Painting: “Runaway” by Kathy Meyers
BY LAURELLE WALSH
The Japanese term “wabi-sabi” may be new to some in the Methow Valley, but the concept – an aesthetic appreciation of the “transience of earthly things and a resigned pleasure in simple things that bear the marks of that transience,” according to author Jon Spayde – is evident in the work of valley artists, poets, designers and homeowners.
The beauty of a collapsing 100-year-old barn, falling petals that evoke the sense of time passing, and a home adorned with rusted farm implements, driftwood and weathered metal panels could all be described as wabi-sabi.
Three artists who embrace the rusty, distressed, found and transient beauty of the Methow Valley are coming together in a new show entitled “Wabi Sabi Meets the Impressionist: New Work by Pearl Cherrington, Laura Karcher and Kathy Meyers,” opening today (May 29) at the Winthrop Gallery. An artist reception will be held at the gallery on Saturday (June 1) from 6-8 p.m. The show runs through July 15.
After bandying about a number of “sedate and conventional” show titles, “Laura threw this title out to Kathy and me on a whim,” Cherrington said. It grew on them, she said, and “by naming the show with this title, we felt that this could draw people in and they would be asking, ‘What in the heck is wabi-sabi?’”
Cherrington, a photographer and mixed media artist, said that she and Karcher – a furniture and shoji-lamp artist – are the wabi-sabi, while Meyers, a painter, is the Impressionist.
“Our work ties together,” Cherrington said. “The three of us see the world similarly; we love nature, the light, the colors, the subtleness and the details.”
“Pearl’s work photographing old barns indicates that she had the same nostalgia or interest in a bygone world that I do,” said Karcher, adding that she can’t help but imagine the life of some old farm implement and the person who used it. “The old metal plow blade discarded, showing dents and cracks, brings to mind a scene from long ago.”
Meyers’ subjects also conjure images of the human past – a broken-down tractor, an old plodding horse in a dusty field, or a rusty frying pan – which she interprets impressionistically with “interesting brush strokes and thick plops of paint here and there with as little detail as possible. That doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate detailed paintings, I just don’t do them,” she said.
“I will be showing all new paintings in acrylics depicting scenes and moods of the Methow, a subject which will never grow old to me,” Meyers said. “I get a little crazed analyzing the light quality of the vistas surrounding all of us.”
Meyers said she enjoys working on series, many paintings of the same subject at different times of day. Her new favorite is a four-part series of a seasonal subject that many upper valley drivers will appreciate: “The Pigs of Highway 20,” also known as “The Crown S Porkers.”
The beauty of those roadside pigs is also wabi-sabi, as described by author Leonard Koren. “Wabi-sabi suggests that beauty is a dynamic event that occurs between you and something else. Beauty can spontaneously occur at any moment given the proper circumstances, context, or point of view. Beauty is thus an altered state of consciousness, an extraordinary moment of poetry and grace.”
Cherrington captures those moments of grace through her photographic process, which often combines other mediums such as watercolor, acrylics, colored pencils and charcoal to embellish images of an old fenceline, a wooded path or a Mazama cabin.
She has also been experimenting with cyanotype and Van Dyke Brown processes which use the sun to expose pressed plant materials on specially coated art paper, creating ghostly blue or brown images.
One of those translucent cyanotypes was incorporated into one of Karcher’s signature shoji lamps, combining wood, paper and light to produce a quiet glow.
Karcher has recently returned to furniture art, and explores the possibilities of sculptural pieces using found objects. “My job as an artist is to recognize the inherent beauty” in a found object “and figure out how to present it. This could involve building something very elaborate, finding a perfect, simple solution or combining objects that add to a concept or visually compliment each other.”
One of Karcher’s tables or pedestals may incorporate an old car part, a farm implement or a knotty, worm-eaten section of a walnut tree. “My work is about capturing a moment in the life of that object and holding it up for admiration or contemplation …. I like to look closely at things, to imagine their past and their future.”
The Winthrop Gallery, at 237 Riverside Ave., is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. For more information, call the gallery at 996-3925 or go to the website, www.winthropgallery.com.