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Hundreds of paintings

A visit to Art House Designs

Untitled painting, copper leaf by Tom Anderson. Photo credit: Alec Clayton

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If you've never stepped foot inside Olympia's Art House Designs, you would be well advised to do so. Art House Designs is a large frame shop and gallery with hundreds and hundreds of paintings, prints and other artworks displayed salon-style on the walls and on tables and even stacked on the floor, including hundreds of original paintings and prints by local and regional artists and printed reproductions of paintings by famous artists such as Picasso, Degas and many others. There's something to pique the interest of almost anybody. On a recent visit, I even saw -- and I have to admit I do not at all understand why anyone would do this -- two almost exact copies of Degas dancers and a copy of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" with a cityscape in the foreground.

Most of the art is competently executed. It ranges from abstract to figurative to landscapes. It is easy on the eye, predominantly what I like to call wall fodder, or art that is pretty and guaranteed not to ruffle any feathers.

Among the best paintings I saw there this week were a pair of untitled copper leaf paintings by Tom Anderson, one of Olympia's most well-known artists. Anyone familiar with Anderson's work will immediately recognize these paintings for his signature surface textures and the milky blue color seen in so many of his works. There is a veiled complexity, mystery and depth to these that I find personally appealing. Someone who can afford fine art should buy these two as a matched pair to be hung together.

Arnold Iger's monotype "Urban Mural Study #Twenty" is an abstract with a strong sweep of black something like Asian calligraphy floating over a field of white, gray and ochre with printed number 587 and a red stenciled number three. It's one of my favorite works in the gallery, a kind of melding of Franz Kline and Jasper Johns.

John Anderson's watercolor and ink "The Apple Was in the Chapel" is a humorous semi-surrealistic picture with a line drawing of Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" posing as Eve in the Garden of Eden with a large apple hovering in a pop-style sunburst.

There is a group of eight very small oil on canvas landscapes by Marz Doerflinger with simplified imagery and heavy paint application. One of the nicest of these is "King's Blue," a picture of two trees perched on the horizon line with dark grasses below and a stormy sky above.

There are also a number of large paintings by gallery owner Susie Englestad, including a digital work called "Dusk." It is an abstract that can easily be interpreted as landscape with a field of floating green and yellow marks with black squiggles reminiscent of Mark Tobey and many small dots of black, red and yellow.

When visiting Art House Designs, give yourself plenty of time to browse through everything. You could spend an entire day and not see it all. I was told the works mentioned here will be on display for at least two more weeks, but art basically stays indefinitely unless sold or withdrawn by the artist.

GROUP SHOW, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, no end date, 420 Franklin St. SE, Olympia, 360.943.3377,

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