Jean Nagai’s paintings are interference patterns of bright hues that seem to move and vibrate. They are “uplifting and spiritual in the way that walking through the woods or smelling rain brings you back to your body,” writes Jasmyn Keimig. It’s similar to the visceral sense of embodiment I’ve always felt looking at Leaves (2002) by Gloria Tamerr Petyarre at the Seattle Art Museum. I asked Jean if he’d seen it and he responded “my mom loves that painting and I remember her telling me that I should make my paintings like Leaves.” …

Stephanie Pierce makes laboriously observed paintings from her immediate surroundings that feel glitchy, time-lapsed, and transitory. She has a way of making the familiar (a bed, a plant, a boombox) uncanny. About her process, Pierce says “I paint both towards understanding what I see and away from it until things are brought to a heightened experiential intensity and have a hallucinatory sensation.” Pierce’s paintings hinge on human visual perception and its idiosyncrasies. …

Kelly Bjork paints domestic interiors — scenes of tenderness, intimacy, and vulnerability in which she envisions something like utopian cohabitation. Her paintings are rich with patterns, sometimes in perspective but often rendered flatly: rugs, tiles, wood floors, shower curtains, drapery. These clean, well-lit spaces are populated by white creative millennial types and their minimal possessions. Presumably autobiographical, these paintings tell the imminently relatable story of getting by in the 21st century — learning to appreciate apartment living, doing more with less, and cultivating tenderness amidst it all.

Moving Forward, gouache + pencil on paper, 2018

Jeremy Okai Davis makes paintings that adroitly mix elements of abstraction and figuration. The skintones of his figures are alive with spots of intense color that are a testament to optical color mixing. He developed this style by blowing up small images from the internet and noticing the pixellated colors that appear. “The colors are all there for your eye to blend when you step back but up close you can see them all.” he says. The colors also operate as a metaphor for the diversity, complexity, and nuance of actual individuals who are too often understood only one-dimensionally as…

The simplicity of Linda Stark’s paintings belie their meticulous construction. Using tiny brushes, she builds layers of oil paint into graphical images rich with ridged patterns, textures, and sculptural effects. Although her paintings are sometimes laced with humor, any irony quickly yields to their earnest, almost obsessive, construction. As Jonathan Griffin writes, “their intensely worked surfaces and shameless beauty seem to speak more of belief, even hopefulness, than bitter skepticism.” At a time of global crises and volatility, Stark’s paintings offer welcome respite.

Ray, oil on canvas over panel, 2017

Ray (2017) lovingly depicts the artist’s deceased cat, Ray, within a glowing blue and pink orb. The…

Ralph Pugay makes paintings that trade in archetypes, uncomfortable humor, and weird space. Many of his colorful, folksy paintings hit with the force of a punchline, but without the clean resolution of a good zinger. There are internal contradictions the viewer must navigate, which sharpens one’s own sense of nuance in the world.

Pit Stop, Acrylic on Canvas, 2015

Calvin Ross Carl makes paintings that look like thick ropes of paint methodically built into graphically flat images of words or simple icons. I love Calvin’s work for the way it uses the messy vernacular of painting to construct images with the color and composition sensibilities of a designer. In fact, he operates a design firm alongside his painting practice.

Boy Enters Burning Home to Stay Warm. Acrylic and enamel on canvas. 2017.

David Leggett makes paintings riffing on the realities of racism in America today. Sean Joseph Patrick Carney, fellow PNCA alum (and host of the excellent podcast Humor and the Abject), wrote about Leggett’s work for Art in America, “Saccharine backgrounds and playfully astute renderings of pop-culture figures invite viewers to laugh.” Indeed, much of Leggett’s work hits with the force of a punchline but, as Carney goes on, “then, devastatingly, Leggett’s jokes reveal themselves as brutal confrontations of systemic racism in the United States.”

It’s not what you know it’s what you can prove. Acrylic and felt on canvas. 2016

Throughout her work, Adrienne Elise Tarver has finessed both material and subject matter in ways that matter here and now. She maintains a lush green, tropical color palette and her most recent exhibition addresses the myth of the exotic brown-skinned woman from a tropical paradise — the sort perpetuated by Paul Gaugin’s Tahitian paintings. In a recent show of suspended mesh paintings, Tarver makes reference to the invisible ‘veil’ of otherness introduced by W.E.B. Du Bois in ‘The Souls of Black Folk.’ Her work is currently on view at The Children’s Museum of Manhattan, and Camayuhs in Atlanta.

Untitled, Caulking and acrylic on wire mesh, 2016

Kimberly Trowbridge’s paintings strike me as both carefully observed and strangely fantastical. She is a painter versed in Academic tradition and observational painting, and that critical eye is evidenced throughout her wide body of work. Recently Trowbridge has delved into a series of backyard plein-air paintings which are, as she writes, “an active means of connecting with my immediate environment and of coping with a terrifying political and social landscape.” She is a current Creative Fellow at Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island — 62 acres of lush, Pacific Northwest gardens. …


Rad Dad writing about art with a social justice lens and a West coast lean. Portland, Ore.

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