Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Alchemy on the Balcony by Philip Willey, July 2012

It’s not a pretty vista. Every city has areas like it. Planners aren’t quite sure what to do with it and it has no place in tourist brochures. But it’s interesting precisely because it’s a marginal semi-industrial area with few redeeming features. In Alchemy on the Balcony four artists from Xchanges have divided it into arbitrary sections running from East to West and used it as their subject.

Helen Rogak has possibly the most interesting section overlooking Government Street across to Capitol Iron. There is no lone romantic arbutus or dramatic mountain background not even a glimpse of the ocean, but she has managed to capture a certain urban charm.

Christine Clark has taken the opportunity to do something both minimal and expressionistic. There are shades of Lance Olsen and Cy Twombly in her mostly black painting. There’s a suggestion of a skyline but nothing instantly recognizable. Forms have been reduced to ciphers defining the elusive essence of place.

Betty Meyers utilizes a similar colorful approach but with the addition of seagulls to suggest the nearby ocean and she introduces the all-important human element.

Lastly Cheryl McBride has used a soft palette to convey an airy brightness. Buildings become building blocks in her painting and curiously, it’s a construction crane that ties the whole thing together.

Xchanges Gallery itself is an old motel sandwiched between Gregg’s Furniture and the Dairy Queen. It’s the kind of place Tom Waits might find homely. Clearly these four artists like a challenge. The area may get gentrified eventually but in the meantime they work with what they’ve got. They’ve done well to make so much out of such an uninspiring prospect.

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