Galleries Tour

So many galleries, so little time. Seattle, Tacoma, Olympia, and places in between. With too many to choose from, I narrowed my options by avoiding the obvious and seeking out the obscure. I was not disappointed; I discovered unique finds, captivating treasures, and absorbing collections.

In the heart of downtown Enumclaw I came across a hidden gem. Arts Alive! displays a wide variety of art representing a kaleidoscope of mediums. Offerings include glass, photography, jewelry, textiles, and stone sculpture.

I was fascinated by bowls composed of fragile fall foliage—a brown maple leaf here, a twig there, a twisted pod, splashes of crimson. The artist is identified only as “Gypsey.”

Equally intriguing are sculptures constructed of old farm implements. Rusty shovels and nails, deteriorating tractor seats, contorted pipes and odds and ends of scrap metal are joined, resulting in whimsical creations. Many are bells. Striking them with rustic hammers produces a surprisingly clear, resonant sound. Artist Randy Brown, an Enumclaw resident, aptly calls his studio “The Scavenger’s Workshop”.

In sharp contrast are Acie Worthey’s clocks. The cottage-style mantel pieces are lavish with intricately scrolled gingerbread. Light contrasts against dark; gold-rimmed clock faces glimmer softly against the wood, elaborate with detailed cut-outs. Some have arches or even hinged doors through which the pendulum can be viewed.

An anthology, Raining Words, showcases a collection of poetry written by participants of Enumclaw Poetry Jam, a group of area poets. The Poetry Jam meets monthly for readings. Begun in 2006, it grew, and from it the first annual anthology was born.

The cover of Raining Words is a reproduction of an oil composition by the same name. Painted by local artist Lori Twiggs, it portrays a woman with an umbrella walking alone in driving rain. An impressionistic style, employment of rich, bold color and use of light create a drama that took my breath away. Though Raining Words was auctioned off for a charity event, several of Twiggs’ works remain on display in the gallery.

South of Puyallup in the small town of Graham, Lucas Art and Frame, also known as the “Gallery on the Hill”, features artists who have an unmistakable passion for what they do and it shows in the art they create. Everyone associated with the gallery shares the same appreciation and dedication for art.

I was drawn to Tim Wistrom’s surrealistic style. His paintings reflect an alternate reality where nature has reclaimed the cities of the world. Seattle landmarks meet an aquatic demise. Orcas glide by a submerged Kingdome; a monorail is suspended over Puget Sound while horses frolic on the beach below. Humpback whales swim near a submerged and dilapidated Safeco Field. In one of his newer works, “Road Trip”, Seattle’s Pink Elephant Car Wash sign watches a herd of elephants wander down the street. Times have changed and the Space Needle towers over the city.

Wistrom’s work reflects his love for the sea and nature, making it widely popular. During the mid-1980’s he developed his surrealistic style, depicting some of our current ecological concerns. The Pacific Northwest has been Tim’s home for about twenty years.

The level of intricacy in Richard Mazza’s wood carvings is awe-inspiring. Whimsical houses, churches, and lighthouses are among the pieces he crafts. Log cabins with stone chimneys, paned windows, and trim are a testimony to his attention to detail. The rustic shelter on display at Lucas Art and Frame was carved entirely from a single piece of wood. In many of his carvings, some of the outer bark is left intact creating contrast between rough and smooth, light and dark.

What’s unusual about Julie Thompson’s art is not the subject matter but the medium. Using acrylics, she creates paintings on naturally-molted peacock feathers. Originally from Alaska and now a resident of the Pacific Northwest, it’s only natural that she would paint wildlife—avian, aquatic, and North American mammals. Mallard ducklings paddle through reeds after their mother; a majestic mule deer elk pauses in the afternoon sun; a group of female sockeye salmon make their way upstream. The exposed quills are often meticulously painted—bright geometric designs, pinhead dots, Native American motifs, and sometimes Julie’s signature adorn the hollow shaft. Her feathers were recently used in a video with Gordon Lightfoot’s “Cherokee Bend”.

I discovered The White Dove Gallery on a quiet street in Lakewood. Though it looks small from the outside, the building contains three floors of gallery space. The eight rooms, including a converted closet, display pottery, blown glass, country crafts, paintings and designer jewelry.

I was enchanted by clay figures formed by Mexican-American artist Maria Rojas. Collectively known as La Mona Gorda (“Big Mama”) or simply Maria, the stout female figures range in height from five to twenty-four inches. Each one is handmade as a tribute to the Indian women in Oaxaca and portrays everyday responsibilities of child rearing, food preparation and flower gathering.

La Mona Gorda delivers her simple message in an accompanying brochure: “Hi. My name is Maria… every morning, I go out to collect a few flowers, fruits and vegetables, to sell them sitting on the sidewalk of the street markets. I represent the hard working woman dedicated to my family with love and pride.”

Each sculpture is different. Some are painted, some are not. Some wear their dark hair braided; others have angel wings and are accented in gold. Babies rest in the arms of some, bouquets of lilies in others. Some play instruments; others carry baskets of produce or a delicious meal.

In Olympia, Debra Van Tuinen’s Fine Art Gallery is open only by appointment. Of her most recent paintings, I was drawn in by “Beach Meditation,” a series of oil encaustic abstracts. The same isthmus of shoreline juts out in each piece; what changes are the hues and the lighting. The smoky blue tones in the first imply a misty morning; in another, mauve and violet strokes aside saffron gold are reminiscent of sunset. Several works in her “Paintings from the Garden” collection depict snowy white calla lilies against a deep indigo background. The contrast is startling and the simplicity remarkable.

By staying off the beaten path, I was richly rewarded. Fine art galleries abound, not only in the larger cities, but in less obvious locales as well. As Robert Frost wrote, “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

For more information:
Arts Alive! | Enumclaw www.plateauartsalive.org
Lucas Art & Frame | Graham www.lucasart.net
White Dove Gallery | Lakewood www.whitedovegallery.com
Van Tuinen Art | Olympia www.vantuinenart.com

Janae Colombini