In an area with so many artists and creative types, it’s not uncommon for people to discover their friends’ artistic abilities long after meeting them.
For a group of guys who regularly meet to shoot pool, that was the case.
Their discovery led to a fully-functioning art exhibit now on display.
“There are a lot of us artists here on South Whidbey,” sculptor and multi-media artist Frank Rose said. “You can ask almost anybody what they do and they’ll say, ‘Oh, I paint a little bit, do a little bit of this and a little bit of that.’ We’re all over the place.”
Rose, chainsaw wood carver Dexter Lewis, photographer Ed Evans and painters Adam Bly and John McMahon are all accomplished artists in their own right, but for a while they had no idea.
Instead, they knew each other as competition on the billiards table.
The creative quintet met while shooting pool weekly at Hong Kong Garden in Clinton, also known to locals simply as “the top” due to the view of Puget Sound from the bluff the restaurant is near. Pool players come around to take advantage of free pool on Sunday nights, and through countless games the five realized they had similar skill levels. They found each other to be natural adversaries on the table.
As expected, small talk, post-game gloating and changing hands followed. Those conversations led to a realization they shared similar backgrounds and interests.
“As we were shooting pool regularly, we got to know each other not just as players, but also as artists in one way or another,” Evans said. “I saw the space in the Front Room Gallery was available, and I told Adam we should do a two-man show. Then we got to thinking; why not do a show with all five guys?”
The side conversations resulted in a quality smorgasbord of an art exhibit named “Pasticcio.” The exhibit is aptly named; Pasticcio means an eclectic collection of things in Italian, similar to words such as hodgepodge, potpourri and mélange. The show combines the quintet’s varied body of work in honor of the exhibit’s name. Sculpture, wood carvings, paintings, multimedia art and photography litter the gallery space.
The Front Room Gallery, located on the second floor of the Bayview Cash Store, is hosting the exhibit through the end of December. The gallery’s hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Rose said one of the artists should be present to handle transactions, as most of the pieces on display are for sale.
Rose estimates there are close to 100 artworks featured.
“It’s funny, because I refer to these guys as hoodlums,” Evans joked. “We shoot pool at the dive bars, and now here we are showing our art in an exhibit.”
The artists went outside of their comfort zones in honor of the exhibit’s theme. Rose, primarily a sculptor, is showing some of his Langley-centric photography as well as stencil drawings. Evans went outside the box and tried his hand at abstract photography, although his forte is “literal, linear work.” Lewis also creatively used his wood shavings to decorate around his sculptures.
“The diversity of the show is terrific,” Evans said. “I’d also say the quality of the work has exceeded my expectations, even though I knew we were all good artists in our own right.”
Rose and Evans weren’t too surprised to find out their billiards buddies are working artists. The discovery can be a common experience on South Whidbey, with “so many artists hidden away in the woods or studios,” according to Evans. Whether retirees with artistic outlets or career artists, the sheer number of artists on the South End is striking.
Your opponent on the pool table might even be a renowned artist.
“There are so many artists on South Whidbey, it’s a major part of our economy,” Rose said. “As the chairman of the Langley Arts Commission, I’m aware art and artists are everywhere, but art is often not accounted for in the greater economic picture.”