Visual Art Review by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS
Photo: “Poised” pastel by Barbara Noonan, courtesy Childhood’s End Gallery
Barbara Noonan’s work at Childhood’s End Gallery was announced like too many other landscape displays — pretty, predictable and unimaginative. But when one visits the gallery in person, the work communicates a surface quality and an awareness of color and design that was much more compelling than expected. Then on the east wall, one can also see Beverly Fotheringham’s seascapes. At first, such paintings appear to be photographs until one comes closer and can realize these are watercolors with a subtle painterly quality — each brushstroke clearly delineated and laid on with confidence.
Behind this set is a group of landscapes and pictures of, of all things, cows. They appeared at first to be by another artist; you may be surprised to discover these are more pastels by Noonan. These two women have created pictures in a style and genre that is often overdone and typically banal and lifted them up a notch or two.
Noonan’s landscapes are soft and dreamy. There is one called “Slipping In” that is more abstract than literal, which one might interpret as glaciers melting and slipping into the sea. With a wide range of blue and white tones, it looks so cold you might shiver to observe them.
Noonan’s best work is a group of six pastels of barnyard animals. There is one titled “Holy Cow” that pictures a single cow on a white sheet of paper. No background, just the glaring white of the paper. The cow’s body is painted with short, chiseled blocks of color and its face is left blank, the white of the paper flowing from background into the animal’s face, a brilliant move on the part of the artist in the way it economically unifies figure and ground. Also in this group is a similar pastel called “Poised” that pictures two cows in a field of yellow-green grass. They’re painted with the same choppy strokes, and the background advances visually. There is also one of a chicken that looks delightfully comical.
Fotheringham’s seascapes are rich in color and detail, similar to photo-realist paintings until you get close enough to see the brushstrokes. She uses a lot of high contrasts of hue and value, especially in the bright blues of sky and water contrasting with a burning orange on piers and in the lights on the piers and in the sky at sunset. It is particularly attractive to see a closeup of a cleat on a pier and of the trunk of a birch tree titled “Birch Brilliance” with its bright ultramarine background and tones of light blue, orange, brown and white on the peeling tree trunk.
The gallery has also held over a group of six paintings by Christopher Mathie from the previous show.
This review appears courtesy The Weekly Volcano.
Barbara Noonan and Beverly Fotheringham
10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday
11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, through Sept. 30
Childhood’s End Gallery
222 Fourth Ave. W, Olympia, 360.943.3724
Free, artwork for sale