VISUAL ART Songbirds and sculptures: Arresting images at Smith & Vallee Gallery By STEPHEN HUNTER

VISUAL ART Songbirds and sculptures: Arresting images at Smith & Vallee Gallery By STEPHEN HUNTER

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VISUAL ART

Songbirds and sculptures:

Arresting images at Smith & Vallee Gallery

By STEPHEN HUNTER

Evelyn Woods knows her birds. Each of the dozen, large oil-on-linen works adorning the walls of Smith & Vallee Gallery in Edison conveys a realism John J. Audubon would envy: a golden-crowned kinglet (“Waiting”), a varied thrush (“An Invitation”), five darkeyed juncos alighting in a snowy tree (“The Dinner Party”) and a pair of mourning doves in an oak tree contemplating coupling (“Assignation”).

Brilliant persimmons are the color highlight for a chestnut-backed chickadee in “Pause” and a barn swallow in “Abundance.”

Woods paints at her studio on Whidbey Island. Trees are also a favorite subject.

In her three “Ellensburg” oil-on-linen paintings — which I, at first, mistook for abstractions — she paints tree portraits “as one would a person,” seeking out the inherent nature of each and attempting to capture their distinct personalities.

Maria Wickwire’s ceramic sculptures, all female, are unique and beautifully molded by hand. She garnishes them with lovely, often surprising, natural objects that add meaning and mystery.

Birds perch on the figures as testimony of women’s gentleness. In “Love Me Like a Song,” a sculpted head culminates in a branch where songbirds rest. Another songbird appears in a work inspired by a poem: “The Answer to Every Question You Have Ever Asked” (ceramic, maple and bird’s nest).

I have read books on the subject of wounded women, but Wickwire’s works are the first visual treatment I’ve come across. Her females are mutilated. “Singing to an Ocean” features a blinded, nude woman encrusted with shells and barnacles. “Eilidh,” a Gaelic goddess who comes to liberate men from “traps of the earthly world,” sports antlers where arms should be.

Other armless sculptures are “Autumn Cascade” and “Elen of the Ways.” Elen, whose antlers are on her head, inhabits the “trackways and paths that cross both nature and the human soul.”

The sooty, dark subject of “A Wing and a Prayer” once again lacks arms, but look closely and you’ll find that her “breasts” are a second set of eyes. And “Standing Still and Learning to be Astonished” portrays a handsome, full-lipped head whose eyes are wrapped — standing so still that a crow rests on her head.

Perhaps Wickwire is telling us that the loss of one sense sharpens others and that a lack of sight conveys a deeper understanding. A clue is the bust entitled “Samara” who tilts her head and closes her eyes, assisted by an owl (the symbol of wisdom) resting on her forehead.

Wickwire’s work fosters so many questions. “Mother, Mother Ocean” is a striking piece — but why does the beautiful sea-creature contemplate a rusty (ceramic) chain? Hopefully, we can be like the beauty in “Dopo L’Incendio,” who looks upward confidently, even though her right breast has been scorched.

The most peaceful, even transcendent, work of Wickwire’s is “Lakshmi” (ceramic, glazes and metal). This beauty is whole, crowned, adorned with ferns and seaweed; she contemplates a blackbird that rests upon her hand.

Don’t miss the superb images by Pamela Wachter (oil on canvas and mounted on board) in the Flex studio. After a 25-year-career as a commercial designer and illustrator, she now returns to fine art with restful, luminous visions of our Northwest landscapes — peruse “After the Rainshower” and “Homeward Bound,” and I think you’ll agree they’re worth a second look. Works by painter Evelyn Woods and sculptor Maria Wickwire can be viewed from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Mondays

until May 1 in Edison at Smith & Vallee Gallery, 5742 Gilkey Ave. Info: smithandvalleegallery.com

Cascadia Weekly – ‘Stark Scenes’ by Stephen Hunter

Cascadia Weekly - 'Stark Scenes' by Stephen Hunter

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Stark Scenes

The presence of the pandemic
By Stephen Hunter

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Camille Ireland has always been fascinated by miniatures. At Smith and Vallee Gallery in Edison, each is protected within a small glass cloche.

Her “Frijoles” is a minute silver can, bowl and spoon. And what inspiration lies behind the spent cartridge case holding a tiny silver flower, entitled “Flor y Paz?”

Haltingly, the sculptor’s story comes out. On their honeymoon last January, she and her husband were highjacked in Central Mexico. She is haunted by the memory of him on the ground with a gun pointed at his head. Physically unharmed, they were left on a desolate road without money or identification.

