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Sculpture, drawings and paintings by Malayka and Tom Gormally

Gallery view showing paintings by Malayka Gormally and sculpture by Tom Gormally. Photo credit: Malayka Gormally

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Husband and wife Malayka and Tom Gormally are highly respected Seattle artists who bring a world of experience to artworks that reflect on current social and political issues in a show called "Present/Tense" at Spaceworks Gallery.

Born to immigrant Jewish parents in the San Francisco Bay area, Malayka lived for a while in Olympia before relocating to Seattle. She brings a lifetime of activism to paintings that document current social events from demonstrations to art openings. Her drawings and paintings are taken from specific events, which she has attended, photographed and depicted artistically back in her studio. The drawings are done with ink that she thins down, giving her lines the look of graphite, and often mixed with watercolor or other media. They are simple, striking images, especially the drawings, which have an open feel with few figures and few details (but the details she does include are telling). Drawings such as "Immigrants Pay More Taxes Than Trump" (the wording on the sign a single woman is holding) and "Women in the Immigration March" are so simple as to have the look of pictures in a coloring book with smooth outlines and very few areas colored in with a thin wash of watercolor. Her lines are elegant and lyrical, as are the subtleties of shading.  

There is one drawing called "We Are All Immigrants," which shows five women seated during the Immigration March. It is a line drawing with only three small areas colored in: one woman's skirt and head cover, and a row of tiles on the floor. There is also a much larger oil painting taken from this sketch that has a lot more color in it. Of note is the way she highlights the woman in the center by use of a bright yellow dress and the way parts of the figures are outlined with the same yellow, creating a halo effect.

I find the simpler drawings more dramatic and more touching than the paintings, which tend to be denser and with more color, more figures and more to see in the settings.

In some of the paintings there are transparencies that allow line drawings to be seen through the painted areas. This is most effective in "Signs," a painting of participants in a pro-Muslim demonstration at Seattle City Hall Plaza, and in "Artists at the Art Fair," a painting of the artists Ramiro Gomez and Kehinde Wiley at an opening. Gomez is standing and fully painted, while Wiley is lying on the floor with another man, unidentified, and is depicted in line only. I had an opportunity to ask the artist about this, and she said viewers must interpret any possible meaning for themselves.

Tom Gormally's sculptures are more abstract and more symbolic. He does a lot of work with architectural elements made of wood and with the shape of the United States map created with dot-pattern LED lights or drawn with graphite and cut-to-shape mylar sheets -- often in combination with the letters "US" used as a kind of word play on the double meaning of "us" as a group of people (US and THEM) and as the initials that stand for United States.

Straight-back chairs that are warped or balanced on one or two legs play a large role in his sculptures. They look as though they can't possibly stand as they do and are intentionally disorienting. They were inspired, according to Malayka, by the movie Koyaanisqatsi, a Hopi word meaning "life out of balance" -- which succinctly sums up what an exhibition pamphlet called "the contemporary climate of socio-cultural and political divisiveness" of our country today.    

"Present/Tense," Malayka and Tom Gormally, 1-5 p.m., Monday-Friday and 1-9 p.m., Third Thursday, through Dec. 21, Spaceworks Gallery, 950 Pacific Ave., Tacoma,

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