Exhibit explores emotion in ways both tangible and abstract
March 6, 2023 at 3:51 p.m.
Heads up: Although it's possible to see the entirety of the recently installed “All You Need is Love” exhibit on Gallery Syre's website, patrons of the arts would be remiss not to drop by the Stuart Road venue and view it in person.
With 51 works by 45 participating artists who put their pieces up for consideration in the gallery's first open call show — and were chosen from more than 200 submissions — there are nuances to many of the paintings, sculptures and multimedia artworks which don't really pop until you see them on the wall, on pedestals or suspended from the ceiling.
An example is longtime Bellingham painter and instructor Trish Harding's “No Apple,” a large work depicting a man and woman engaged in an intimate skinny dipping session while surrounded by lush flora and fauna. When viewed online, the numerous gossamer fairies who also populate the painting are difficult to discern, but when standing directly in front of the work they become integral to the tale the painting is telling — which Harding notes is meant to take away the stereotypes of the Adam and Eve story (apples, snakes, temptation, original sin, etc.), leaving only love “in any of its forms and myths.”
In a short video featuring many of the participating artists talking about what love means to them, Harding expounded on the concept.
“[Love is] the most important thing,” she said. “Because it is the power, it is the engine of everything we know ... People that don't have it, don't experience it, are existing in a really tight, small world because they don't feel it as far as I think it goes — it goes beyond where we can even comprehend, out into the universe.”
Many of the people interviewed in the video or sharing their views via their artists' notes expressed similar sentiments. This makes sense, considering the call for submissions explained jurors were interested in giving those who use art as a messenger of love an opportunity to show in a professional gallery environment.
The title of the exhibit is based on The Beatles iconic 1967 song of the same name, and, being that it opened just a few days before Valentine's Day, expresses the primary theme in many different ways.
Romantic love, erotic love, self-love, passion for nature, heartache, finding solace in broken relationships, familial emotions, compassion, and music as a muse all make appearances in “All You Need is Love.” And while many of the Bellingham and Whatcom County artists who were selected may be familiar to visitors, the exhibit also attracted the attention of creatives from throughout Washington state, British Columbia and as far away as New York City.
One piece I found to be particularly emotive was Lana Price's “Honoring Betty (4,555 Weeks).” The piece made this year honors her aunt, who passed away in 2020. This is another work you'll want to see in person, as the portrait includes a collage with underlying layers of sayings Price's father used to describe his sister.
Other works that caught and held my eye included Francie Allen's sensuous “Corona Duet” sculpture made with wire netting; Kevin Coleman's “The Golden Giraffe aka GiGi” sculpture; the abstract painting “Little Ribs” by Jesselyn Helms, who incorporates her experience with chronic pain into her art; Kimberly Leo's “Amore” and “Vibrant Heart” epoxy pieces, which center on her goal to celebrate the beauty and magic of women; and Joy Olney's “Love,” a contemporary impressionistic painting featuring a couple hugging near a body of water. She stands on her tiptoes, with her head buried in his shoulder.
Looking at Olney's painting, it's impossible to tell if the embrace is one of farewell, or of coming together again after time apart. You can't see their faces, so anything could be happening.
In the video about the exhibit, Olney provides some clues as to what her subjects may be experiencing. She talks about how she married her husband two months and two days after meeting him, and shares they were just shy of being married for 39 years when he died, suddenly. They had a habit of kissing hello and goodbye, and that remained throughout their relationship. She said she still feels his love.
“The day he died, I kissed him goodbye,” Olney said. “He came back a few minutes later because he forgot his gloves, so I ran over and kissed him again ... We just had a very loving relationship. He felt that I was his joy.”
After viewing the video and perusing the works, my conclusion was that those who contributed to this art show opened themselves up in ways they might not have in similar exhibits. With love at stake, they didn't hold back.
View “All You Need is Love” from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and by appointment, at 465 W. Stuart Road, Bellingham. The exhibit shows through April 15. Entry is free. Info: gallerysyre.com.
Editor's note: Syre is the sole owner of Cascadia Daily News.