Spirited away: Brackenwood exhibit reflects on booze

There is only a little to see and much to experience in Brackenwood Fine Arts Gallery’s new exhibit, “Spirits,” launching today through February.

This series of oil paintings of drinks by Jason Waskey will be featured in Brackenwood Fine Arts Gallery’s new exhibit

There is only a little to see and much to experience in Brackenwood Fine Arts Gallery’s new exhibit, “Spirits,” launching today through February.

The paintings themselves are sparse: A single high curved glass of wine, a rocks glass with three fingers of whiskey, or a crystal-clear martini, olives properly speared. Maybe there is a glass and a partly empty bottle. For most of the 22 paintings that will be shown, that’s it.

“It’s the celebration of libations,” said gallery co-owner and artist Jason Waskey.

“My interest is in the soul and the spirit of the drink itself,” he added.

Then there’s the star of the show. “The Old Dog” by Ryan Grossman shows the partly rusted metal sign of the Dog House Tavern, which is mere steps away from the gallery’s door on First Street in Langley. Hung prominently in direct eyesight from the door, the oil painting doesn’t feature a single drop of booze, though its subject certainly saw uncounted gallons move through its taps and spouts.

Anyone wanting to make a bid on the $1,200 painting is out of luck. It sold before the gallery even opened its exhibit after an unidentified woman saw it from the sidewalk, walked in while the gallery was technically closed and made an offer to buy it.

“Literally, the person who bought it would not be denied,” Waskey said.

All of the works, though simple in their visual offering, are evocative. The Dog House Tavern is iconic, and is a symbol of the spirit of Langley and a time gone by now that the old watering hole has been closed for years. Waskey’s paintings of single glasses, most of which are on a black-field background, pull viewers into wondering and considering the person who ordered the vodka martini with two olives — not three — or who poured themselves a few fingers of scotch and sat by the windowsill that is the backdrop of the piece.

“They are little, tiny portraits of what we’ve all come to think of,” Waskey said.

Waskey, Grossman, Sandy Byers and Cary Jurriaans are the artists whose works are on display in the featured exhibit this coming month. Jurriaans created a pair of Waskey’s favorite pieces in the exhibit, one featuring several corks, and another of a glass of whiskey next to a bottle of Clinton-based Cadée Distillery’s finest. Waskey praised the story, colors and composition.

But just like the woman who was drawn to “The Old Dog,” so too was Waskey. It was his favorite piece in the exhibit because of how it departed from the theme in a clever and relevant way, telling a story with a simple image, looking up at the overhanging metal sign that welcomed thousands of thirsty patrons.

The perspective of the painting makes sense for Grossman. His mother, Kären Grossman, once owned the tavern before it was sold in 1985 to Pete Jacobs. At the time, Kären Grossman said her son was about 5 years old. The Dog House stuck with him into adulthood.

“The first thing he did after he turned 21 was go inside and buy a beer,” she laughed.

“Ryan captured the spirit of the place he grew up that is so iconic,” she added.

The opening coincides with the city’s biggest opening at Museo, just a block away, and its exhibit theme of Mardi Gras, the Carnival celebration leading up to Ash Wednesday. The holiday was made famous in the United States by the riotous celebrations in New Orleans.

Hosting a celebration of libation, as Waskey said, was a way to have an opening “worthy” of Museo. The schedule also made sense because it came on the heels of the holiday season, a popular time for spirits both liquid and ethereal.

“It seems like a good time, before Lent hits — it’s the last days of the dark,” Waskey said.

“Winters on South Whidbey can be a little wet, a little gray, a little dreary,” he added.

The “Spirits” opening will be accompanied by a departure from Brackenwood’s normal fare. Instead of offerings from Whidbey’s wineries, the gallery will feature tastings by Brownrigg Hard Cider out of West Seattle and Cadée Distillery.


More in Life

Mother-daughter duo bringing corners of the world to Whidbey

Fiona and Francesca Coenen-Winer sell pieces from near and far

South Whidbey park performance set for Aug. 15

F Street Project featured band at free concert

Islanders help victims of volcanic eruption

Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, landslides. And now, two Whidbey Islanders add volcano recovery… Continue reading

Photos by Maria Matson/Whidbey News Group
                                John White of Freeland works to paint the “Big Guns” at Fort Casey. It was a good day to paint, with the sunshine and fresh air, he said. The work is being done by volunteers in preparation of the 50th anniversary of the “Big Guns” arrival, which will be held on Aug. 11.
Fort Casey gets ready for anniversary

Celebration in recognition of ‘big guns’ arrival 50 years ago

Global guitarist Andre Feriante brings festival to Whidbey

Two wineries host ‘Guitar Euphoria’ Aug. 10-12

A new home for works of art

Museo gallery lands South Whidbey painter Pete Jordan, plans reception

New brew has a Whidbey flavor

Combining beer and coffee isn’t exactly a unique idea. There are plenty… Continue reading

Theron Murphy, of Orem, Utah, kisses his wife, Jody, in front of the John L. Scott Real Estate office in Langley. People stand on the sidewalk on the heart, kiss, then make a hash mark on the chalkboard. The office keeps a tally and posts the monthly and yearly count. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Pucker up!

Chalkboard tally ensures every smooch counts

Tidepooling Along the Olympic Peninsula

The shell collector skillfully maneuvers his way across the beach, wades through… Continue reading

Origins of fairgrounds’ story pole is a mystery

South Whidbey historian on the case to uncover true carver

Blues, berries, fun and fundraising at Saturday festival

Mutiny Bay Blues Farm hosts Commons Cafe event

New public art debuts in Langley

Steel and glass shape pieces chosen by arts commission