It could be the sunny fecundity of a fresh peach. Or perhaps the feeling of driving alongside a river for hours, watching the eddies curl and uncurl as the water rushes toward its destination. Or maybe it's the streets of a small town you've never been to before, full of quaint shops and beautiful things. The warm and slowed-down months of summer offer pleasures for all the senses and, for once, ample time to discover them.
This summer, it would be worth your while to check out some of the galleries and art events offered in outlying areas. Our recent forays into Sandpoint have yielded not only a few new favorite restaurants, but also some new galleries to watch out for on our regular arts beat. THE CHRIS KRAISLER GALLERY, just a few blocks away from the downtown corridor on 4th Avenue, features original contemporary fine art in a nicely minimalist setting. The erstwhile house that now holds the gallery offers high ceilings and plenty of natural light, both of which set off the works here to great advantage.
Kraisler and her husband, artist David Kraisler, moved to Sandpoint from Arizona more than a decade ago. His 30-year career in art was previously best known for his large, environmentally conscious public sculptures, but in the Northwest, David's work has expanded to include paintings, sculpture, drawings and more, many of which are regularly exhibited at the gallery.
"Making in-roads has been somewhat slow, we're a little off the beaten path for one thing," says owner and namesake Chris Kraisler. "And people don't always know what to make of contemporary art. But I think we're making a difference in that department."
A quote that hangs on the wall by psychologist Sam Keen summarizes the gallery's modus operandi: "Silence the familiar, welcome the strange." But here, the strange is oddly familiar -- although the works are all original and dissimilar to anything else, there is a sense of connection -- of finding a moment of orientation, of seeing someone else's vision in the flicker of a mirror.
The current show at the gallery, "Painting the Emotional Landscape" a collection of new works by Walter Gabrielson, perfectly illustrates this quality. His vivid, expressive palette, his skillful tweaking of light and perspective, and his use of large canvases bring to mind not only the compositions of Edward Hopper and Thomas Hart Benton, but also the emotional impact those works convey.
"These paintings evoke a mood of waiting, of sitting, or standing, or looking, but waiting for something," says Kraisler, of the California artist's work. In fact, waiting seems to be a predominant theme in this show. The Energy of Waiting is filled with amber afternoon light, and the capturing of a quiet moment between journeys. A woman sits on a large, circular bench, her body language poised at rest, but ready to go again at a moment's notice. At the ticket window, a figure -- perhaps her companion, perhaps a total stranger -- does business.
In another, Canadian Porch, a man and a woman sit at opposite ends of a boxy, bungalow-style front porch. The twilit and glowing hues suggest early evening, their position suggests anything from two people meeting for the first time outside an invisible but noisy party, or a couple working through the misunderstanding and silence of their first fight in a new house. Or maybe, they're just hanging out at day's end, enjoying the sounds of impending nightfall in the neighborhood.
His paintings, whether of people in the in-between places mentioned above, or of structures -- for instance the corner of a F.W. Woolworth's at night, or an Airstream trailer nestled into a campsite with all its lights on, flirt with the intrinsic emptiness of modern life. And yet, there's something there, a softness and a vulnerability in form, in color, in the suggestion of someone about to make a move.
The Chris Kraisler Gallery represents a handful of local artists as well, including Michael Speaker, whose Sharkskin Suit evokes the wild inventions and post-modern sensibilities of Ray Troll. David Kraisler's dramatic, energetic compositions illustrate the psyche's conscious and unconscious narratives, and provide a nice counterpoint to Romey Stuckart's intricate, kinetic abstracts. On a recent visit, we were most struck by Evelyn Sooter's composed wall and mantelpieces. Altar to the Delicacy and Strength of Nature combines photography, wood, and a sliver of bone. In back, there's a pocket with a little poem.
"One of the things I like about her work is that there's always an opportunity to get closer to the art and examine something. There's always a little pocket, or some sort of small element to explore," says Kraisler.
"Painting the Emotional Landscape," featuring new work by Walter Gabrielson, exhibits at the Chris Kraisler Gallery, 517 N. 4th Ave., Sandpoint, Idaho, through Sept. 30.
Call: (208) 255-7350.
