Lois Beck and Mary McCann at Department of Ecology

ART REVIEW by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS

The Department of Ecology in Lacey is routinely filled with art, with rotating shows of local and area artists in the public spaces. Works by two Olympia artists, Lois Beck and Mary McCann, are now on display in the dining room (McCann) and the lobby (Beck). These artists have shown together quite a bit. McCann paints intensely colored landscapes; Beck makes abstract paintings, prints and collages that are often based on landscape.

In this show, McCann presents a group of 17 small oil paintings, primarily of mountain ranges with sky and water. Her colors are fiery, and the paint is layered on the surface with a knife or paint scraper of some sort, so the paint itself mirrors the look of craggy rocks. Colors dragged across the surface mix lusciously. Bright colors from the red-to-yellow arc of the color wheel predominate, offset with deep purple and blue; and even though McCann simplifies the images to the point of being almost abstract, her painting method creates the essence of her subject matter.

“Subduction” is a dark image with thin scratches into the surface to create lightning-like zips of white to blue-white lines. It is a hellishly apocalyptic image.

“Hot Smoker” is the most abstract painting in the group. It shows a flowery burst of yellow and orange in a purple and blue-green field.

A couple that are slightly different from the others are “Moraine” (a glacially-deposited mass of rocks) and “Windgate Formation.” “Moraine” stands out because of its icy blues and whites, and “Windgate Formation” because instead of being painted in rough, choppy layers of paint like the others, it is soft, atmospheric, and as restful as the others are agitated.

Beck’s 16 small prints and collages are experiments in combining print with collage, employing collaged geometric shapes cut out of monoprinted paper combined with energetic mark-making. Many of them have the playful look of paintings by Joan Miró, minus Miró’s animals and people. These works are almost completely non-objective arrangements of squares, circles, triangles and other flat shapes floating over fields of energetic marks. They have the feel of dancing and partying with confetti, party hats and champagne bubbles — especially the collages titled “Epsilon” and “Party Time.”

The similarity to Miró might or might not be intentional, but surely she must have seen and been impressed by Miró, as well as by Mark Rothko, whose color usage shows up in an abstract titled “Colorado Sky,” the least abstract picture in her show. And there’s no denying the intentional homage to Mark Tobey in “Ala Tobey.” The surface quality and the mark-making in this one pays tribune to the earlier artist, as the title acknowledges.

There will be a joint artist’s reception Dec. 7 from noon to 2 p.m. No ending date for the show has been set. One of the artists estimated it will run at least two months, and the other said into early March.

This review appears courtesy The Weekly Volcano.



Lois Beck and Mary McCann Paintings


8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, through approximately end of February


Washington Department of Ecology, 300 Desmond Dr SE, Lacey


Free, artwork for sale.



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