Last night I asked the Gray Gallery & Lounge to turn up the lights on Emily Ann Pothast's little works on the walls, so I could see them better. My apologies to the other patrons, who were enjoying the dim light, but it was worth it.
These multifaceted landscape abstractions by Pothast (also a thoughtful blogger) have something in common with crystalline, post-1970s, pseudo-religious images the likes of which Seattle saw at the Henry Art Gallery's The Violet Hour last year (artists: Jen Liu, Matthew Day Jackson, David Maljkovic), and they also are distant kin to more detached, cool Northwest landscapes by artists like Robert Yoder, Victoria Haven, and Claude Zervas.
But these are warm, not remotely "pseudo" in any way, and have their own particular low-wattage charms, including cutouts of 1970s vintage patterned fabrics and segments of color that have been clearly applied by hand, as in colored-in. The teenage collage technique of using phrases from magazines is part of what Pothast does; she organizes the cutouts according to color and the texts disappear.
There's a surprising, pleasurable depth in these relatively flat surfaces. Some of the cutout and colored-in shapes sit slightly higher on the paper than others—some are simply thicker than others, I assume—and this creates in the two dimensions of the collage an actual three dimensionality that telescopes the whole thing. And then there are the real-world surfaces these cutout strips resemble and represent. Standing in front of the single work shown above last night, I spotted the following surfaces: a basketball, human hair, cottage cheese, wood, a topographical map, linoleum, pure paint, sand, Jägermeister, grass, tightly wound carpeting, water, popcorn, night sky, knitted yarn, heavy night rain, and arts and crafts wallpaper. My mind was traveling along with my eye. As far as I know, this is Pothast's first solo show in Seattle (she graduated from UW with her MFA in 2005). It's a quiet, assured, and promising beginning.