Body and Soul

Similarities to reality



WHAT: Trish Maharam’s “One Continuous Body”
WHEN: Through September
WHERE:Perry and Carlson Gallery, 504 S. First St., Mount Vernon
For more info:

WHAT: Drie Chapek’s “Soul Juice”
WHEN: Through Sept. 29; attend an Artist Talk at 4pm Sat., Sept. 21
WHERE: i.e. gallery, 5800 Cains Court, Edison

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Abstract art evokes emotions by teasing our minds to look for similarities to reality.

Two accomplished artists offer fine abstract works at Skagit Valley galleries this month; Trish Maharam at Perry and Carlson in Mount Vernon and Drie Chapek at i.e. gallery in Edison. They represent opposite approaches to materials, color and composition.

Maharam descends from a family of fabric entrepreneurs. In her art, so natural to her that she compares it to breathing, she knits, felts and hand-stitches on silk and linen. The finished work is spare and attenuated, her use of color restrained. She observes, “the pieces which most compel me are the ones which take me by surprise.”    

She headlines her work with a poem, “One Continuous Body.” The exhibit is an amalgam of stitchery and text; her own, plus quotations from her favorites, including Rilke and Proust. 

“We make a home,” she writes. “In mine are many rocks, shells, mounds of glass. Fabric, books.” Her choice favors unbleached white linen or silk, sometimes bound up with tiny treasures. “Like a Child” features glass fragments burnished from years of churning in surf, bound with silk thread. The analogous “torsos found” incorporates eroded fragments of shell. 

Many of her works are fragile, especially the intensely personal “hair beads.” She rolled up the 360 “beads” from strands found in the shower. Initial panic for hair lost “gave way to wonder” as the hairs compacted and felted, clinging to each other ”like a small head.” 

Maharam offers many versions of circles of thread on linen or silk.  Breasts come to mind. A series entitled “Gradations of Grey” employs dark knots rising to a point. “Circle of Words” suggests lines of type.  Staring at her spirals of “Spring Green” evoked a feeling of falling into desert ziggurats.             

Chapek has previously shown her paintings at i.e. With “Soul Juice,” she’s at the peak of her game. She paints big, in oil, and surprises by leaving thin washed canvas in pale hues next to thick impasto. She pushes somber blues against pink and faint marigold, orange against green.

Each of her substantial compositions is a rich visual experience. She creates depth not only by impasto, but also by juxtaposing light and dark. “Pleasure” features an irregular, rosy field streaked with red, framed by black on all sides. “Aloft” suggests a mountain peak backed with indigo, sun-washed glaciers tumbling down the front.

Chapek’s “Grounded” mesmerized me. Shrouds in white, yellow, crimson whisper power and majesty—an uncanny congruence to Velasquez’s 1650 portrait of Pope Innocent X.

She is at her most ambitious with “These Times.” There’s no pictorial hook for the imagination here. Sinews stretch across the canvas, framed by viridian to one side and blood red, the other. Was this what another reviewer described as “fully alive and beautifully decomposing?”

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