Every picture tells a story, but not every artist sees themselves as a storyteller. Two women artists who fully embrace their role of teller of tales are on view in Pioneer Square this month, and for KUOW art reviewer Gary Faigin, the vast difference between their two approaches is a story in itself.
Refined vs. grotesque, cerebral vs. visceral, subtle vs. in-your-face; the contrasts between the spare needlework portraits of Diem Chau and the rude lowlife dioramas of Jessica Geiger couldn’t be more striking. In fact, it’s a bit of stretch to say that the two exhibitions have anything in common other than the fact that both artists are local women doing pictures of people. But they do share at least one other common link, and it’s an important one. Both artists choose to exclusively portray the members of the specialized community with whom they identify, and both choose to heighten – or exaggerate - the traits that in their eyes make those communities unique.
Chau uses her immediate family as her subject matter, drawing on recollections, stories, and old photographs to reconstruct the Asian and immigrant world of her past. Geiger, on the other hand, has spent the past 20-odd years crafting doll-sized, clay and fabric portrayals of marginalized Americans, unsparing glimpses of the unhappy misfits who fill the bottom rung of the economic and social ladder. Her own personal history as a self-identified outsider, based on her struggles with major physical disabilities, seems to be the motivation for her choice of characters, but her precise attitude towards her creations is a bit tough to pin down.
FAIGIN ART REVIEWS:
A collection of reviews, featuring mostly NW artists, galleries and museums, on KUOW Radio from 2000 to 2012, in the Seattle Times from 2014 to present, and in other publications, as noted, beginning in 1993.
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