A magical resonation

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

In “Evidence,” the current show at Smith & Vallee Gallery, two exceptional artists give us their views—David Blakesley, of a world that might have been or what it might become, and Kathleen Faulkner, images of the forest, examined close-up and transformed by the creator’s eye. Although each artist’s medium and conception are vastly different, the works the gallery has chosen resonate magically together.

Both Blakesley and Faulkner have long been identified with Edison and the Skagit Valley. Blakesley is well known for his popular eatery, Tweets, and his gallery/store, Shop Curator. Faulkner is an Anacortes resident whose art recently earned her a place in the book 100 Artists of the Northwest.

Visitors are met at the entrance by an assembly of wood blocks studded with cut nails—Blakesley’s “Portals.” Subtle angles of the salvaged wood align in a satisfying way. The scars of past uses under the white paint convey a sense of endurance and the drilled holes might be welcoming eyes. You’re in the presence of a master designer.

Several more constructions are upside-down baskets armored with hard plaster. Their names, “Hunger Lodge” and “Crystal Skeep” (Dutch for “ship”), imply shelter, perhaps from some distant past. They are bleak refuges, armed with spines and shards to protect shadowy interiors. The feeling of loss and isolation continues in a nearby gouache drawing of a writhing tree trunk with amputated limbs.

Blakesley’s “Head Forms” are at once whimsical and menacing.   Nails, again, pounded into salvaged hat-makers’ forms, as if a row of hedgehogs had punk haircuts. You may chuckle, but the sharp edges of the nails give an undertone of violence.

Above them flies “Hour Town,” an expansive drawing suggesting a futurist city. Its tan and white harmonize with the sculptures, but this vision of geometric dwellings filled with angles of pure light shifts the mood to one of peace and harmony.

Set off against these abstractions are Faulkner’s realist meditations on nature. Her touchstone piece is “Under Story,” a dreamlike forest of moss tendrils, ferns alive and decayed, dead branches and leafy ones, all shrouded in mist, happily brightening in the distance. The scene is painstakingly constructed from thousands of overlapping strokes of multicolored oil pastel.

Faulkner can document nature with clinical exactness and great beauty, as in her “Horse Tails.” She’s equally open to abstract possibilities: “The Afternoon Breeze” is a zany capture of a wind-driven tree channeling modernist sculpture. 

And then there is her “Evidence,” the namesake work of the exhibit. Evidence of what? Not a mushroom or slime mold. Let’s just say Faulkner is able to contemplate and portray beauty even in the transformation of all organic matter from one form into another.

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