The latest show in the Telephone Room gallery (a private house gallery in Tacoma) pays tribute not to the tiny room but what’s just outside it in the garden. “Trails” is a series of eight oil paintings by Seattle artist Chris Thompson celebrating slugs and snails – what we fear, what they strive for. Well, metaphorically, anyway.
Thompson does some fun little portraits of snails in unlikely poses – a swashbuckling pirate, a menacing medieval (wielding a mace on each antenna), an army tank – but his best work is the most subtly surreal: slug still-life. Exploring both the sheer size of Pacific Northwest gastropods and their tropical-fruit coloring, Thompson creates delightful paintings like the bunch of bananas, glistening with 17th-century Dutch polish (or is that mucus?), but with one of them ending in a suspicious set of antenna. Or the same antennaed banana perched cheerfully on a moss-laden log in a sodden Washington forest. Even a non-Northwesterner would get the joke.
Thompson’s brushwork is not consistent – the tiny hiker cowering under the giant spotted slug draped over a tree branch is childishly indistinct, and his backgrounds need attention. But when he tries, he delivers, and his sense of the surreal is as exquisite as you could wish for. It’s a fun fit for the room, even if the painting’s subjects are happier gathering under the leaves outside.
“Trails” is up through August at the Telephone Room Gallery, 3710 N. 7th St., Tacoma. By appointment only. www.thetelephoneroom.blogspot.com