By Alec Clayton
A sense of joy washes over viewers as they enter the Southwest Washington Regional Juried Exhibition at South Puget Sound Community College’s Leonor R. Fuller Gallery. Brightly colored paintings on suspended panels over the highly reflective black floors intensify the beauty of the space. Mostly paintings and a few sculptures in a variety of styles and subjects fill the gallery. There are works by many popular local artists, such as Marilyn Bedford, Sandra Bocas, Faith Hagenhofer, Becky Knold, Rene Westbrook and many more from southwest Washington who may not be well known in Olympia.
Charles Pitz — whom this reviewer was told lived on Mount Rainier, but who is listed on the gallery website as living in Olympia — makes elaborate and meticulously crafted curio cabinets, or memento mori, three of which are displayed in this show. His mixed media “Mare Sacro (Tabernacle)” is a cabinet that looks like a Renaissance archway painted in deep linear perspective. His “Memento Mori (Reliquary)” looks like a grandfather clock with a pair of butterflies where the clock face should be. His “The Golden Hour (House Alter)” is a cabinet with little boxes filled with floral pods and blooms. All three, especially when viewed together, are simply stunningly beautiful.
Janice Lyons has two acrylic paintings in the show, both layered with heavy paint application as if troweled on. From a statement written for the gallery website: “I embed a message in each of my paintings to myself and whoever views it. The communication is either written clearly on the canvas or hidden beneath layers of paint, sometimes using type I have set and printed for the piece.” These paintings are best appreciated for their color and texture. The messages are hard to decipher but can be fun to puzzle out. And they’re not absolutely abstract: There is a clock resting atop a wall in one entitled “You Think You Have Time.”
Becky Knold is noted for her often brightly colored abstractions that balance simple squares, circles and rectangles, usually two or three simple shapes in a variety of materials and mark-making. Here she goes dark with “Rise from Darkness” and “Above the Chaos,” paintings she says “have resulted from my most recent, personal response to events of this past year. They depict the duality of darkness/chaos, combined with and perhaps offset by the awe-inspired feelings that result from surviving in the midst of such conditions.”
Rene Westbrook is exhibiting a single, confrontational, disturbing picture titled “143378.” It’s a portrait of a woman with a flower pasted over her mouth and the number of the title printed below her chin. It’s subtitled “woman prisoner (outnumbered series, incarcerated black people in America).” The number is the prisoner’s identity.
Jay Shepard is exhibiting two constructed arches through which one can see, as if through windows, a deep desert landscape in one and blue sky through the other. Both are acrylic paintings on wood, which in turn rests on a sandstone base. Within one is a tiny bench, in the other a stack of stones. They are enigmatic and haunting and speak of the majesty and mystery of nature.
Sandra Bocas’s “Red One,” ink and watercolor on paper, is a portrait head of a woman staring directly into the viewers’ eye in softly brushed watercolor that seems to be on fire. Like Westbrook’s “143378,” it is confrontational and unforgettable. This piece was the recipient of the Viewers Choice Award 1921.
This is a show that should be visited and visited again.
2022 Southwest Juried Show
Noon to 6 p.m. Mondays – Fridays through August 18
Leonore R Fuller Gallery, South Puget Sound Community College,
2011 Mottman Rd. SW, Olympia