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"Codependent Menageries"

Kate Hubner at Feast Arts Center

“Undertow” painting by Kate Hubner. Photo courtesy Feast Arts Center

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In an artist's statement, painter Kate Hubner quotes a dictionary definition of the words in the title of her show at Feast Arts Center. "Codependent: a codependent person is one who has let another person's behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person's behavior. Menagerie: A collection of wild animals kept in captivity for exhibition."

She goes on to define the state of mind depicted by the paintings. "As I have been trying to find myself again for the first time in years, I have been exploring my bad habits of how toxic it can be to make someone else's ‘problems' my own. The pretty pain of being engulfed by a cunning and quiet lack of boundaries. That eventually, you begin to lose or confuse your own thoughts, becoming entangled with another. A self-imposed identity crisis."

There are only five paintings in this exhibition, all in the five-by-six-foot range. If I might go out on a limb with a potentially ludicrous statement, these five paintings might be the best figure paintings I have ever seen outside a major museum, the best by a local or regional artist. Each painting is of a naked human figure or group of figures. Some of the figures are realistic, while some are of ambiguous gender and others devolve into unrecognizable, animal-like shapes -- or grow out of such shapes or are wrestling with them. The colors are sizzling with hot reds, pinks and purples, contrasting with a variety of blue tones in the cerulean-teal family. There are harsh and uncomfortable angles of bodies and limbs. Arms ending in clutching hands appear out of unrecognizable animal forms. In many instances, background shapes created by the spaces where body parts meet become positive shapes. The artist explains, "In hopes of making complicated compositions with the form, I want the lines and the triangles of the limbs and reflections to bring a controlled anxiety to being. When you can't tell just how many people are involved; using colors to bring a slight euphoria to the dark matter."

Hubner's painting style is like a marriage of the realism of Phillip Pearlstein and the lushness of Wayne Thibeaud, with the drama of Alfred Leslie or Jack Beal -- that's like a catalog of the best modern figure painters all combined in the work of one woman from Seattle.

Kate Hubner's "Codependent Menageries," noon-4 p.m., Saturday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Sunday, and by appointment, through Jan. 7, Feast Arts Center, 1402 S. 11th St., Tacoma, feastarts.com 

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