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Idyllic landscapes and frightening worlds

The astonishing art of Kathy Gore Fuss

“Joyce’s Ravine,” oil on paper, by Kathy Gore Fuss. Photo courtesy of the artist

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I thought the art of landscape painting had reached an unstoppable point of redundancy at which original landscapes were no longer possible, and then Olympia artist Kathy Gore Fuss started painting in nature in all sorts of weather amongst the trees in Priest Point Park and the industrial business of the Port of Olympia. Her landscapes are not bombastic or gimmicky; they are realistic, straight-forward interpretations of what she sees in nature. And yet they are as unique as anything painted from nature since Wayne Thiebaud started painting the hills of San Francisco.

Lately, Gore Fuss has expanded her artistic repertoire to digital photos, including drone photos, that are manipulated by her collaborators, John Carlton and Carl Chew. The resulting exhibition of paintings, drawings, and digital photographs at University of Puget Sound's Kittredge Gallery weds styles that go back hundreds of years to those that reach into the future to display the artist's love of nature and concern over what is happening in our world today.

The most stunning thing in the gallery has to be the huge landscape painting "Joyce's Ravine," six-by-nine feet, that is suspended from the ceiling in front of the back wall. This painting is the first thing to hit the viewers' eye when entering the gallery, and it cannot be ignored. It pictures the depths of the forest in bright, sunlit colors with a rich tangle of leaves and vines and tree trunks and a fallen tree trunk front and center. Stylistically, it is somewhat like paintings by Paul Cezanne, yet there is nothing derivative about it.

There is a group of soft charcoal drawings with marvelous details of leaves and vines that sparkle with light despite their lack of color due in large part to Gore Fuss' manner of outlining the shapes of leaves in sharp black lines and leaving the flat faces of the leaves the white of the paper.

A suite of 11 small drawings in walnut ink explore the spatial depths of forests as seen in sepia tones with whites that sparkle like gems and an incredible tangle of leaves and vines.

One wall is filled with digital prints done in collaboration with Carlton that picture familiar Olympia scenes with crowded and intrusive oil derricks. There's a massive derrick in front of the capitol dome, behind which bellow clouds of black smoke, and there's one next to Olympia's City Hall and others by Sylvester Park and Heritage Park. These disturbing dystopian scenes are beautifully photographed and digitally put together so skillfully as to appear that they exist together in reality.

And finally, there are the photographs taken with a drone and digitally manipulated by Chew. In one we see the artist standing in a shallow stream holding in her hand the drone with which the photo was taken. And there are many of her spaced a few yards apart and receding in the distance. In another we see an aerial view of Gore Fuss' house repeated to become a kind of enclave and surrounded by hedges that protectively seal it from the outer world. In reference to this one, she spoke of the invasive nature of modern technology -- laughing at herself for invading her own privacy with a drone.

This exhibition is filled with beautiful, thought provoking and technically skillful works of art.

KATHY GORE FUSS, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday; noon-5 p.m., Saturday, through April 20, Kittredge Gallery at University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701,

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