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Circles and West meet in Brackenwood Gallery’s July show

Bruce Morrow works on a painting in his studio. As one of the featured artists at Brackenwood Gallery for July, he’ll show some of his largest paintings yet, including the one at right, that represent “Americana” and the West. - Rebecca Olson / The Record
Bruce Morrow works on a painting in his studio. As one of the featured artists at Brackenwood Gallery for July, he’ll show some of his largest paintings yet, including the one at right, that represent “Americana” and the West.
— image credit: Rebecca Olson / The Record

For Buffy Cribbs and Bruce Morrow, life and art are inseparable. It weaves through every facet of their lives, from the artistic home they designed and built to everyday events that inspire their art.

Cribbs and Morrow are the featured artists at Brackenwood Gallery for July. The show opens with an artists reception from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 30, and continues through July 30.

Viewers can expect to see art just as spirited, inspiring and humorous as the pair of artists.

Next to their home, Cribbs and Morrow built a wood shop with a “his and her” studio upstairs. In the adjoining rooms, light from windows and skylights plays off the thousands of colors in artwork hanging on walls or easels or leaning against tables. Inspiration flows through windows that offer views of the forest surrounding their home. Curled paint tubes, the words on the tubes long covered by dried paint, pile on tables and music plays in the background.

Coming into their art haven, Morrow lit up as he pointed out his artwork. Morrow will show some of the largest paintings he’s done in awhile. The colorful works are about four feet square and “Americana” in style, Morrow said.

Before meeting Cribbs, Morrow lived in New Mexico.

“And I really loved the landscape there and I think that’s a really big influence for my images,” Morrow said. He added that his western themes represent “Americana:” the nostalgia for the frontier and the western “everyman” with all of his hopes hanging in the winds of time.

When people view his art at the show, Morrow said he wants people to get “a sense of adventure. Maybe a request from me to participate in the dialogue of the show.”

With scenes straight out of the West, adventure is certainly involved. But so is humor. In playing with the image of buffalo, Morrow painted a confused dog driving a car with a buffalo draped over the top.

“Sometimes you get an image in your mind, like the buffalo, that I associate with the West, which I think is very Americana,” Morrow said, pointing out other recurring images like a man in a hat, and dogs. “I try to incorporate these images into a story.”

In the adjoining studio, Cribbs’ vibrant, creative work hangs ready for the show. She works with acrylics, but her imagination takes her beyond into the use of Plexiglas, wood, found objects, steel and more.

“I’m interested in the circles because they represent cycles of seasons and cycles of behavior. Even history seems to go round and round and round,” Cribbs said, standing beside vibrant pieces depicting circles so full of energetic color that they almost seem to be moving. Orange circles, red squares and circles outlined in blue offer viewers a peek into Cribbs’ imagination, as well as a look inside their own minds as the artwork lends itself to interpretation.

Cribbs began working with circles three or four years ago when the owner of Mukilteo Coffee Company asked her to create panels for the walls above the coffee machines.

“I wanted to kind of express that coffee high that people have in there,” she said with a laugh. “But then I began to feel that it had more to say than the lightheaded feel of coffee. Most everything we live with has something to do with cycles and circles.”

Cribbs described her art as less narrative and  more abstract than Morrow’s.

“I think the circles are kind of a friendly approach to abstraction because everybody’s familiar with circles and has their own idea of what they mean,” Cribbs said.

From seeing her work at the show, Cribbs said, “I think you would hope people would get a sense of peace and happiness. I don’t think art always needs to be challenging.”

A sense of peace and happiness can be had just by walking through their front door. Not only does their artwork hang on the walls, but they also incorporated it into the design of the home. Cupboards are painted elaborately —- including a favorite cupboard under the sink with plumbing painted on it. Outside, more art overlooks a garden and at the roof in the back, a metal eagle head gazes over a serene backyard and forest leading to the beach.

Both have worked in construction for years, and still do, so they built their house six years ago. Cribbs specializes in artistic furniture and door installations and Morrow said he has built a number of artists’ studios. They’ve lived in the same spot on South Whidbey for 26 years total.

Morrow and Cribbs were artists even before they met and sometimes still manage to meet in the studio when construction work doesn’t keep them apart.

They also own a printing press, so Morrow expanded into print making and Cribbs uses her talent with wood to construct small etching presses and more, revealing the many ways in which art touches their lives.

“Whidbey’s got a lot of artists and a lot of good artists and I kind of like art as the local industry. So I like to encourage people to come to Whidbey because there are a lot of artists here,” Morrow said.

“We’ve developed, both of us, pretty strong personal styles during this time. I think we’re both very recognizable,” Cribbs added.

The July show is Brackenwood Gallery’s largest show of the year, Cribbs said.

“And we’re honored to be chosen to represent Brackenwood for the July show,” Cribbs said. “People should expect to see color and whimsy and humor.”

 

 

Brackenwood Gallery opens July show

Artists reception: 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 30.

Show runs through July 30.

The gallery is located at 302 First St., Langley.

For details, call 221-2978.

 

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