A Painter and a Ceramist Shift Perspectives at Winston Wächter Fine Art

Good artists are constantly evolving, which is part of the reason why Winston Wächter Fine Art frequently invites the same painters and sculptors to the gallery to exhibit. This spring saw Dirk Staschke’s second solo show at the Seattle gallery, and Betsy Eby’s seventh—and both artists have changed pace since their last exhibitions.

In the case of Eby, the creative developments have to do with location, location, location: the painter is a native of the Pacific Northwest who’s recently located to the opposite corner of the country. The name of her new collection of works, “Southern Spirituals,” speaks to the inspiration she’s found in her new home in Georgia.

Her previous work was informed by the flora and fauna of her childhood home—buttercup fields, thick forests, silver birch trees. Now, she’s transforming her color palette and painterly technique to reflect her new setting in the south. The warm peaches and cool blues, as in Over the Crossing and Salome, and the floral motif that runs through the exhibition gently evoke the slowed-down romance of life in Georgia. The fluttering brushstrokes that have long characterized her work translate particularly well to this place—her new source of inspiration.

Staschke, meanwhile, hasn’t changed locations. But he’s change his personal perspective. The Portland-based ceramicist is known for the precision and polish of his work, which is why it’s so intriguing to view his latest exhibition, “Executing Merit.” The name hints at what Staschke is aiming for here—namely, to expose the process behind the work as much as showing the beauty of the final product itself. On first look, these works appear to be straightforward homages to the traditional still-life painting: fruits, flowers, and fowl, plus elegant cakes that look like something Marie Antoinette might have been pictured with in a royal portrait.

But as the viewer moves around the paintings, it’s clear that they’re not so refined. Like a fashion magazine shoot where couture gowns are held together with clips or pins in the back, or a gourmet food shoot in which marbles are loaded into the soup to keep the savory ingredients appealingly afloat, Staschke’s pieces show the work behind the beautiful sculptures. Note the rough bunches of clay and unsightly bulges on the rear side of the works, which support the front of the image. The question the artist raises is an interesting one: Which is the truth, the finished product, or the sometimes ugly supports behind it? The concept might seem dark if Staschke’s own “execution” were overly serious. But as he takes a playful approach to the topic, the collection feels relatively lighthearted, even comical, especially in the works featuring sweet confections or dead birds ready to be served as part of a feast.

Perhaps you’ve seen these artists’ work before, but not like this. “Southern Spirituals” and “Executing Merit” are satisfying reminders that artists can—and should—keep moving forward.

Bridget Gleeson

Southern Spirituals”and “Executing Merit” are on view at Winston Wächter Fine Art, Seattle, Mar. 3–Apr. 15, 2015.

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