Harold Nelson Collages at Department of Ecology

ART REVIEW by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS

Harold Nelson’s paper collages at the Department of Ecology in Lacey are phenomenal. Some may say they could be seen as gimmicky in a Where’s Waldo kind of way, but solid design and color harmonies elevate them above the merely tricky, not to mention that they are clearly work-intensive.

There is no drawing or painting in these many collages and no materials other than paper cut into small strips, curlicues and organic shapes. Much of this latest work, which should be seen on Nelson’s website, consists of what Nelson calls virtual collage — strips of paper that are put together but not glued to the surface, with physical space between overlapping layers. These are mostly abstract and mind-boggling in their complexity.

Nelson’s work in this show is from the past eight to nine years and comprises urban landscapes and seascapes. Many include figures of celebrities and other surprises that are tiny and so well hidden that viewers have to closely examine them to see what is there.

Martha Stewart shows up repeatedly in “How Martha Stewart’s Apron Unfolds in My Life” and “Martha’s World.” Multiple images of George W. Bush and others associated with his administration such as Karl Rove and Dick Cheney make appearances in “The Tower and the Mountain,” in which Bush’s visage appears on Mt. Rushmore. Next-generation Republicans John McCain and Sara Palin also make appearances.

One of the more startling images is “The Shoreline,” a bird’s-eye view of a beach city identified as San Jose, Calif., with the ocean depicted as a monstrous tsunami of rushing water flowing from upper left to lower right. The perspective in this one is like that of Wayne Thiebaud’s San Francisco city scenes

Sussing out all the hidden images can be great fun and can be done only by careful and close attention; but these collages also demand to be seen from a distance to appreciate the overall compositions.

Also showing are works by Melissa Barnes, Colletee Mason and Chandra Bezjak.


Harold Nelson collage


8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday, through August


Washington Department of Ecology, 300 Desmond Dr SE, Lacey






1 thought on “Harold Nelson Collages at Department of Ecology”

  1. Alec….so glad you were able to see this show! Appreciate your reflections…Harold’s work is intense and fascinating. I first saw it at Port Angeles Fine Art Center, as part of Jake Seniuk’s wonderfully curated group exhibitions. A lot going on there! Because it is in a public part of the Ecology building, viewers can just show up and go see it without escort.

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