“And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door”
—Edgar Allan Poe, “The Raven”
Ravens are bad-asses.
In history—when they weren’t busy freaking out poets—the midnight-black birds have been associated as the hosts of murdered people in Sweden, been used as a device by the Vikings to point the way toward success in battle, served as the eyes and ears to the Norse King Odin, and played a prominent role in certain Native American mythologies—both as a creator of the world and as a sly trickster.
“A lot of people identify with crows and ravens in the Pacific Northwest,” Fourth Corner Frames & Gallery owner Sheri Wright says. It’s one of the reasons she decided to host a “Quoth the Raven” exhibit at the downtown Bellingham frame shop she’s owned and operated on her own since 2001.
The germ of the idea came when the longtime framer had some leftover supplies that she didn’t quite know what to do with. She offered them to her part-time employee, artist Laurie Potter, who made a spooky series of long, thin paintings featuring the eponymous birds. Before long, a variety of other Bellingham artists such as Steve Satusek, Shirley Erickson, Irene Lawson, and Ron Pattern had gotten onboard, and, come October, the Holly Street space filled up with a murder of ravens.
The result makes it clear that although the corvids are kind of creepy, they’re also incredibly beautiful, and often even noble.
Irene Lawson’s ceramic plates, for example, are comprised of stately silhouettes of the birds in various states of motion. They’re definitely cool enough to hang on the wall, but would also be the perfect vehicle on which to serve carrion.
Erickson’s sculptures, on the other hand, are more playful. Many of the life-sized ravens are ensconced on small perches attached to bright red wheels. Her paintings—one of which, no fooling, features a real raven’s leg and a chicken bone—are much darker in tone and execution.
Potter’s contributions offer up the most diversity, with up-close-and-personal paintings, more moody and atmospheric paintings (such as the ones mentioned above) and a half-man/half-raven painting that reportedly won her a “Best of Show” prize at a prestigious art competition.
If I was able to take home one of the pieces, Ron Pattern’s “Forest and Magnolia” would be the one I’d choose, and not just because it’s based in the town where I live.
Although I’m guessing Bellingham residents will recognize the blue Victorian from the streets it’s named after—plus a couple local landmarks—I loved the mood Pattern’s painting evoked. The ravens circling the house are creepy, but it’s the imagining of what’s happening inside the house to draw them there that kind of freaked me out (in a good way).
Wright says she was thinking the same thing, and we both moved closer to the painting to see if we could view anything rustling behind the curtains. We couldn’t, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t something there.
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