By Laurelle Walsh
“Light,” a show that opens this week at Winthrop Gallery, features work from the 24 member artists on the subject of light — sunlight, moonlight, candlelight or simply seeing familiar objects in a new light.
The show opens today (Sept. 16) and runs through Oct. 26. An artists’ reception will be held at the gallery on Saturday (Sept. 19) from 5-7 p.m.
Works by local photographers, painters, sculptors, jewelers and textile artists reveal the wide range of talents among the cooperative gallery’s members, like watercolor artist Lauri Fry, who uses subtle shifts of tone in her paintings of a pastel sky and a golden grove of aspens; and weaver Susan Snover, who brings to the exhibit one of her large hand-woven rugs, the gold warp peeking like sunbeams through the dark-and-light weft.
Photographer Teri Pieper — an advocate of preserving the Methow Valley’s dark night skies — captured two dramatic night scenes: one, a giant moon rising over tawny hills; the other, a surreal aurora borealis against a starry sky. Another color photograph catches the reflection of sky in a turquoise-framed window.
And cloisonné artist Gloria Spiwak has mastered a technique called plique-à-jour (“letting in daylight” in French) to create translucent earrings that are like tiny stained-glass windows. “This is what I was aiming for when I started doing enamels 40 years ago,” Spiwak said of the advanced technique.
Spiwak created fine silver wire forms that were filled with transparent enamels and then fired to a glass-like finish. The result is lightweight, tear-drop-shaped pendants that resemble delicate turquoise butterfly wings.
“In Western culture, light has always been central in art,” said gallery curator Michael Caldwell, retired professor of fine arts at Seattle Pacific University. He notes the use of light and shadow by artists through the ages, starting with bas-relief carvings on Persian and Egyptian buildings and continuing with Greek sculptors, who created soft shadows in their marble figures.
In the Middle Ages, religious mosaic artists manipulated the reflective nature of glass tiles, using light “as a symbolic substance of the light of God,” Caldwell said. Still later, Renaissance oil painters built up layers of color over a base of neutral tones, creating “a feeling of light coming from within the painting,” Caldwell said.
The work of modern-day artists on display in “Light,” builds on techniques learned from their predecessors, said Caldwell, from jewelers playing with reflected light, to painters who capture a strong sense of sunlight and shadow, to photographers who manipulate tones until a photographic image becomes an abstract work of art.
Winthrop Gallery is located at 237 Riverside Ave. in downtown Winthrop. The gallery is open daily from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. during the month of September, closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays in October. For more information call 996-3925 or go to www.winthropgallery.com.