Friday, July 24, 2009

I had to take my car into the shop to repair my sunroof. I took advantage of the 1-hour wait by sketching this abandoned cement plant in Tukwilla, WA.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Robert Small’s Raku -

I am just back from a trip to the Mountlake Terrace Library. I stopped in to see a show advertised as Raku by Robert Small. I was disappointed and I will tell you why.

Raku is a process for firing ceramics, which introduces flammable material into final stages to induce a chemical reaction in special glazes producing an iridescent effect in the finished product. Raku can lead to stunning pieces that seem to change color as the light changes around them. I was prepared and expecting this sort of pottery.

Instead, I found twenty-five ceramic slabs, some flat and some bent in undulating waves. They vary in size, but are generally between one to two feet in length and about a foot in height. The slabs are decorated with scenes carved into the clay with crisp, illustrative lines. A descriptive banner proclaims that these are “Clay Art Scenes.”

The scenes presented come in three motifs or flavors: Mountain, Desert and Cityscape. The mountain scenes feature rolling hills, idealized evergreens and sometimes a little cabin. The same little cabin makes an appearance in four of the pieces. The desert scenes are recognizable by the many Saguaro Cacti, often silhouetted against a glowing sunset. The cityscapes all contain a Space Needle rising above the other structures.

Each cityscape was separately titled. This show contains: Twilight Skyline, Queen City Silhouette, Seattle Skyline, Seattle Copper Skyline and Emerald City Skyline. I could not help but wonder whether Small would simply run out of names for this image before he grew tired of reproducing it.

I did not find the show satisfying or significant. The ceramic works in this show are superficial and sentimental. They are in a word, “Kitsch”.

I search myself for the source of my negativity around this show. Small is a retired Doctor of Optometry, now spending a considerable part of his retirement creating these clay scenes in the hope of putting a smile on some unfamiliar face. How can I fault him for that? Am I just being grumpy?

My answer is that his work shows more promise than this show produces. He has achieved some brilliant glazing and interesting textures. Although, I would have preferred more of the typical Raku iridescence evidenced in the shimmering olive green over the coppery glaze in “Seattle Skyline.” I would have also preferred images that granted more authority to the viewer: increased subtlety and softer edges to the shapes. Small’s work moves in these directions with “Mountain Triptych”, “Lone Pine” and “Fingers of the Night.”

I was bothered with this show because I can see unrealized potential for significant works of art. But Small will need to re-imagine his gift store craft as credible gallery art.

Raku by Robert Small is located at the Mountlake Terrace Library located at 23300 - 58th Ave. West, Mountlake Terrace, Washington. They are open at 10:00 a.m., Monday through Saturday. This exhibition continues through the end of June 2009.

Friday, June 12, 2009

This was painted across from a boatyard in Marysville. A beautiful day, but I had only about 50 minutes to work so I had to paint quickly.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Evergreen Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
building has a front door, but no one uses it.
The entry of choice is the back door off the parking lot.
They are on the web at
I was able to spend an hour with the entryway in the
setting sun on Thursday, 5/21/09.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Keith Pace – Espresso Americano, May 2009

The current show at Espresso Americano features a collection of photographs by Keith Pace. Pace has recently taken over the position of curator for art shows at this venue.

I have mixed feelings about Espresso Americano as an art venue. I fully support attempts to show original art and rotating art shows create an opportunity for the regulars to experience a wide range of artistic expression. But the facilities at this location were not designed with art in mind. Paintings are crammed into bookshelves, some with glass doors, which obscure the image behind. The lighting is less than optimal and the overall effect is a sense that the art is merely an afterthought. If Espresso Americano is serious about the art they hang, they should consider remodeling to create a space that doesn’t detract from the art.

The current display contains thirteen mid-sized photographs. The images are not labeled, but we are told they are pulled from three different series. The first group of five prints is from the Yellowstone Spring series. These are delicate and dreamy images from the hot and steamy area between the Yellowstone pools and the forest area around them. The photos focus on the chemically leached shorelines and the patterns formed in the inhospitable and alien apron: deep blue water surrounded by the bleached white of the ground and tree skeletons. These prints show us both life and lifelessness, but above all they represent the mystery of this special place.

