The latest show at Childhood's End Gallery features two old-timers, both well-known and well-liked in Olympia. Susan Aurand and Betty Jo Fitzgerald. If you've been paying attention, I've reviewed each of them multiple times over the years.
This will probably be Fitzgerald's last show. She is elderly and living with severe COPD. Dependent on a wheelchair and oxygen, she cannot paint anything large but sticks with things she can paint holding them in her lap. Thus, she is showing a series of nine triptychs, each section of which is about 12-inches square.
Fitzgerald's paintings are abstract. The wall labels list the media as acrylic and mixed media with collage, but in only one or two was I able to spot collage elements at all. The rest look like pure paint. The forms are blocky, dominated by odd rectilinear shapes. The colors are in the tonal range often called pastel - soft, milky blues and pinks and oranges. There is a wide range of textures and various methods of paint application. They are nicely arranged with, in most cases, repetitive forms or forms that lead the eye from section to section of the triptychs. The best of her paintings are "Nocturn" and "Eye on the Prize." "Nocturn" has strong forms and high value contrasts. In "Eye on the Prize," the three sections are arranged vertically and each has a single amoeba-like shape with a green outer section that appears to be balanced on cliff-like precipices.
Aurand's paintings are technically amazing. Her photo-realist drawing, modeling and paint application are precise and deft. Her colors glow like sunset. Her fantasy subject matter is inventive. She combines soft-edge, realistic painting with constructed or assembled elements that are finely crafted. For instance, painted images include birds, eggs, tree limbs and clouds. Constructed elements include doors, windows and boxes that contain odd materials. The constructed elements are beautifully molded into the painted surface. Unfortunately, for all this beautiful craftsmanship and innovative imagery, there is something about these paintings that are too sweet, too prettified. It's as if she's trying to feel us into believing in fairy tale goodness. There's no edginess, no irony, no reality; it's new age pie-in-the-sky art.
Also included in the gallery are a number of ceramic sculptures. The best of these are by Larry Halvorsen. Halvorsen makes traditional pots that are as good as any I've seen lately. Most of them are shapes like toadstools or mushrooms or other natural forms, bulky and heavy looking with dark, almost black, surfaces decorated with cream colored stripes and dots and swirls. My favorite is a piece called "Longhouse Container," which looks like a Hobbit house, with crosshatch markings on the roof and walls decorated with stripes and dots.
[Childhood's End Gallery, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, through May 20, 222 Fourth Ave. W, Olympia, 360.943.3724]