Making magic in La Conner
Wednesday, November 1, 2017
This year’s “Art’s Alive” invitational at La Conner’s Maple Hall features 14 Northwest artists. The striking promo poster for the 33rd annual event that will see the town come alive with visual, literary, musical and culinary art Nov. 3-5 features interwoven images of insects, seeds and trees from cut paper art by featured artist, Ann Chadwick Reid, inspired by traditions of China, Mexico, and Victorian England.
If the selection committee has overlooked the dominant artistic movements of the last 100 years, they have assembled a nice show of Northwest decorative and collectible works. You can’t go wrong with Kathleen Faulkner’s serene oil pastel landscapes, or town and waterfront scenes by Steven Hill, and deeply felt nature studies by Cynthia Richardson.
By choice or chance, some half-dozen artists share the theme of transformation—assigning human characteristics to animals, mixing up species, turning animal images or actual body parts into artwork. Catherine Kerwick, for example, molds very dramatic and sensitive ceramic swans. Not only are they beautiful sculptures, but are also practical as bowls and vases.
In Jacqui Beck’s colorful, entertaining semi-abstractions, she often paints animals that carry on like people. In one of my favorites, “Chickens In Love,” a mutt laughs uproariously at the pair of smitten hens.
Shawn Ferriss online site features pugilistic baby chicks with boxing gloves. Here, he will show songbirds wearing crowns.
Susan Cohen Thompson believes trees are the “most generous and sacred beings on earth—spiritually transcendent [and] capable of healing.” Her dreamy, “expressive nature” paintings depict human faces in leaves and vines (a happy and timeless worldview shared by all who’ve tripped on the magic mushroom).
Also magical are the colored ink drawings of Lindsay Kohles, who surprises by grafting a squirrel’s tail on a moth and crowning a toad with a heron’s head. Species-mixing stories and art appear to be universal in human cultures. But where does this impulse come from and what does it mean?
Then there’s an odd affinity between Kohles’ work and that of Allen Moe. An iconoclast if there ever was one, Moe lives on Guemes Island and sometimes in the Samish delta, where he scavenges wild bits to combine into elegant and occasionally creepy works of art. Allen has created masterworks by pasting snake heads, trout skins or rodent hip bones (subject to availability) around pots made from river mud.
But don’t be disappointed if he presents gypsum-cement casts of sand ripples and gravel beds from the Samish River and the Mojave Desert. His intention is to show us natural patterns that we otherwise overlook.
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