There are three prints from the Carousel series. These prints show us the form of the wooden Merry-Go-Round horse. In one print the horse is given a sense of motion through an extended exposure. In another Pace gives us a child’s perspective, looking up into the face of the horse. The horse is intimidating, if not frightening. Looking into the photograph I am almost able to recall a time when mounting such a horse was an act of courage. Garish colors are pushed in these prints, which adds to the carnival atmosphere.

The last group of five paintings comes from Paces’ Block Ice series. I find these intriguing in part because I don’t have a clue as to the technique involved in their production. They are non-objective images with rich and intense primary colors and a texture as infinitely complex as a fractal.

Espresso Americano is located in the Everett Public Library at 2702 Hoyt, Everett. They are open Seven days a week, closing at 6:00 p.m. on Thursdays and Saturdays and closing at 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. This exhibition continues through the end of May, 2009.

Mike Mallory

Saturday, May 2, 2009

May Day, 2009 I was able to take off work a little early and went out into 70+ degree weather. I ended up near the waterfront by the old train station and the Anchor Tavern caught my eye. I liked the perspective of the building set on an incline. It was a beautiful day and I had fun with the sketch.

Yuming Zhu

The April, 2009 art show at the Solovei Art Gallery, was entitled Vision Passion” is devoted to the paintings of Yuming Zhu.

Zhu, originally from Shanghai, China, is accomplished in the style and technique of traditional Sumi painting on silk and rice paper with ink or Chinese watercolor. He has taught many classes and workshops around the Puget Sound area on these topics. Zhu is also adept at calligraphy and he often adds Chinese characters to paintings in this style.

This show contains a few of Zhu’s paintings in this Eastern style. “Go-Green” depicts radishes and calligraphy. “Singing Silently” depicts a floral scene with bold and expressive color: red blossoms surrounded by leaves in a turquoise blue

Most of the paintings on display are oil paintings. Zhu sometimes refers to his art as Lyrical Impressionism. This label gets at the Zhu’s underlying aesthetic struggle. The predominate subject matter in this show is the musician in the act of performance. Most commonly he shows us women with cellos. Zhu also refers to his work cryptically as “Tans-ism”. His work bridges East and West, and with these images he is also attempting to translate music, an auditory experience into two-dimensional artwork, a visual experience.

Zhu works with bold color and strong, often-indistinct shapes as he searches for a painting that shows us how music sounds. Borrowing from his Sumi paintings, the brushwork in his oil paintings is deliberate and intentional. I want Zhu to succeed. As I stand in the center of the gallery space I attempt to listen to rather than look upon the paintings. What I “hear” is something akin to an orchestra warming up, rather than a melody; individual, rather than congruent. Perhaps this is because his women with their cellos are usually depicted alone. Perhaps the song is something deeper than the music: the deeper voice of the figure and the cello is just Zhu’s way of reminding us how beautiful that voice can be.

The painting, which had the greatest impact on me, was an oil painting he calls “Red Passionato”. This oil painting is one of the series of women playing cellos. The figure of the woman, composed in reds and blacks merges with the shape of the cello, which is arranged in golds and oranges. The woman and the cello are hopelessly commingled. The woman’s black hair flies off to the side as if carried on the notes of music. Yet in the center of the image the hand of the woman on the cello’s fingerboard, that part of her which rightfully should be filled with momentum and activity is gracefully poised and still.

While I cannot say that I have come away from this show with an understanding of the relationship between two-dimensional art and sound. I can say that this show allowed me to listen to paintings in a new and rewarding way.

Mike Mallory

Friday, April 24, 2009

Two Cranes

This is my inaguaral post. I live and work in Everett Washington. I intend this blog to highlight some of my plein air sketches in and around my home town. I suspect I will also throw in some commentary on the local art scene and perhaps life, culture and known universe.

I took off work early today, 4/24/09, and set up my plein air watercolor kit just outside the Snohomish County Arts Council. I was cruising for a subject when I saw these cranes.