Cascadia Weekly – ‘Stark Scenes’ by Stephen Hunter

Cascadia Weekly - 'Stark Scenes' by Stephen Hunter


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.