2017 Best of Olympia: Salon Refu

Writer's Pick: Best Art Gallery

By Alec Clayton on February 23, 2017

If I could choose two galleries, I would start with Childhood's End because they have consistently shown top-notch local and regional artists since 1971. Many of the best local artists got their first major exposure at Childhood's End, and the gallery continues to show works by such stellar artists as Marilyn Frasca, Christopher Mathie, Tom Anderson, Susan Aurand, and Lisa Sweet, to name just a few. But this year I choose to honor Salon Refu because, in part, owner Susan Christian represents artists she likes even if, as is often the case, she knows nobody will buy their work.

A case in point being an installation by Jenny Montgomery that consisted mostly of odd assemblages and poetry applied directly to the walls, or Anne de Marckin's "The Redaction Project," which consisted of words and letters printed on paper and draped from lines that traversed the gallery like a series of clothes lines hung so close together that viewers could not get in-between them to read the words, and other words and letters covering the walls.

Montgomery's installation of words and assembled items referred to "steps and pieces of the artist's little son Heath's journey through a childhood deeply affected by cerebral palsy brought on by oxygen deprivation during the birth process," Christian explained.

De Marcken's "The Redaction Project" was an environment of paper and words and heavy black marks where words once lived; it filled the walls and hung from swinging pendulums in the gallery space. It was based on an 8,037-word short story titled "After Life," which the artist wrote but never published. She "redacted" her story just as corporations and government offices redact sensitive documents they are forced to release.

Earlier, the gallery showed a group of realist/surrealist constructed portraits of family and friends by artist Nathan Barnes and Michael Dickter's painting exhibition "Fear of Flying," a group of abstract-expressionist paintings of birds in flight. In my review for the Weekly Volcano, I wrote of Dickter's paintings, "Imagine Cy Twombly if he painted recognizable subjects or even Eva Hesse if she was a painter rather than a sculptor."

In addition to showing the riskiest and most challenging art to be seen in Olympia, Salon Refu has recently started something new: readings by poets, essayists and short story writers. The readings, which happen weekend evenings, started shortly before Christmas and will continue for the unforeseeable future. No one, not even Christian, knows how long they will continue.

Salon Refu, 2-6 p.m. Thursday-Sunday and by appointment, 114 N. Capitol Way, 360.280.3540, information at riddie.glenn@gmail.com