The works of Jennifer Eaton White and Kathleen Faulkner make up the balance of the show, in which lurks the evil presence of the pandemic. In Faulkner’s “Best Roundabout,” (pictured) a shaggy tree, heavily worked in oil pastel, guards the intersection, empty save for puddles. Grey clouds and refinery smoke back a line of cedars which point dark fingers to the sky. It’s a picture of aloneness worthy of Edward Hopper.

In Faulkner’s powerful “Hillside,” a patch of blue sky suggests uncertainty. A brooding slope presses down, behind which windswept pines flee. “Ship Creek,” at first glance resembling so many of the painter’s familiar landscapes, is paradoxically unsettling—the sky is distant and the somber shoreline reeks of misery.

This mood continues in “Western Larch,” in which blinding white clouds threaten like a massive hand. “One of Many” features a hilltop under a blowing cloud, seeming to question its own existence—her sweeping “Boo’ya Moon” omits the moon, but there’s plenty of “boo’ya.”

Jennifer Eaton White invites us to experience the beauty of the Pacific Northwest through the medium of her prints. Painted and drawn upon, they take us deeply into the magical. Her images are stark, haunting and beautiful. Skies may be blank except for a staring moon; trees, grim skeletons. Her “Farm to Market Road” is a dramatic, spare composition dominated by power lines and their black shadows beneath.

“Longest Night” is a conclave of anxious trunks whose black roots make abstract patterns on moonlit sand. In “Valley View, Yamhill County” a yellow foreground—fenced off from the viewer—balances powder-blue sky. Hints of blush soften the fields in “From Raven’s Roost,” where once again a scrappy fence blocks the viewer from white blossoms and a golden field.

In the back, the Flex Gallery offers surprises: Fanciful “tools” including “OffyerRocker” by Fred Birchman of Seattle. These are only the tip of the iceberg of this sophisticated artist’s oeuvre, which playfully combines nostalgia and the grotesque. “Blue Alarm,” a single two-dimensional work in charcoal, ink, watercolor and graphite, betrays his surreal side.

Here also is a cluster of lovely works by Evelyn Woods, including small oil abstractions and two grand-scale nature portraits, “Waterfall” and “Bracken,” in which she captures the “distinct personalities” of trees.

Cascadia Weekly – ‘An Appointment with Art’ by Amy Kepferle

Cascadia Weekly - 'An Appointment with Art' by Amy Kepferle

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Wednesday, June 3, 2020

A simple business transaction drew me from downtown Bellingham to Skagit County last Sunday, the final day of Washington state’s shelter-in-place order.

I’d made plans to meet with artist Todd Horton at his Bow-based studio on Blanchard Road to purchase an ethereal painting of a heron in flight, but what I assumed would be a quick exchange of cash for art turned into a two-hour tour not only of Horton’s wildly productive creative lair, but also that of Altility, metal magician Aaron Loveitt’s growing gallery and work space just up the road.

Some of what I learned during the (masked and socially distanced) conversation about a collaboration between the friends will be revealed in an upcoming issue of this publication—due to the coronavirus crisis, the duo is hesitant to set exhibit details in stone just yet—but another big takeaway from the rare day trip was realizing how many artists and galleries throughout the area are adapting to the times in order to stay engaged and relevant during the vagaries of a global pandemic.

Just up the road from Horton’s and Loveitt’s headquarters, a couple of visually focused venues provide good examples of what I’m talking about—Smith & Vallee Gallery and i.e. gallery. They’re both in Edison, to which my date and I decamped soon after leaving Bow in order to quell our lunchtime hunger with to-go orders of clam strips and fish and chips from the Old Edison Inn, which had reopened for takeout just a few days before.

As we waited for our seafood selections, a short stroll down Edison’s main street confirmed that while neither gallery has flung its doors open to the public yet, both are open by appointment if you live relatively nearby and are willing to don a mask to stay safe while you peruse the art on display.

At Smith & Vallee, those entering the former schoolhouse will see a new exhibit of landscape-focused works by painters Jennifer Eaton White and Kathleen Faulkner (her painting, “The Source,” is pictured here) that opened June 1 in the main gallery and will hang throughout the month, as well as a show with painter Evelyn Woods and sculptor Fred Birchman in the smaller Flex Gallery.

