Finding intrigue in simplicity

Two talented Washington artists will be setting up shop at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery for the month, exhibiting their newest body of work.

Two talented Washington artists will be setting up shop at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery for the month, exhibiting their newest body of work. Barbara Sternberger’s new exhibit titled Musing is a collection of oil paintings that detail the beauty of movement and the endless possibility that exists within our actions.

Pilgrimage is the unveiling of Seattle artist Claire Cowie’s new exhibit, which is possibly her most personal—an artistic rendering of her life’s journey thus far. Both artists bring a lot to the table and have loads of talent to back it up. Sternberger and Cowie have exhibited work around the country and have gained artist notoriety worthy of, at the very least, a quick visit to see their most recent projects.

Sternberger’s abstract oil paintings are not clear at first glance, seemingly an awkward conglomeration of colors mixing into each other—the message becoming evident only once you read the title and look a little deeper. As a lecturer at Western Washington University, Sternberger clearly understands the technicalities behind her craft.

Her strokes are smooth and the objects clear but only as the end result. At first, the process for Sternberger begins as a cathartic sort of rhythm between her and the canvas—neither one is totally sure of what will come next. Eventually something does and that is the result we see.

Many of the paintings have a similar muted backdrop with bright colors being used for all the important stuff. In “Gust” the protagonist of the canvas seemingly huddles towards the bottom while a giant ruckus clearly ensues above.

We’ve all had to go on our own personal journeys—some hard, some easy—but a journey nonetheless. For Cowie, that journey has woven its way through the lives of people, places, nature and many of the things that we all can pick out as part of our own journey. Cowie’s hip style of art is alluring to most—unique enough to bring in a member from the outside world and technical enough for an art student to still walk away impressed.

Cowie’s subjects are things that have influenced her, like her grandmother, a burning church and a dead rat. As a child we take for granted the simple and obvious bits of advice bestowed upon us like “be nice,” but for Cowie and all of us as we age, we begin to recognize the true value of preaching such a virtue.

In a way that resembles aged vintage art, Cowie’s bubbly watercolors of her grandmother provide hues of gratitude for the help she gave along the way. A portrait of Ganesh bordered by an elephant frame sends a similar message.

Both artists’ work is uniquely their own, but the challenge that we as the viewer are mutually encouraged to do is discover something that doesn’t exist at the surface.