ART REVIEW by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS
Bill Collins and Gail Ramsey Wharton are the perfect pairing for a Halloween show. The imagery in Wharton’s collages is bizarre and highly inventive, and Collins’s recent paintings of houses and cars are downright spooky. Plus, the weirdness in both is done with tongue firmly planted in cheek. People without imagination or with impaired sense of humor should not attend this show.
“Connecting previously unrelated things is the subtext of most collage art, and this, in combination with my love for surprise and novelty, is what continually motivates me as an artist,” Wharton says. That is the very definition of surrealism.
Wharton’s collages have always been quirky and humorous. For this show, she chose works that, in her own words, are “dark, haunting, mysterious and spooky.”
A woman with an oversized hand holding a feather quill stands next to a parrot on a perch. Her face is half black and half white, and both she and the parrot stare menacingly at the viewer. Quoth the parrot, nevermore.
In another portrait, the face of a woman who looks like a statue carved out of sandstone also stares menacingly at the viewer. None of her facial features — most noticeably her cockeyed left eye — properly fit in her face.
In yet another, a pair of porcelain dolls dance together under a fluffy white cloud and on a field of unidentifiable printed matter such as maps and sheets of music and the written words “Well, I never said it was spring.”
It is not always easy to decipher the stories Wharton’s collages tell. What they also have going for them in addition to the quirkiness of her imagery is technical excellence. The pieces are put together seamlessly, and it is almost impossible to tell what parts are collaged and what parts are drawn or painted.
Collins is represented by twenty-something paintings in pink, black and gray of houses and cars on printed bedsheets. In almost all of them, the print patterns on the sheets are allowed to show through the paint. The house images are of actual Olympia area houses such as the Finch house, the Iverson house and Maytown Grange. They appear to be empty, deserted, haunted. Their open windows are eyes into the soul of the buildings. In a few, black silhouetted figures appear in a window or doorway, but in most the windows open onto nothingness. They are shells of houses. The viewer can look right through them to the pink and gray backgrounds of printed patterns.
The cars are seen to be zooming along deserted roads at night in the rain or mist, their headlight beams piercing the dark. In at least one of them, the light beams are cockeyed, one aimed ahead and one down and to the right.
Both the cars and the houses are painted with wet-on-wet paint application. The paint is allowed to run and drip and spread one area across another. These are extremely haunted and haunting images, but not without a touch of humor.
Paintings and collages by Gail Ramsey Wharton and Bill Collins
Oct. 25-26 and Nov. 1-2, 5-7 p.m., reception Sunday, Oct. 27, 4-7 p.m.
All Sorts Gallery, 2306 Capitol Way S, Olympia