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'Old Friends New Work'

45th anniversary show at Childhood's End

“Gravity,” pastel on monoprint by Marilyn Frasca. Photo courtesy Childhood's End Gallery

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Art galleries come and go, but Childhood's End Gallery has been a stable anchor in downtown Olympia for 45 years representing a cornucopia of the best local and regional artists. In celebration of the gallery's 45th anniversary, gallery owner Richenda Richardson invited a bunch of favorites from over the years, giving three-dimensional artists clusters of sculpture stands and 2-D artists each 10 linear feet of wall space - resulting in a show that is crammed with artwork stacked salon style. There's a lot to see here, and it's all good.

Marilyn Frasca is showing a suite of pastels on monoprints. Her unique style is to create monoprints with various odd methods and materials resulting in fields of fascinating textures upon which she then draws animals and people and scenes that vary from surrealistic to serene, from disturbing to tender and loving. The five pieces shown here are all in muted tones of gray, white and tones of orange and black with minimal value contrast. As well as any artist working locally, Frasca strikes a balance between narrative content and pure aesthetics. She draws you in with stories that are more implied than spelled out, and then holds your attention with texture and composition and skillful draftsmanship. Her pieces are full of surprises.

"Gravity" pictures a boy hanging upside-down by his toes from a tree limb. The glowing white and soft gray of the heavy tree trunk both contrasts and reflects similar marks in the background and in the boy's shorts. The boy's limbs and the tree's limbs form interesting structural patterns.

"Blessed Art Thou" is a manger scene with a mother and child, cow and goat, and a cone of light highlighting the woman's face as a kind of halo as she studies her face in a hand mirror. The possible interpretations are numerous.

Susan Christian has only two paintings, one of which, "Long Haul" is the most unusual and most avant garde piece in the show. It is a hunk of painted wood eight feet long and mere inches in width, painted a deep blue-gray with two swaths of dull orange on one end and a saw-tooth edge along the top that looks like a snow-covered mountain range in the distance - or, perhaps you can see the whole thing as a cross-cut saw. It's the kind of thing you either like or not; I like it. It has an undeniable presence.

Chris Maynard is showing a large group of his cut-feather bird pictures. I see these as craft more than art. I realize, of course, that books could be written on the distinction between art and craft, but these I see not only as craft, but as decorative novelty pieces. But they are lovely to look at, delicate and inventive and highly skilled with birds and nature scenes cut out of feathers as both positive and negative images that reverberate against their own cast shadows.

Among the most gorgeous paintings in the show are Mary McCann's mountainous landscapes. Painted in subtle shades of brown, orange and violet, they glow as if lighted from within.

Compared to the fiery glow of McCann's mountains, Jonathan Happ's dark landscapes are moody and mysterious with tree limbs and campfires that can barely be seen in the overall dark gray surfaces. Looking at these is like listening to the spookiest of ghost stories.

Also shown are ceramics by John and Robin Gumaelius, and works by John Hannukaine, Barb Noonan, Judith Smith, Don Sprague, Lisa Sweet, Rabun Thompson and Don Tiller.

"Old Friends New Work," 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday-Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, through Dec. 31, Childhood's End Gallery, 222 Fourth Ave. W., Olympia, 360.943.3724,

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