You may be a fan of Lanny Little and not even know it.
If you’ve ever admired one of the numerous outdoor murals the artist has created in the 14 years since he and his wife, Kay, moved to Bellingham, then you’ll likely be interested in viewing “A Sense of Place,” an exhibit currently on display at Fairhaven’s Lucia Douglas Gallery.
Even though the artist has stopped painting outdoor murals on public cityscapes such as the Fairhaven Village Green and the Bellingham Parkade, the exhibit shows that Little is still feeling the love for his adopted hometown.
Although there are a number of lovely landscape paintings of flora and fauna found in this neck of the woods, the focal point of the show is on iconic places and spaces within city limits.
Whether it’s the red façade of the Fairhaven Pharmacy, the rain-soaked corner of Bay and Holly streets—which manages to include Bayou on Bay, the lit-up tower of the Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall, the endlessly phallic sculpture on the corner and a rendering of one of Little’s own murals on the building across the street—Taco Lobo at night, or Avenue Bread’s storefront on Railroad Avenue, the paintings do what the title of the exhibit says they will; they bring a immediate sense of place to the forefront—provided you’re familiar with Bellingham, of course.
“I chose ‘A Sense of Place’ as the title of the show because I hope that when people view my paintings, whether of a natural or an urban subject, they get the feeling that a real sense of place and time has been captured and preserved,” Little says.
“I am a big fan of Edward Hopper and especially admire his famous painting, ‘Sunday Morning,’ in which strong lateral light casts elongated shadows on a building facade with no sign of human activity. Before [gallery owner] Linda [Gardner] and I agreed to have this exhibit, I had painted a couple of Sunday-morning urban scenes, and I decided to paint a few more.”
While limited human activity happens within the dozen or so paintings featuring Bellingham’s places and spaces, that doesn’t mean they’re lifeless. Far from it. The colorful locales feel alive with activity, even if all you see is a man shading his eyes behind the window of Tony’s coffee shop or the passing reflection of a car.
Another thing you’ll notice in the painting is Little’s attention to detail—whether it’s a bright red Cascadia Weekly newspaper box on the corner, a poster of George Clooney in the windows of Film is Truth or Little’s recreation of one of his own outdoor murals.
“Since I have painted murals on a number of the city’s walls, it was inevitable that some would end up in my easel paintings,” Little says. “I confess to being proud of the murals, and I guess, in a way, I am kind of showing off by putting parts of them in my paintings.”
The one image in which Little went indoors—and away from architecture or nature—is in “Gordie’s World,” a painting of Gordie Tweit, former owner of Fairhaven Pharmacy. Surrounded by numerous bottles and paintings in his private museum in the basement of the pharmacy, Tweit looks out at the world with big glasses and a slight grin.
“When I painted the mural on the Village Green, Gordie was there daily taking pictures and shooting the breeze,” Little says of the iconic Fairhaven fixture. “This painting was meant to be a tribute to him.”
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