Plein Air Plentitude
We'll get back to the artistic goings on in Sandpoint, but first, it's time to wander back a little closer to home. Picture an afternoon of live music, wine and art against the backdrop of Mt. Spokane and you'll be envisioning TWIN TOTEMS' ANNUAL "PLEIN AIR" SHOW. This weekend's event promises to be one of its biggest of the year, commemorating four years of business on the northern outskirts of Spokane. Plein air means works that are executed in the great outdoors, in this case, the full-of-artistic-potential region of Green Bluff.
"Last year, we did 'Plein Air Painters on the Little Spokane,' and this year the focus is on Green Bluff," says Twin Totems' owner Melanie Rodd. "This will be the debut of the finished works, which took the last four months to create."
The paintings won't be the only thing debuting this Saturday. The new winery, Townshend Cellars, will be offering tastes of its first major bottling.
"They used to be Townshend Growers up on the Bluff, and they decided they wanted to go into the winery business. My husband and I attended a private wine tasting there, and we were quite impressed. We're pleased to offer them the opportunity to debut with us."
Painters taking part in "Plein Air Painters on Green Bluff" this year include Steve Belzman, Betty Billups, Ellen Blaschke, L.R. Montgomery, Rachel Pettit, Sally Simmer and Tom Wakeley. The musical duo Jadis performs during the afternoon exhibit, and carver Dan Donley will be demonstrating his totem pole carving techniques.
Rodd says that people can expect to see Green Bluff sights like barns, fields, orchards and Mt. Spokane, but there will still be plenty of room for artistic interpretation.
"One thing that's nice about this show is that because these works were painted over a four-month period, you get to see the progression of seasons. For instance, Steve has one of cherry blossoms, and there are others that are more midsummer views into wheat fields."
What's different in this year's show is a certain amount of freedom. "For the Little Spokane show, they banded together and found select spots where they all painted the same location, since a lot of it was private property," Rodd explains. "This year, I gave them more time and told them they could paint whatever they wanted, so there will be a great deal of variation in terms of locations and style."
Plein Air Painters on Green Bluff takes place at Twin Totems, 5117 E. Greenbluff Rd., Colbert, on Saturday, July 21, from noon-4 pm.
The gallery is located half a mile off Highway 2,
just north of the Day-Mt. Spokane Road.
Turn at the sign on Highway 2.
As promised, we return to Sandpoint where we find one of their most popular summer events, THE PEND OREILLE ARTS COUNCIL ARTWALKS. The self-guided tour of area galleries offers two sessions, Show I, which runs through July 26, and Show II, which begins July 27 and runs through Sept. 27. The procedure for taking an artwalk is remarkably simple, just stop by the POAC office and pick up your free map. Unlike Spokane's Visual Arts Tour, the POAC artwalks aren't limited to one night at a set time, but rather you can venture out any time the galleries are open (hours are listed on the map).
"A lot of people make this a social event, we get a lot of people from Spokane, and even a lot of people from Sandpoint who have never been here before," says Gretchen Hellar of ArtWorks, a participating cooperative of local artists. "The Pend Oreille Arts Council does a great job of publicizing the event."
This year, enormous art "bears" serve as markers for various stops along the way. Keep an eye out for the disco mirror ball bear, the bikini bear and the one seemingly driving a car!
Along the way, be sure to stop by the Eklektos Gallery, 502 Church St., to see the joint show of Archie Bray-educated ceramics artist David Hutchens and painter Patti Ridgway. This erstwhile hardware store and tire center is now a thriving and beautiful design business/art gallery. Throughout the gallery, you'll see Hutchens new creations, both vessels and wall pieces. The artist, born on the Sonoran desert, now uses the essential elements of pottery, what he calls "a puddle of mud, sticks and fire" in practical, yet playful, applications. On many of his pieces are a variety of symbols, which may not be immediately recognizable yet are an intrinsic part of the work.
"Symbols have so much in the way of personal meaning. Symbols are language," explains the Sandpoint artist. "The Native Americans left their drawings and carvings and cave paintings, and I find a lot of inspiration in that. I think those symbols hold a link to that person's spirit. And also, certain symbols, like a spiral, recur in nature, so there's a link to that energy as well."
The first artwalk show takes place at 20 Sandpoint galleries through July 26. The second artwalk takes place July 27-Sept. 6.