By Alec Clayton
Each year, award winners from South Puget Sound Community College’s juried exhibition are featured in the Juror’s Invitational. This year’s invited artists comprise a quartet of contrasting but equally excellent artists selected by juror June Sekiguchi. They are painters Marilyn Bedford and Hart James, sculptor Ron Hinton, and photographer John Korvell.
Bedford is represented by a group of seven small acrylic paintings, each minimalist with loosely brushed paint and depicting such common objects as a lamp, a handbag, abstract forms that can be interpreted as bushes isolated in a field — each a single object of a single color in open space, plus one abstract painting, “Waiting for Tomorrow,” consisting of a stack of blue bars on a dark gray ground. The variations in hue and value are subtle, and there are barely discernible stabs of orange, black and white in the interstices between the stacked bars. This can be seen as purely abstract or, as hinted by the title, can be read as a stack of clothing or towels waiting to be used.
Bedford’s paintings are small, typically 6×6″ to 10×8″. The subtle mark-making and exciting color combinations make them sing.
Hinton is showing three sculptural metal containers with hinged lids and computer-generated drawings etched into the bronze surfaces. These pieces are displayed on pedestals. He is also showing a group of six wall-hung pieces in patinaed and painted metal, some with copper and steel wire and perforated stainless-steel sheets. The smaller standing pieces hint at folded paper airplanes or perhaps models of spaceships. The hinged pieces can be folded and unfolded by viewers, and the etched drawings on many of them is abstract and precise, offering sharp lines to contrast with the broad sheets of metal.
Hinton’s wall-hanging pieces, generally larger than the standing sculptures, look a lot like origami. There is a futuristic, shiny, industrial look to all of his sculptures. Some can be seen as opening and closing flowers or cocoons — the viewer should let their imagination run wild.
Korvell’s photographs, which he describes in a wall text as “street photography,” depict raw humanity in its aloneness, fear and vulnerability, but also in its defiant strength. They are sharp-focused photos of non-romanticized human beings, singly and coupled, which bring to mind works by Diane Arbus and also paintings by the great Rembrandt.
“Stand By Your Man,” the only black and white photo in the show, depicts an elderly couple with white hair, dressed like pioneers from perhaps the dustbowl years (but the background setting is a modern commercial interior as evidenced by the exit sign). The man and the woman stare intently ahead with sad expressions. He is seated, and she leans into him with an arm protectively or consolingly around his shoulders.
Korvell also shows a picture called “Twas the Night Before” of a lone man in a bar wearing a Santa costume and sunglasses, holding a glass of beer with another full glass on the table, but no companion in sight. Perhaps his companion has gone to the restroom, or perhaps he is drinking alone. It is the ultimate depiction of sadness. “Morning Constitutional” shows a lone man walking on a beach. He is hunched over, shirtless and barefoot, wearing shorts. Slanted sunlight hits his back, leaving his front in dark shadow. His loneliness is accentuated by the implied vastness of the sea and sand. There could easily be crowds just out of sight, but the implication is that there is not another soul for miles.
Finally, James’s five large paintings, each 36×36″, are on display. James is undoubtedly one of the best modern landscape painters on the West Coast if not one of the best in the country. In her individualistic style, she builds on the heritage of Cezanne with what might be seen as influences from Thiebaud and Diebenkorn. She does away with traditional perspective, bringing everything up to the surface, and her heavy paint application, augmented and highlighted by drips of thin medium that cut into the surface, makes everything from sky to mountains and streams look as if hewn from solid rock.
“Downstream” — oil, graphite and charcoal on canvas — shows a mountain stream in colors that appear dark and foreboding despite some brilliant blues and greens and shining sheets of stark white. A waterfall is a solid sheet of white, almost like a monolith jammed into the composition, and waves in the stream are depicted as solid bars of white like stair steps. In a painting titled “Reverence,” gray and green hills are so dense as to make the entire scene appear impassable. White forms at the top could be snow covered mountains or mountain-like clouds. James’s landscapes are anything but light and impressionistic.
The Juror’s Invitational can be seen online or in person by appointment only with masking and social distancing.
Juror’s Invitational with Marilyn Bedford, Ron Hinton, Hart James and John Korvell
Through April 30, by appointment only and virtually online
Leonor R. Fuller Gallery, South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW. Olympia