Visual

Growth Patterns

Observing nature through oil and stone

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

On the bitter-cold day I visited Smith & Vallee Gallery in Edison to see Patty Haller’s oil paintings of flowers and forest scenes, it was like entering a verdant greenhouse. No wonder so many of her beautiful paintings have been chosen by hospitals—they offer healing, visual therapy.

And the stoneware sculptures by Brian O’Neill in the exhibit, “Growth Patterns,” are a perfect complement to Haller’s sinuous designs and exuberant color. His work has been seen at the Smithsonian and many Western galleries. While he claims to portray the “universal rhythms of nature…evoking stone and the natural landscape,” I saw archaic shapes the Mycenaeans might have left: sphere, ax head, wedge.

O’Neill’s “Lichen Sphere” is endlessly wrapped with ribbons of brown and white glaze, suggesting an ancient origin within the earth. “Iron Squared Sphere” has a massive, powerful quality beyond all proportion to its domestic size.

Haller has been a forester and a financial analyst. A keen observer of nature, she admires artists of historical significance, like Mondrian, Piero della Francesca, David Hockney, and Gustav Klimt. In her own work, she seeks to create a dialogue “between contemporary and full-on old school” techniques.

Many pieces have a filmy haze to the colors and outlines, as if seen through sleepy eyelids. She blends her oils with thinned paint and wipes them with tinted glaze, leaving subtle traces of the brush.

Her study of art history inspired her to incorporate memento mori in her paintings. Dead branches and dried ferns are little reminders to acknowledge “life’s seasons and natural cycles.”

This concept inspired her to paint a life-sized portrait of a fallen tree, which in decay is smothered beneath foliage and flowers. She labored on the 15-foot-long triptych six days a week for two months.

But here she focuses not on death, but life, calling it a memento vivere—a “reminder to live in the present, to laugh and love, make new friends, celebrate babies and enjoy nature.”

She continues to celebrate nurturing with “Madonna of the back 40” in the form of a live, mature tree, shown as an upright trunk shadowed in violet. Under its branches flourish delicate, pastel flowers, rendered in silhouette. A tangle of stems and twigs metamorphoses upward into a semblance of stained glass.

Haller has not forgotten the male principle. She names her small painting of a logging slash pile, “Schumpeter’s Logic,” in memory of the Austrian-American economist who justified “creative destruction” as an essential part of capitalism.

One large painting stands out from others, seemingly an outlier with its comparatively monochromatic scheme. In “Jaune Brillant,” a forest pool glows with magical, golden light in a blue/violet forest. It’s a nice break from the stuffy, curatorial logic that requires an artist to stick to one style. Is this a new direction for Haller?

ICU Roof #2
More Visual...
Pioneer Museum
Bringing history into sharp focus

If there’s one museum I love to get lost in, it’s the Lynden Pioneer Museum on the city’s Front Street.

The 28,000-square-foot space has an amazing series of exhibits that take visitors back in time and give them a glimpse of city life, the agricultural history of Lynden, modes of…

more »
River's Edge
Seasonal sights in Mount Vernon

The River Gallery on Landing Road near the lower Skagit River, once a commercial greenhouse, is a natural home for art. The light is perfect and it’s roomy enough to show off works by 38 artists—more than most museums.  I always look forward to the harmony and balance of the exhibition…

more »
Studio Stats
An abundance of art

As the Whatcom Artist Studio Tour has grown near, organizers of the event that sees dozens of area artists opening their creative spaces for public perusal for two weekends every October have been highlighting on their Facebook page the various painters, sculptors, journal-makers, jewelers,…

more »
Events
Today
Book and Bake Sale

10:00am|Lynden Library

Harvest Happens

8:00am|Bellewood Acres

98221 Studio Tour

10:00am|Fidalgo Island

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Rabbit Ride

8:00am|Fairhaven Bicycle

Church of Brunch

10:30am|Gretchen's Kitchen

Bellingham Repertory Dance Open Rehearsal

11:30am|Firehouse Performing Arts Center

Wild Mushroom Show

12:00pm|Bloedel Donovan Community Building

Fresh-Milled Whole Grain Baking

1:00pm|Bread Lab

Audubon at the Museum

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

The Answer Tour

6:00pm|Mount Baker Theatre

Village Books
Tomorrow
Dog Day Afternoon

4:00pm|Ferndale Library

Dig Into Fall

6:00pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Restoring Gut Health

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Poetrynight

8:00pm|Bellingham Public Library

Guffawingham

9:30pm|Green Frog

Village Books Bellingham Farmer’s Market
Tuesday
All-Paces Run

6:00pm|Fairhaven Runners

Quail Class

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island

6:30pm|Mount Vernon City Library

Hawk Talk

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

Skagit Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Bayview Civic Hall

Coping with a cooper's hawk

7:00pm

Comedy Open Mic

7:30pm|Shakedown

Spectrum Dance Theater Lecture and Demo

7:30pm|Performing Arts Center Mainstage

see our complete calendar »

CWWarrenMiller Village Books Bellingham Farmer’s Market Trove Cascadia Weekly Subscribe Ad 1