Visual

Moe and Singleton

Two takes on abstraction

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Allen Moe’s work (now at i.e. gallery in Edison) and that of Susan Singleton (currently showing at Perry and Carlson Gallery in Mount Vernon) equally result from launching into the unknown, something that Singleton describes as a “liminal” state of mind focused and conscious, close to meditation, from which their best art arises.

It’s not a mistake each artist has been honored with the invitation to create works for the Anacortes Arts Festival within the past few years.

Moe is a local shaman, deeply in tune with the rhythms of nature; he’s the creator of pots from river clay, baked in an oilcan over fires of dried cow dung, wrapped with skins and bones of fish and other scavenged remains. He forged another path with cement castings of ripples of beach and river sand. Now Moe offers us one more product of his inexhaustible patience: delicate miniature oils suitable for the boudoir.

He isolated himself in a remote mountain cabin the past two winters in order to perfect a novel technique of painting with drips of oil paint. “When applied on top of each other, [one color]  pushes the former color to the edge like building up a shoreline and entirely unexpected patterns emerge out of the chaos,” he says.

No wild, Jackson Pollock-type ventures, these are petite, colorful, meditative studies: “Arctic Thaw” evokes a box of oyster shells; “Yellow Grid” is one of several which arise from a grid pattern; so too, “Cosmic Line Up,” “Keyboard,” and “Untitled Blue.” “Take Off” is one of several others which stretch the grid into a loopy sequence of oil patterns, defying any guess at how the artist created them.

You could afford to take one of Moe’s small works home with you, but might want to talk to your banker before carrying off Singleton’s wall hangings.

While she, too, is an island person, working from her studio on Orcas, she has dispatched more than 2,500 commissioned artworks to “humanize” corporate offices, resort hotels and private residences in two dozen states and at least 10 countries.

Singleton’s works have been seen in films and television. At Perry and Carlson, you can bask in selections from her “ziggurat,” “vessel,” and “shroud” series, spanning nearly 30 years.

The “ziggurats” are fabric banners, two by six feet, of Japanese washi paper impregnated with acrylic polymers, red and silver, leafed with gold. They convey an aura of magnificence. 

The “vessels” are irregular-shaped wall hangings of Khadi Indian village paper, acrylic polymers and metal pigment. They give the feeling of ancient things, burned by eons of passing time.

“Shrouds” are rectangular, predominately gray and black, cross-stitched with black thread, made of Japanese and Nepalese art paper, acrylic polymers and metal leaf. 

During a quiet moment in the gallery, surrounded by these somber works of great presence, you may experience—as I did—an uncanny sensation of calm and wonder.

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