Those who can’t make it in person won’t be out of the loop, as most of the works in the exhibits—along with a plethora of other pieces by regional artists—can be viewed and purchased on the gallery’s recently upgraded website. Smith & Vallee’s Facebook and Instagram pages also feature studio tour videos and images focusing on painters and sculptors they represent, links to articles about past shows, information about new artists they’re excited to debut, and talks by those who endeavor to bring their various visions to life.

Their efforts are paying off, as they recently noted on their Facebook page. “We find ourselves grateful as ever for those of you who have continued to support our gallery through online purchases, notes of encouragement, and photos and reflections of works in progress from our ever-industrious artists. We miss you all dearly.”

Nearby, i.e. gallery is continuing an exhibit by Orcas Island-based painter Mark Aronson and Whidbey Island’s Mike Scott, who, with the help of a lathe, transforms burls from maple and madrona trees into organic sculptures dictated by the wood’s natural shape. All of the works in the exhibit are on i.e.‘s website, as is a seven-minute tour of the show, and a longer talk by Scott, a native of Oxford, England, who’s called the Pacific Northwest home for the past decade.

In another move prompted by the changing times, the gallery recently announced they’ve set up their own YouTube channel called i.e. presents.

“It is an ideal platform to view interviews, talks and video tours of exhibits, especially in this time of social distancing,” they say. “Sometimes our artists have worked two or three years or more on a body of work that is scheduled to be shown for a month here at the gallery. We are moving back our dates for a month or so to ensure that the artists get the real live exposure they deserve and also making the exhibits and talks available virtually.”

While seeing art in person is preferable to viewing it on a screen—something I confirmed when I picked up “A Sunlit Flight” from Horton and discovered nuances I hadn’t been able to detect when he messaged me a photograph of the piece—it may well be these types of adaptations that keep creators and venues afloat for now. That said, if you have the opportunity to make an appointment with art, don’t be late.

Newly Aquired Originals from Ree Brown & Helmi Juvonen

Newly Aquired Originals from Ree Brown & Helmi Juvonen

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Smith & Vallee Gallery just acquired twelve pieces from Northwest Folk Artist Ree Brown and seven pieces from Northwest Legendary Artist Helmi Juvonen.

You can view these pieces in our inventory and look for them to be featured in the Flex Gallery soon!

Helmi Juvonen was an artist of considerable talent during a time when women artists in the Northwest were not taken seriously and few made art their vocation. She received considerable attention toward the end of her life and can be loosely associated with the artists who have come to be called the Northwest School. Morris Graves, Mark Tobey, and Guy Anderson were her friends and contemporaries. Known to all as simply “Helmi,” she brought a light-hearted joy and humor to a group of artists known more for their somber mysticism. She focused on primitive art at a time when there was very little interest in it. She is described by those who knew her as a person of endless energy and generous nature. She was prolific in her art production and totally without pretense. She could be called eccentric, but also independent, colorful, and whimsical. Although quite gregarious, Helmi also was a loner. It is sometimes difficult to pin down the facts of her life.

Helmi Dagmar Juvonen was born in Butte, Montana, on January 17, 1903. She was the second daughter of Finnish immigrant parents. Art was a common means of expression in the family with her father making pencil drawings for his two daughters, and her older sister worked in water colors. Helmi moved to Seattle with her mother and sister in 1918 at age 15 it was already quite apparent at that time that Helmi’s vocation would be art.

Following her graduation she took on a variety of jobs while attending evening classes at the Seattle Art School. Helmi became estranged from her family during this time as her mother and sister were strongly opposed to her attempts to study art and establish a career as an artist.

Beginning in 1929 she studied at the Cornish Art Institute on scholarships provided by well to do friends. In 1930, following a severe depression, Helmi was hospitalized and diagnosed with manic-depressive illness. Although she was in and out of institutions between 1930 and 1959, Helmi devoted a great deal of time studying and recording Indian culture and art. When she could, she continued to attend and sketch regional Indian ceremonies spending spent weeks at a time on the reservations.

She was able to earn a subsistence living doing commercial art and selling her own artwork. She spent a great deal of time with and made many close acquaintances in the community of artists, many of whom would later be identified with the Northwest School including Mark Tobey with whom she became obsessed in the early 1950’s. In February 1959 Helmi was legally declared incompetent and was sent to Oakhurst Convalescent Center where she would live until her death in 1985.

In 1975 a retrospective exhibit of Helmi’s work was mounted under the auspices of the Pacific Northwest Arts Council. The exhibit brought Helmi’s art to the attention of an appreciative art community. It was the first of several retrospective exhibits during the final ten years of Helmi’s life.