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Arts at the Port

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WHAT: “Arts at the Port” Opening
WHEN: 6-9pm Sat., July 28
WHERE: Anacortes Port Transit Shed, 100 Commercial Ave.
COST: Entry is free

WHAT: Anacortes Arts Festival
WHEN: Aug. 3-5
WHERE: Throughout Anacortes
INFO: http://www.anacortesartsfestival.com

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Before the Anacortes Arts Festival brings hordes of visitors to Fidalgo Island Aug. 3-5, get a head start on the action by attending “Arts at the Port,” the largest annual group show in Skagit County that regularly features some of the finest art in Washington state.

The venue’s location on the dock at the end of Commercial Avenue allows visitors to view the art as the tide whispers beneath. This year, four artists have been chosen to exhibit in the Family Focus Gallery on the theme “Animalia.” This is tailor-made to suit Robert McCauley, who enjoyed one-man shows at both the Museum of Northwest Art and Bainbridge Island Museum of Art this year. His work features vivid portraits of wildlife posing on stumps, looking outward as if judging humanity.

Shelley Muzylowski Allen, her husband, Rik Allen, and Larry Bergner are the other three in “Animalia.” Shelley and Rik work from their studio in Skagit County. She creates magnificent, leaping horse, gazelle and unicorn figures in glass, evoking the place they have occupied in human imagination.

Rik is partial to spaceships, so I’m looking forward to seeing how he has partnered with Bergner in the “Animalia” theme. Bergner makes unique sculptures out of steel, bronze and aluminum mesh. He creates biomorphic and geometric shapes that he colors with a propane torch—“When the mesh turns blue, it will cool to orange.”

This year’s judge of the juried show, Michael Monroe, has chosen 117 pieces by regional artists out of more than 1,000 submissions.

A select few are photographers. Once again, Anacortes resident Jane Alynn is among them. She likens her exquisite gelatin silver prints to “memories and half-remembered dreams.”

Robert DeFreest, another film purist, is in love with trains and the “solemnity and haunting beauty of the night.”

Phil Eidenberg-Noppe’s day job as an environmental scientist keeps him outdoors for photo opportunities. He’s equally proficient at documentary studies of people, hinting at small stories in distant lands.

Naturally, there’s a grand collection of painters. I loved seeing Rob Gisher’s work in a solo show at the Jansen Art Center in Lynden last winter. He delights in three-dimensional effects in his otherwise realistic pictures, using shadows and “impossible” spatial contradictions to tease and delight the viewer.

Mary Molyneaux’s abstracted images are also a puzzle, her human figures just vague enough to draw us into her web of wonder. Are those flowers or human hands coming out of the vase? Whichever, they are lovely compositions and not scary in the least.

The Skagit Valley has no shortage of fine sculptors. Peregrine O’Gormley’s open-air work punctuates Anacortes and Mount Vernon. He credits his father for giving to him a “deep reverence for the natural world [and] a serious concern for its well-being.”

Robert Gigliotti typically works in a smaller compass. What has been said of the famous Giacometti is also true of Gigliotti—in a very small work, he can create a feeling of something monumental, which at the same time is very intimate.

If you’re keen to beat the Anacortes Arts Festival crowds, “Arts at the Port” will be on display at an opening reception Sat., July 28, and July 30-Aug. 2—as well as during the citywide hullabaloo beginning Fri., Aug. 3. Whenever you choose to attend, you’ll be glad you did.

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