Visual Art

First Thursday: February

Free is the word at downtown galleries and museums.

By Laura Dannen February 4, 2010

 

Where will we be this First Thursday?

At Greg Kucera Gallery, where a small sample of John Buck’s woodwork is on display through February 13. Buck carves everything from peacocks to mullets to hookah pipes into panels of soft jelutong wood (like a balsa wood) imported from Malaysia. Though the detail work impresses, it’s the blend of aesthetics—merging folk art and contemporary—that makes his pieces thoughtful and accessible. He even gets a little cheeky with Untitled #1: a sculpture of a woman flexing her muscles, strong man-style, but in place of a head and neck is what looks like a scale balancing ornate objects. In The Perfect Fit, a woman with fists clenched has her “head” full—a grid with a silhouette of a man and feather/stalk, and everything in its place. You have to wonder what’s going through the “minds” of some of these women he’s whittled—whether this is commentary on how they compartmentalize their day to day, all the while maintaining a delicate balance between work and home. Or maybe it’s that they have nothing going on up there at all.

A larger collection of Buck’s woodwork, Iconography, is on display at Bellevue Art Museum through February 28.

We’ll also stop by G. Gibson Gallery to find out what’s really happening in Michael Brophy’s oil paintings of Eastern Oregon landscapes, titled South of Twenty (in reference to Highway 20). The Portland, Ore. resident will be in house tonight to talk about his work, which is a departure from his usual fare: more contemplative, practically photo-realistic. He uses bold brushstrokes throughout—it’s not uncommon to see three-quarters of a canvas taken up by sky alone—but it’s the details I’d like to talk to him about. For instance: Who’s the shadow creeping into Still No. 1? Click on “View Slideshow” to see what I’m talking about. (On display through February 20)

Finally, we’ll swing by Foster/White Gallery (these galleries are all on the same street, it’s easy to hit them all in an hour). Sheri Bakes’s work is no longer in a formal exhibit, but some pieces of North Cascades remain that we love revisiting. Her oil paintings take scenes in the North Cascades National Park—all done in rich earth tones or dynamic reds—and blurs them, like a photo out of focus. But it’s the story behind them that gets you. The entire series is dedicated to her grandfather, who was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia and given electroconvulsive shock therapy when Bakes was young; her family thinks this treatment led to her grandfather’s untimely death. She explores a deteriorating mental state in each painting, adding layers of trauma to pieces like Electro-Convulsive Shock Therapy: Waiting For Lightning, in which a frail tree sits vulnerably on a mountaintop, practically waiting to be struck.

Um, and on that note, happy First Thursday!

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