Arts and Entertainment

Though two of the artists are sisters, the three women showing this month at Karlson/Gray Gallery in Langley all very much do their own thing.

Gray River Trail III is one of Carolyn Divelbess Denning’s watercolor paintings that reveal her meanderings on the mountainous regions of her home state of Nevada. Denning shares the spotlight with her sister, local mixed-media artist Diane Divelbess, and local sculptor Sue Taves in the new show at the Karlson/Gray Gallery. - Photo courtesy of Karlson/Gray Gallery
Gray River Trail III is one of Carolyn Divelbess Denning’s watercolor paintings that reveal her meanderings on the mountainous regions of her home state of Nevada. Denning shares the spotlight with her sister, local mixed-media artist Diane Divelbess, and local sculptor Sue Taves in the new show at the Karlson/Gray Gallery.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Karlson/Gray Gallery

Though two of the artists are sisters, the three women showing this month at Karlson/Gray Gallery in Langley all very much do their own thing.

The recent work of Carolyn Divelbess Denning, Diane Divelbess and Sue Taves is on display Friday, April 4 until Wednesday, April 30 at the First Street gallery. An artists reception is from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, April 5.

“Stylistically they go together,” said gallery owner Wendy Sundquist.

“There seems to be a seriousness about all of their work and they are all extremely good at what they do.”

Sundquist said the connection between the art and artists is one of the most interesting things for her when choosing who to show, and each of these artists have strong opinions about why they do what they do.

“The genesis for this show really came from Diane,” Sundquist said.

“She has a remarkable depth in her artistic ability and I have come to admire her greatly. When she recommended Carolyn and Sue, I think it was because she felt that all of the work would compliment each other. Diane, in her own quiet way, is often working at connecting artists whose work she admires with opportunities for their work to receive some exposure.”

Local artist and printmaker Divelbess’ work ranges from hand-pulled prints to collage and painting.

“As an artist I only create what I am interested in creating,” Divelbess said.

“Sometimes the work is objective and sometimes it is abstract or non-objective. Over the years, I can see that my work has a consistency, but not in subject/content. Each piece is original and is different from all other works of mine. I think of creating something as a challenge, as a problem to be solved, not a painting or print to be manufactured over and over.”

Having retired as a longtime professor of art at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, Calif., Divelbess has the luxury of making art for her own love of the practice.

“I do take my time with each piece, especially as

I can afford to. Artists who ‘earn their living’ from their art are frequently under pressure to produce a fair amount of work. My only pressure is to produce work that interests me,” she said.

To that end, Divelbess said the process of playing with forms and materials is important to her work. Every piece she does informs the next ideas she has for the subsequent piece. In this way, though the pieces may not be similar in style, material or form, they are a part of a continuum for the artist.

“Diane is one of those artists that when you look at her work over the course of the years, she’s working in both realism and the abstract, but everything is always well done,” Sundquist said.

“She really puts her mind to it. It’s interesting to me that someone can be so gifted in so many different realms and

I am so honored she would show with us in terms of her talent.”

Taking her advice from Divelbess, Sundquist invited Divelbess’ sister

Denning to show a series of watercolor paintings and pastels.

Denning is from Nevada and her work reflects the mountainous regions of her home — which she portrays with an often playful perspective of the landscape.

This “play” process seems to run in the family.

“I play around with a lot of stuff,”

Denning said.

“Rural Nevada has lots of rocks, streams and some of what I do is realistic and some pure imagination. It is a mountainous and wonderful place as opposed to Las Vegas. I want to show that there’s more there than just desert.”

Having started her early training more than 30 years ago like her sister, it had included almost every art form and Denning said she had never settled on one form.

Recently she decided to concentrate on drawing, painting in watercolor and pastel and the real and imagined world of landscapes, though she doesn’t limit herself to just that subject.

“I want my paintings to catch the viewers interest from afar and to reward them as they move closer. I want the color to sing and the subject to be viewed from an interesting point,” Denning said.

Sundquist said it made a lot of sense to her when Divelbess also suggested Taves for the group show. Her work complements the others nicely while maintaining the excellence in execution that all three women share.

Taves is a self-taught artist who loves the exercise of working with the stones she carves. Her sculptures are at once contemporary and elegant.

“I enjoy finding beauty in everyday life,” Taves said.

“Here on Whidbey Island, beauty is so overt; we often miss the beauty in the simple, the everyday. I try to translate this beauty into my sculpture, from tall trees to a single drop of rain.”

Taves said both her dogs and her work encourage her to get outside and experience nature. Not being a Northwest native, Taves said she has come to have a new appreciation for the rain and it has informed her work.

Some of the pieces in the show are from a series she calls “Rain.” Others are an extension of that series.

“Rain is a simple fact of life here,” she said.

“It is by nature transient, fluid, changeable. It is the opposite of another part of nature I dearly love; stone.”

Taves said she loves stone for its inherent beauty and its solidity.

“Each stone is a small picture of time and earth and creation,” she said.

With the “Rain” pieces the artist takes the chance to express the fluid nature of rain juxtaposed to the rigidity of stone.

Just as a photograph freezes a moment for a closer look, Taves said, so too, does having rain fixed into stone allow more time to appreciate it as a natural phenomenon.

“In our culture, where everything moves so fast, it is becoming more and more difficult to stop and attend to one object or idea,” she said.

“Sculpture holds these moments in time and gives us a reason to linger.”

These sculptures, Taves said, celebrate the rain and interact with it. They look different when they are wet, in the process of drying, or when they are dry.

The work she did after the “Rain” pieces she said are just a progression using the same materials of hard black stone (basalt or black granite) and steel and represent the mountains, water and trees of Whidbey Island.

Some are mounted on rotating bases and relate somewhat to both prayer wheels and children’s lamps that have scenes cut into the lamp shade.

Other pieces are stone inlayed with the steel which extends past the shape of the stone to integrally combine the two materials. These sculptures, she said, are entirely non-representational but reflect what Sundquist called an undeniable elegance.

It is apparent that this artist — like her playful showmates — is in love with the creative process. She can’t help it, she said, so she embraces the art of sculpting.

Taves said the thing about being a sculptor is that the material brings its own individual personality to the interaction. She said her relationship with the piece, as she is working with it, moves through time from the initial dialogue to a deeper place.

“It’s like a friendship that ripens to fullness over time,” she said.

Karlson/Gray gallery is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The gallery is located at

302 First Street in Langley.

For info, call 221-2978 or e-mail info@karlsongraygallery.com.

Doing it well at Karlson/Gray

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