February is for the birds in Skagit County
February 13, 2023 at 5:00 a.m.
As migrating swans and geese thrill us in the Skagit Valley, birds are the theme in the annual invitational show at Smith & Vallee Gallery in Edison, as well as Perry and Carlson Gallery in Mount Vernon.
In the invitational exhibit “FL#CK” at Smith & Vallee, 122 works are on display. They’re beautiful, clever, sometimes humorous. A silver, mechanical goose smaller than a thumb flaps its wings in Camille Ireland’s “Lone Goose.” A massive flock of snow geese is painstakingly depicted by Peggy Woods in “Fill the Sky with Joy” and, in a fine photograph, Lucy Mae VanZanden has captured a pair of geese in flight silhouetted against the full moon.
Swans, larger and courageous, have inspired myths and works of art since ancient times. Toni Ann Rust pictures a pair of swans in “Partners” (oil on board). Catherine Kerwick memorializes a swan in a huge, glistening, clay bowl. But for beauty and the outrageously erotic, leave it to Leo Osborne. Is he the only one to remember the story of Leda? Surrounded by a fortune in gold, the gorgeous dame yields enthusiastically to the swan’s embrace in “Leda Redux” (acrylic and gold leaf).
Throughout the gallery, we find many other species portrayed. I’ve always loved flickers. Kathleen Faulkner gives us a lovely portrait of one in oil pastel. Todd Horton — ever a champion of the modest and overlooked — pictures a pair of wrens in his “Casual Joys Among the Songs of the Cosmic Tree” (graphite and oil on panel). Songbirds are celebrated by Sarah Dalton in “Four Song Birds” (paint on wood panel), Cathy Schoenberg in the lovely “Seeing Eye Bird” (oil on linen) and in the haunting ceramic statue of a bird whispering to a woman, “Ascolta,” by Maria Wickwire.
Cormorants aren’t songbirds and few consider them beautiful. But Tia Matthies — who grew up looking at the pictures in old Oz books and has caricatured groundhogs on holiday watching traffic go by — has given the malodorous, sepulchral, fish-eating bird a whimsical place in the show.
On the practical side, where do birds come from, anyway? Sharon Robbins has thoughtfully knitted an array of lovely nests, just bluebird size — only $40 each — and Kris Ekstrand’s “Passages II” (oil on canvas) is a spectacular nest.
Now for comic relief. Does Anne Schreivogl’s mixed-media work “In the Land of Make Believe” suggest a scarecrow? No, it’s a puppet, dancing behind crows. Chris Theiss gives us a chuckle with his charcoal drawing of a worried-looking toy pelican, “Big Bill Lured into the Wood.” And don’t miss Joanne Bohannon’s “Caged Girls II,” featuring a pair of chicken heads in a funky wooden cart. Look also in the Flex Gallery for Bohannon’s assemblage of owlets and tiny birdhouses stacked into pigeonholes, cryptically titled “All That We Have Done.”
Robert Gigliotti offers a cast bronze bird with a slot in its back and a shiny coin in its mouth, “Bird Bank.” It’s not a crow, with a crest like that! But crows are popular. Carolyn Doe finds three of them on a limb, backed with a magnificent view of water and mountains in “Across the Sound,” (silk batik). Barbara Seese’s oil on canvas, “He Delivered Love in a Cage,” idealizes a crow holding a red blossom in its mouth.
The crow’s cousin, raven, appears in Donna Reed’s “Raven’s Scrabble,” a grandfather clock decorated with ravens eating berries — or buttons? Sophia Kennedy, the youngest exhibitor at 17, offers a spritely mono-print, “Moonlit Cacophony,” displaying raven, beetle and power wires backed by a moon.
I have enjoyed quilts by Julie Sevilla Drake at the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum and the Anacortes Arts Festival for the past half-dozen years. Her brilliant “Owl,” in hand-dyed fabric, stares at gallery visitors.
Jessica Olsen's vast “The Mechanics of Grace” (mixed media) suggests a pterodactyl rather than something out of Peterson’s bird guide, but it fills the room with motion and color. And I’m puzzled by Steve Jensen’s “Wings of the Guardian” (fabricated aluminum), which has more the feel of aircraft than of organic life.
La Conner’s Dee Doyle offers a beautiful heron portrait, “Out of the Mist.” Michael Dickter also favors herons, and submits his spectacular “Heron” (oil on panel).
To explore more of Dickter’s work, he’s enjoying a one-man show this month at Perry and Carlson Gallery in Mount Vernon, entitled “Things I’ve Discovered.”
He writes: “Birds, flowers and animals all talk to me of our shared experiences; connection and isolation, love and loss, permanence and impermanence. I paint to tell a story of beauty of loss and of hope. Today, more than ever, we need that affirmation of life.”
Dickter’s “Time and the Wind” (oil and graphite and oil on panel) sets the tone with a whirl of hummingbird, blue jay, a golden cardinal and a hoopoe. His mammoth “Alignment of the Fates” places three brooding avians against an abstract background.
“The Spinner” celebrates a heron against a vivid background graced by a hummingbird and a canoe. His portraiture of species includes an owl, herons, egret, stork and a beautiful yellow-headed blackbird — my favorite. His flower portraits are especially beautiful. And one enigmatic work, “Erased Birds,” celebrates three shadowy, lost figures.
“FL#CK” and “Things I’ve Discovered” show through February. Info: smithandvalleegallery.com or perryandcarlson.com.