It’s not quite business as usual at the Northwest Pastel Society’s 27th annual International Open Exhibition, on this month and next at American Art Company in downtown Tacoma. Yes, around half of the show is misty, romantic landscapes, all well executed but looking just like pastels pretending to be oil paints and eschewing any originality of vision.
But a handful of the works – mostly those awarded juried prizes – both capture the unique texture and feel of the medium and say something unusual to boot. In the front portrait gallery, many of the works sport light-burnished, angelic subjects gilded with New Age-y palettes of neon pink and yellow. There’s some gratuitously in-your-face flesh from Paul Barton’s nude, and the usual number of feel-good beachside moments. But Roberta Combs combines the smooth surface and intense tonal clarity of a Renaissance oil with the social commentary of a Diane Arbus photograph in “Harlem Heat.” Z. Feng uses a fascinating charcoal-sketch feel in “Mr. White,” with hair and beard strokes fierce and direct.
Over in the animal section, which includes Van Gogh-inspired zebras and a Harry Potter-esque owl (coincidentally by artist Laurie Potter), there’s one of the show’s most stunning examples of color blending: Joe Mackechnie’s opaque salmon, swimming through a Technicolor stream of teal, magenta and gold. Read more »