By Alec Clayton
Guest juror Aisha Harrison chose a wide variety of art for the 2021 Southwest Washington Juried Exhibition at South Puget Sound Community College: paintings, sculpture, textiles in many styles and wide-ranging content. It is great to see this show returning for in-person viewing, albeit at 50 percent capacity.
Indicative of the eclectic nature of the show, Tacoma artist Lynn DeNino’s “Riding the Wave” is a bright, playful drinking glass full of ice cubes in the form of Chihuly-like flowers into which a man wearing sunglasses has plunged with abandon. This multi-colored mixed-media piece bubbles with joy while nearby Irene Osborn’s little clay “Comfort” is a sweet depiction of two figures hugging. She says of it, “The enveloping figure could be comforting memories, thoughts, faith, or death, or it could be dread of what is to come.”
“Push Ridge Mirage” by Maitri Sojourner is playful in a much different manner from DiNino’s cocktail-glass sculpture. It is one painting, on 21 square panels, of an orange mountain range in a yellow desert with pink cacti. Through sheer size, it dominates the back wall of the gallery. Sojourner’s desert scene is populated with ocotillo, saguaro, prickly pear, and barrel cacti, the green palo verde tree, quail, lizard, rabbit, roadrunner, deer and more: a kaleidoscope of desert life.
Travis Johnson is represented by three of his abstract-expressionist figures: “The Lost Bunny,” “Golden Age of Incarceration” and “Guilty Until Proven Innocent.” With echoes of Jean Michel Basquiat and Willem de Kooning, Johnson’s paintings are sly and wickedly funny, with visually astounding mark making and satirical commentary on race and tradition.
Mary Lane’s hand-woven tapestry is somber collage of images in black, brown and red. At first glance it is an abstract painting reminiscent of Clyfford Still or Franz Kline, but eventually the shapes begin to emerge as birds in flight with rocks and layered and interwoven patterns.
Sharon Styer, whose titles are always as inventive as her images, shows a collage titled “I Used to be Indecisive, But Now I’m Not.” It pictures a pensive man in a green jacket with a big black and white face rendered in cross-hatched marks that merges with a background, also black and white, which looks like a close-up view of part of a decorated Christmas tree. Styer’s collages simulate the imagination but only hint at answers to the what’s-going-on-here question.
Sandra Bocas’ “Henry” is a portrait or a man with a blue face and one burning orange cheek staring wide-eyed at the viewer. His expression is hypnotic, some might say threatening, and the colors are almost uncomfortably intense.
Jason Sobottka, well known for his large surrealistic fantasy paintings, is showing something completely different in this show: a small acrylic “Portrait of Gloria” with hints of Rembrandt.
Perhaps the most mesmerizing piece in the show is “Five Views of the Forest Floor,” a sculpture by 2Dye4s, the name chosen to represent collaborative work by Vali Groening, Ellen Meents, Carla Osterby, Sonya Smith-Pratt and Diane Weeden. It is a 40-inch-tall cylinder in five sections that rotates. Each section is covered with densely layered cloth and paper and thread and other materials depicting moss and leaves and dirt and limbs and tree trunks. It is so gritty and dirty looking that viewers must feel like they are seeing dirt and grass and moss ripped from the forest and glued to the revolving cylinder. Each of the five sections was done by a different one of the five artists, and there is a label identifying which section was created by which artist.
This show presents a thorough representation of contemporary art in the South Sound.
2021 Southwest Washington Juried Exhibition at South Puget Sound Community College
Noon to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday through Aug. 22
Leonor R. Fuller Gallery, South Puget Sound Community College, 2011 Mottman Rd. SW. Olympia