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We call this home

Kathy Gore-Fuss at Salon Refu

“And They Call This Home,” oil on linen panel by Kathy Gore-Fuss. Photo courtesy of the artist

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The exhibition of drawings and paintings by Kathy Gore-Fuss at Salon Refu offers proof positive that practice makes perfect. Gore-Fuss has been making art for a long time. She was one of the first artists I met when I moved to Olympia in 1988. She was good then, and she's been getting progressively better ever since. When she started plein air painting in the dense forests in and around Olympia and later at the gritty, industrial Port of Olympia a few years ago, she found her truest voice and her raison d'etre. She and the subject of her painting have become one.

Her forest scenes painted on the spot in Priest Point Park and other wooded areas, each completed in a single session, picture the tangled limbs and tree trunks and leaves and the glow of sun or winter light in all seasons. She does not copy nature. She interprets it as she sees, senses, feels it, and looking at these painted scenes allows the viewer, to whatever extent it is possible, to feel what Gore-Fuss must have felt when she was painting them.

There is a strong yellow glow of sunlight coming through the woods as if from a deep tunnel in the painting  on the show announcements, "And They Call This Home"; the effect is otherworldly yet restful and comforting. The variety of brush strokes and the nuanced color changes in this and all her forest paintings are astounding.

Despite the truth-to-nature aspect of her images, these are essentially abstract paintings, beautifully composed with all-over patterns remindful of Jackson Pollock's drip paintings. They connect with nature emotionally rather than illusorily. They bring to mind what Pollock must have meant when he said, "I am nature."

Her pencil and charcoal drawings of workers loading logs onto ships at the port have a heavy feel to them despite softly nuanced areas, and energetic movement. Her small, oil-on-paper paintings of port scenes feature muted colors and minimal detail in stark contrast to the complexity of detail in her larger paintings. They have the spontaneous feel of watercolor sketches knocked off in minutes.

Her largest port scene in this show, "The Cotillion," oil on canvas, pictures bundles of logs being lifted by chains and hoisted onto ships. There is a feeling of frantic movement with lines of motion such as are used in cartoons, and in the background a "forest" of spars and booms painted with light yellow and white that look ghostlike against a clear blue sky. I could look at this painting for days, weeks, years, and never tire of it.

The newest works in this show are small walnut ink drawings of forest scenes that have a lot in common with her larger forest paintings but are all in sepia tones with exciting textures and marks and the look in places of resist marks in batiks. These need to be studied at close range where you can get lost in the swirls and darts and depths of them.

I can't recommend this show highly enough.

Kathy Gore-Fuss, "Local Artist Paints at the Port", Thurs-Sun 2-6 p.m., and by appointment, through Oct. 30, artist talk Oct. 22, 4-5 p.m., Salon Refu, 114 N. Capitol Way, Olympia, 360.280.3540,

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