Terry Johnson reviews James Hardman and Hanna Glasser at Orcas Center

"There are some advanced, intellectual artists on Orcas, and the Orcas Center is exhibiting two of them through July."

James Hardman’s acrylic watercolors now on exhibit at the Orcas Center are very revealing, particularly if one knows what to look for. Most Orcas Islanders are familiar with Hardman’s paintings and prints of waterfront, madrona-laden landscapes. In his past works, Hardman has dealt with primary colors to make us aware of the landscape that we all live with, but the news is not in his change of imagery, but rather in his acute evolution in the colors that most viewers take for granted.

Forget the primary colors, wonderful as they are, but look instead at what he is currently doing with his quiet, supportive tertieary colors. Perhaps it takes another professional artist to realize the subtle changes that Hardman is making in his color palette. Just like a rock band, the lead singer is nothing whithout a backup band – a bass and rythmn quitarist; and they often don’t get recognition unless they disappear. Then we know something is obviously wrong. Look at Hardman’s expert control of his “backup band”, his tertiary grays and muted colors. It truly takes an experienced colorist to evolve these quiet colors. And they are so necessary for the success of a larger color scheme. Look for changes in Hardman’s future work; they may be subtle, but expertly executed.

Hannah Glasser’s ceramic works need to be considered with a deliberate sit-down-and -consider approach. Which is to say that there’s a lot to consider here. To be sure, there’s the formal handling and execution of the firing of clay to get the desired result, but I think one has to slip into a primal, neanderthal frame of mind to really appreciate what Glasser is addressing – the primality of the human existence.

There are forms here that transcend and, indeed, bring us back to the very surfacing of the human experience. “Me have mud, me make pot!” Sometimes it takes that approach to bring us back to the awareness that we, as human beings, desperate for expression, express ourselves with what we have immediately on hand.

In a couple of Glasser’s pieces, I would appreciate a more explicit title, just to lead me a bit more into what she intended. And the “Rust Nest,” sans the metaphorical eggs, would be so much better if viewed in the center of the exhibition space, because sculpture’s very nature is to be viewed 360 degrees in the round. That said, all of Glasser’s work should be viewed from a 360 degree perspective, because they change beautifully when viewed in the round. Understandably, there is the liability of knocking over fragile work when exhibited in this fashion.

The vast majority of the populace will dismiss poetry, classical music, jazz, and good literature simply because they are not educated in it. Admittedly, it takes a fair amount of study and education to appreciate the visual arts, and most people are, understandably, too preoccupied with daily living to give the arts the time it takes to fully appreciate it. There are some advanced, intellectual artists on Orcas, and the Orcas Center is exhibiting two of them through July.

Terry Johnson is a retired Professor of Art who lives on Orcas Island.