Mythos reviewed in Seattle Times

Mythos: Cultural Narratives and Personal Mythologies reviewed by Michael Upchurch for the Seattle Times. Read at the Seattle Times website here!

Modern mythologies at ArtXchange Gallery
By Michael Upchurch

Special to The Seattle Times

The folkloric and fantastical meet in “Mythos: Cultural Narratives and Personal Mythologies,” a whimsical show at ArtXchange Gallery that serves up “mythologies for the modern era.”

As curator Lauren Davis explains, “We looked for artists whose work contains ‘personal mythologies,’ or stories that might be retold 200 years in the future as a myth of today.”

Seattle artist Martha Shade is the most beguiling of the three artists featured. Her works in hand-stitched cotton thread on linen canvas are gentle, eccentric and exquisitely crafted.

In “Trees Are Poems,” a melancholy female figure cradles a bird in her lap, against a backdrop of tangled leafy motifs framed by empty bird cages. “Dancer” features a similarly grave female whose fluid burgundy dress contrasts with the elaborately crystalline doily patterns behind her. (Her dance partner, bizarrely, is a small walrus she’s holding aloft.)

“Anput Dreams There Is No Afterlife” is the most fascinating of these cotton-thread canvases. It renders the Egyptian goddess as a black dog sitting calmly on a sarcophagus covered in anachronistic hieroglyphics. Anput’s dream includes cars, a TV, an airplane, an oil derrick, an alarm clock and more. The background behind her consists of pale radiating circles, suggestive of emanating cosmic energies.

Shade’s small paper-pulp-and-fabric sculptures are a delight, too. “Aladdin’s Dog,” who carries the genie’s lamp on its back, and “Green Tara Sphinx” have an antic, confident presence. So do Shade’s hybrid creatures, “Chiron” (a centaur) and “Kinnari” (a bird-woman from Southeast Asian mythology).

While Shade takes her mythical cues from around the world, Kirkland-based stage designer and puppet maker Alla Goniodsky turns mostly to her native Russia for inspiration.

Angels, clowns, jugglers and other figures populate her drawings, paintings and sculpture. In “Abduction of Europa,” the abductee, clad in exaggerated fairy-tale finery (check out that towering pointed hat!), calmly rides sidesaddle on the back of Zeus, disguised as a bull who scarcely seems to notice her. This walnut-ink-on-paper sketch feels both richly textured and marvelously off the cuff.

Goniodsky’s paintings — oil and mixed media on panel — are similarly fluid affairs, teeming with rich color. Even when she’s alluding to the Bible, as in “Gabriel’s Horn,” there are circus elements at play. Why else is the winged angel riding a unicycle?

Two large papier-mâché sculptures round out Goniodsky’s offerings. “The Last Party” (a craggy-faced, contemplative clown perched on a ruddy sphere) and “Luck” (an elfin figure, riding on “dog-back” while clinging to an ostrich egg as big as he is) are both charmers.

Portland artist William Hernandez’s acrylics on canvas feel less nuanced and more stilted than dynamic. But one of them — “Why This City is So Green,” in which a man pours water into what appears to be a cloud machine — has an intrigue that marks him as an artist to watch.

Michael Upchurch:


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