Faire gallery a vessel for the arts community

Consider this mission statement:

"Faire will have regular art exhibits, music shows, performance art/drama, and poetry readings. Faire will serve as a vessel for the arts to commence where the community is also involved with the artistic experience." - Faire gallery/café mission statement

Armed with this pragmatic philosophy, Faire has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of once was Filippi's Used Books on East Olive Way just east of the freewway. Sitting like a border post between Capitol Hill and downtown, what makes Faire unique is its spacious and separate loft gallery.

It is an oasis of calm for a wayfarer caught between the electric intensity of downtown's city center and the eclectic energy that is Capitol Hill. This attractive space, with loads of natural light, first came onto the art radar last April with the solo exhibition of paintings by Aaron Bagley.

In that exhibition three large canvases co-opted the loft space. The farthest work to the right was entitled "Africa" measuring 65 by 48 inches. The cloud form is vaguely in the shape of the continent set against a matte black landscape. The two nearer canvases have the wispy cloud in formation with the yellow and back graphic clouds. Bagley seems to combine a pop aesthetic with a dash of Northwest Magical Realism. The combination is very striking visually from different vantage points.

Building on that strong foundation, Bagley and his wife Jessixa team up to exhibit free-form collaborative drawings. Readers may recognize the work of Jessixa who supplies Seattle Weekly with illustrations for their Seven Nights pages. To complicate matters, Aaron Bagley's work has graced the cover of The Stranger. Fortunately, the arch and tiresome rivalry between the city's alternative weeklies does not intrude upon the Bagley's domestic bliss.

The couple's current collaboration is appropriately entitled "Duet II." The exhibition will feature several-ink-and watercolor drawings that read like light fairy tales within the influence of manga and anime traditions of Japanese pop culture.

Perhaps the clearest example of these influences is in the work "Introspective Queen of Paisley." Using the traditional form of a suit of cards, the artists have replaced the heart or spade symbols with a simple, flat squiggle of paisley. The elegant stylized rendering of the Queen's face suggest a familiarity with the woodblock printing traditions of Japan and the influences upon artists like Mary Stevenson Cassatt and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. The figure wears the renaissance-style robe and fills the void of the space with an elegant mythical depiction of fashion from the Court of the Duc de Barry or some such potentate.

Another whimsical drawing is "Plugged In," where fantastical giraffe dog hybrids have extension cords for their tails. The nine animals are all looking up to a vintage microphone from the golden era of radio. They could be producing an animal version of a soap opera or a variety show or just baying at the moon microphone.

The angle of the perspective is another area that the artists play with the viewer's eye. The animals in the background are larger than the animals in the foreground giving the illusion that Godzilla scale creatures inhabit the same space with the Little People. These are drawings that are served up piping hot and sizzle with sardonic word play of icon, image and irony.

The nature of collaboration is fraught with the many minefields of ego and aesthetics. If you think that all artists agree on what art is, think again! The visual arts are by their nature reflexively solo flights across the sky. It is rare for two artists, who have completely different, distinctive styles, to be able to merge their skills into a third style that is both composite and unique.

The end result is a balance of melody and counter point, just as a duet should be. The works of these two artists sing together in a polyphonic voice that is both familiar and alien to our experience.

In the fusion of styles and aesthetic direction, Jessixa and Aaron Bagley give the viewer an added layer to contemplate. You can try to play the game of where does one artist end and the other start or you can just accept the work for what it is, a walk through the whimsical woods with the Bagleys.

"Duet II" opens at Faire Gallery/Café on Friday, March 30, with an opening reception from 7 p.m. to midnight. The exhibition runs through April 20. Faire is located at 1351 E. Olive Way [between Bellevue and Melrose avenues.] Capitol Hill resident Steven Vroom writes about visual arts each month. He is the host of Art Radio Seattle, a weekly visual art news podcast at www.vroomjournal.com. He can be reached at editor@capitolhill times.com.

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