Like many other Seattle residents, I was first introduced to the work of fabric and mixed media artist Mandy Greer at the central branch of the Seattle Public Library. I remember liking her permanent installation, Library Unbound, and making a mental note to check out more of her stuff (which, of course, I completely forgot to do because I didn't write it down), but it wasn't until Greer's 2011 solo show, Honey And Lightening, at Roq La Rue Gallery, that I was moved from appreciation to awe.


mandy greer Honey And Lightening, 2011. Roq La Rue Gallery, Seattle
Artists often describe their ideas as beginning with a seed, but with Greer the analogy is more literal: her work gives the impression of growth, and her compositions wind sinuously across both body and landscape as fractalized coral reefs that gracefully devour everything they come in contact with. Her painstaking craftsmanship involves the weaving and layering of such diverse materials as buttons, pom poms, sequins, beads, plastic trinkets, glitter, mirrors, and family members' hair. She uses "cheap materials" in such absurdly detailed, utterly chaotic excess that they they take on an aura of luminous richness. Her latest subjects involve strong, folkloric figures festooned in elaborate headdresses. They move gracefully through kaleidoscope forests and fields of trailing grass. One gets the sense of being enveloped by an epic fairy tale, but it's one that lacks a definitive plot. Greer draws from a wide spectrum of folk tales, finding inspiration in stories from Greek, Roman and Chinese cultures. "I stumble upon mythology that speaks to the struggle," she explains. There is an inherent delicacy in textile work – one that Greer both embraces and contradicts. In her works, haunting vignettes of half-told stories are littered with crocheted entrails and vines of thick, cloying mud that evoke a sense of elegant foreboding. They deal with a sense of vague narrative that, through abstraction, finds archetype; her installations whisper of timelessness – of a buried, invisible power that runs below the surface of the world that we cavalierly inhabit. At the time of our interview, Greer was still in the process of settling into her home studio, and walking into her workspace was like entering the magical dress up box every child dreams of having. Her studio is filled with giant, color-sorted plastic bins of fascinatingly patterned and textured scraps of fabric. Half of her studio is devoted to an exposed beamed staging ground for installations, and there are so many odds and ends lying around that, for someone with an attention span as short as mine, it's difficult to find a place for the eye to rest. INTERVIEW CONTINUES BELOW mandy greermandy greerHoney And Lightening, 2011. Roq La Rue Gallery, Seattle

Justin Kane Elder has only recently emerged onto the Seattle art scene, but he's already commanding our attention. Trained as a finish carpenter1 and hailing from a family peppered with luthiers2 and tradesman, Elder is comfortable moving fluidly across the often contentious boundary of art and craft. Elder's work demands a carpenter's keen attention to angle and detail, coupled with a painter's sense of fluid composition. Elder creates large-scale spray paint portraits by applying numerous layers of precisely stenciled abstract shapes, and his dynamic overlays create a constantly radiating sense of movement. His current portrait subjects are his friends or pop culture icons, and he manages to create crisp, defined compositions without employing any actual linework.
justin kane elder I headed over to Justin's house for an interview and spent the duration of our conversation kept constant company by Raleigh, his adorably hyperactive Boston Terrier. Elder's house immediately gives the comfortable impression of being inhabited by creative people who are very good at what they do but don't feel a need to overtly broadcast it. Elder's girlfriend is a designer, and between the two of them, the house is full of strange, enticingly colorful objects. Elder's studio is set up in his basement, and his workspace is indicative of his artistic priorities: his table saw is front and center, and his spray cans are arranged on a hand-built table that captures the precision of someone who is used to working in measurements of a 32nd of an inch. A large basement wall serves as scratch paper. "It's my sketchbook!" Elder says, laughing.

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