings and sculptures by Margy Lavelle

Where: i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court, Edison


WHAT: New paintings and sculptures by Margy Lavelle
WHEN: 11am-5pm Fri.-Sun. through June 26
WHERE: i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court, Edison

Cost: Entry is free


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

In Margy Lavelle’s large oil painting “Blue Bones,” a broke-back shack sinks into a field of brown and yellow. Around it swirls a golden glow. Someone has lived here and their spirit persists, painted with conviction and certainty.

“California Dreamin,” also a sizable oil painting, almost slakes my thirst for yellow: marigold, daisy, apple yellow/green, dabs of white. Palette knife scrapes reveal an under-painting of brown and red. She balances a figure at upper left with a sketch of lines on the right. It is complete—a sober reflection.

Lavelle left Seattle 10 years ago to live simply and devote herself to painting. For years she had been coming to visit Edison—particularly the Edison Eye gallery, run by Dana Rust and his wife, Tori Ann. Now Lavelle rents the space and has named it simply, “i.e.”

Lavelle arrived at non-representational art from painting the vast open spaces of North Dakota, where she grew up. She’s painted in oils for 50 years. 

She studied at the University of Washington under the young Norwegian, Norman Lundin, himself a painter of empty rooms, doorways, the corner of a window, clouds and rivers. “The less you have, the more important what is there, becomes,” was Lundin’s mantra. For Lavelle, this advice fell on fertile ground.

Walking the Samish flats, mornings after meditation, she picks up what the otters leave behind—an oyster shell, a bird nest—and paints it six feet wide, until it loses its proportions. Negative space becomes the subject matter.

In a small painting named “Learning to See,” I pick out three robed figures.

“Buddhist monks?” I offer. 

Lavelle shakes her head. “Pilings.” 

In another oil and oil pastel piece, “Submersion,” there’s so much to intrigue the eye; the thin red and blue lines give substance and definition. Sea-blue deepens to the right; light shines, upper left. Every inch of the canvas is worked, painted, scrubbed, blemished, worn and troubled. Good art like this offers the eye an excursion, around and around the canvas. Do I see a mother whale and baby among ice floes? 

“Polders in the flood tide,” Lavelle says.

She is fascinated by what she finds in the marshes near the shore—items such as duck blinds, collapsed barns and abandoned cabins. She talks of the homeless, of refugees, of the problem to find shelter, how children begin by making forts, and how we all need to make a fort sometime.

She works at the canvas, not consciously thinking up ideas, finding her own way.

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