With a name like Sandpiper Gallery and a genteel, Old-Town location so close to the waterfront, one might expect to walk into this long-standing art gallery and encounter batik paintings of starfish or ceramic sea urchins or tasteful watercolors of lazy seagulls lounging on rustic pilings. Do not be deceived by the cute name. This is not a gallery where retirees go to find decorations for their beach bungalows (excepting those with good taste).
For the past number of years now, Sandpiper Gallery has been showing work by some of our region's up and coming, serious (some seriously silly) and edgy artists.
The gallery's most recent show "Round in Circles," curated by the ever-dynamic Lynn Di Nino, is characteristic of Sandpiper's new type of exhibit. The show features the work of two artists: painter J. Neils Harvey and bead sculptor Indian Owens. The two work in very different media and come from very different backgrounds, yet the blending of the two is harmonious as both deploy bold colors with a sense of whimsy. Despite their different media, both artists also work with circles – dense accumulations of tiny circles that are collected into a larger whole in the way that cells cluster to form larger organisms.
Harvey, whose background is in quilting, uses acrylic paints on canvases that are often long and narrow. A kind of pop pointillist, she corrals her tiny circles into larger, geometric patterns, floral compositions or landscapes. "Spyglass" shows a prim little sailboat in the center of a series of broad, red and white rings. As the eye roves over her bumpy canvases, it encounters many a poetic feature such as the silver arrowheads in "Tell William" that almost have the texture of bubble wrap or the wonderful, pointillist fir trees in the lower corner of a large landscape called "Glacier Lake."
Owens, a manufacturing engineer by trade, creates little chairs made of beads that make one think of childhood craft projects made of dried macaroni noodles. Characters occupy the lovely little chair, done in an astonishing range of color, that Owens makes using lengths of wire. They are like doodles in space – the three-dimensional equivalent of James Thurber's quirky cartoons. The pieces have the strangeness of originality. Titles like “That's Nuts!” and “She's Out Dusting the Shrubbery, Bless Her Heart” amplifies the impression of viewing a cartoon. "Take it One Game at a Time," a gigantic, oafish figure obviously seated in front of a televised sports event, is seated in an angular, orange chair. The legs are planted wide. The head is sunken into the hunkering shoulders. One hand grips a beer can made with a deftly shaped spring of blue wire.
"Round in Circles" is an absolute delight. Go and see. The parking in Old Town is still free. The show runs through March 26 at Sandpiper Gallery located at 2221 N. 30th St. For further information call (253) 627-6667.