By Alec Clayton
As summer creeps in and as we begin to see hope for an end to the COVID pandemic, Childhood’s End Gallery celebrates rejuvenation with an exhibition called “Bloom.” It features flowers, flowers and more flowers by local artists, plus paintings, etchings, sculptures and a cascading curtain of living flowers by Olympia artist Kathy Gore Fuss.
Included in this welcoming show, in addition to Gore Fuss’s “A Place to Pause,” are works by Becky Frehse, Deborah Henderson, Marie Powell, Krista Schoening, Loralin Toney and Peggy Wilson.
Frehse is showing a selection of six landscape scenes in acrylic and collage. Each is an image of a small section of a pond or meadow with sparkling, heavily textured blues and other colors of nature, plus such foreign elements as flowing lines of wire or woven pieces of basketry. The result is a jazzy improvisation of painterly marks. These paintings are simultaneously relaxing and exciting.
Schoening has four small, pastel-and-graphite drawings of individual blooms on a light-gray background. All is soft — soft edges, soft shading and subtly glowing light. She’s showing one oil painting on a circular panel, also very small (13.5 inches in diameter), with brilliant, purple petals on a dark background. The beauty of these pieces grows on the viewer.
Toney’s created eight porcelain, copper and mixed-media sculptures of lifelike orchids. Some stand upright on plinths, while others hang on walls. An impressive group of three with root balls is presented in starkly contrasting, black display cases. On each orchid is a delicately sculpted pollinator: a bee, a spider, whatever creature pollinates that particular species of orchid. Works by Henderson, Powell and Wilson are all joyful and colorful.
Now for the pièce de résistance: Gore Fuss’s installation, “A Place to Pause.” It’s a curtain of hanging garlands in the doorway and one corner of the gallery, reaching into the gallery and its gift shop. This is the third in a series of floral arrangements conceived by Gore Fuss and created by teams of volunteers. The earlier arrangements were installed in outdoor settings in Olympia. Her first installation, “A Place to Mourn,” was installed on a friend’s property in Olympia’s northeastern neighborhood; the second, “A Place to Reflect,” in a small park near Garfield Elementary School. These floral works have been directly connected to losses suffered due to COVID. Gore Fuss explains she decided to step outside her usual studio work and create art that was “engaging and experiential,” a gift to her community.
The garlands are made of spray roses. Each is assembled with a snipped rosebud inserted on a threaded needle, which each flower onto lei thread. Each color required 100 bunches of spray roses. There are more than 350 garlands and 20,000 rosebuds in the larger form, “which feels like a floating cloud of beauty to me,” the artist said. “The flowers are in a process of drying, shifting colors and textures to evolve into an altered version of where they began. That process is a relevant metaphor for me in making this work. We all have been forced to adapt, shift and cope during the pandemic.”
Adjacent to the floral curtain are photographs of volunteers interacting with the hanging flowers, peeking from between them and wearing them as leis and so forth. The installation includes a journal for visitors to leave notes, a poem by Olympia poet laureate Ashly McBunch “and seating,” Gore Fuss explains, “that allows all of us to take time to pause as we try and figure out what a new normal might be.”
Two lines from McBunch’s poem aptly summarize “A Place to Pause”:
the whispered comfort of the
dance of hanging flowers
10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Mondays – Saturdays,
11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sundays through July 31
Childhood’s End Gallery,
222 Fourth Ave. W, Olympia