Gary Faigin's review of "Conversations"
on Artdish

Listen to Gary Faigin
discussing "Conversations" on KUOW

Joey Veltkamp's Guide to
First Thursday Art Walk

Become a fan on Facebook
Follow HH on Twitter

Howard House is pleased to present Conversations, Patti Warashina’s third solo show at the gallery. Warashina might best be described as a lyrical absurdist, her work merging the sensibilities of René Magritte and Hieronymus Bosch. Over her long and celebrated career, now spanning almost 45 years, the artist’s ceramic figures and objects have blended realism with wit and satire. Notably for Warashina, the body is almost always at the center of these narratives of the absurd, serving as a marker of the physical and psychological, of events both political and personal.

Her most recent work captures familiar, everyday moments, yet this familiarity is tempered by the artist’s usual play with narrative ambiguity. It is also notably, and perhaps unexpectedly, accompanied by a radically simplified figural form. With essentialized torsos and limbs, the bodies in Conversations mark a dramatic departure from realism. This reduction of detail—save for the stylized facial features and extremities—has been a purposeful trajectory for the artist, who has pushed the medium of clay in many directions throughout her career. In the case of this new series, it relates to a renewed interest in surface: “I want the two-dimensional surface work to seem independent of the three-dimensional form of the figure, as though it is passing over the figure.” It is coincidental and ever-changing.

Accompanying the ceramic works in Conversations will be Warashina’s prints from the past decade. Here the artist’s narratives seem to take a darker turn, yet ambiguity remains. The clean lines of the ceramic figures are no longer present. Streamlined buns are replaced with frizzled hair, rounded torsos are replaced with droopier and less full bodies. Distress is palpable, from the pained facial expressions of these figures, to the red and yellow landscapes that surround them. Purposefully cryptic, the meanings and interpretations that are possible across the works in Conversations are at the core of their power. In the surrealist tradition, Warashina brings to the fore that which normally lies underneath the surface. Here the everyday and the stuff of dreams collide, beautifully.

Patti Warashina was born in Spokane, Washington, in 1940. She earned her BFA and MFA from the University of Washington, where she later went on to teach for 25 years; she is now Professor Emeritus. The artist has a long and respected resume in the arts. She is a Fellow in the American Craft Council, she has received the Artist Trust Twining Humber Lifetime Achievement Award, the University of Washington Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Governor’s Award of Special Commendation for the Arts and twice won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. Her work is included in the collections of the Smithsonian, the Museum of Art and Design New York, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, among many other institutions.