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The Stories They Tell-Abstract Paintings at SJIMA

When one thinks of Abstract Art, one tends to call to mind the unfettered and often chaotic paintings of iconic painters such as Jackson Pollack or Wassily Kandinsky. Since the arrival of abstract art in the early twentieth century, this genre has captured the imagination and respect of artists and art-lovers alike. While this form is usually seen as a vividly colorful and undisciplined expression of the individual artist, it often represents more than just colors, lines, and shapes. This art almost always tells a story and inspires involvement and imagination in those who view it. The term, Abstract Art is defined as art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colors, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect.

The current Artists’ Registry Show at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art features several abstract paintings that invite the viewer to step back, take a longer look and explore the story being shared by the artist.

"We Can Breathe"

Winnie Brumsickle, a San Juan Island artist, is exhibiting her painting entitled, We Can Breathe, a large acrylic painting, on natural linen. Her work juxtaposes shapes and colors in an engaging way, utilizing shapes and lines as the artists’ expression unfolds. Brumsickle says, “Scent and abstraction are my bridges to others, with which I aim to provoke a feeling of freedom from time, anxiety, ambition – and the ever-shifting landscape of our ideas about humanity.”

"Generation (3)"

Waldron Island artist, Pamela Mills followed an impulse to recycle an older landscape painting by over-painting much of it white, an experiment that greatly influenced the painting she chose to exhibit, Generation (3). Of her process, Mills says, “I begin by brushing swaths and paths of white into an older or incomplete landscape-based work. This improvisational process gradually reveals abstract forms and symbols standing against the white ground, as the old painting undergoes a dramatic metamorphosis. Generation (3) references beginnings. Viewers will bring their own stories and ideas to the work, as a small inanimate painted board comes to life.”

"Goodbye Kiss"

Many islanders know Gretchen Allison as the long-time chef and owner of the Duck Soup Inn, the iconic and popular restaurant on San Juan Island. After selling the restaurant, in addition to teaching culinary classes, Gretchen embarked on what has become a successful art career. Her painting, Goodbye Kiss, part of the current Artists’ Registry Show, is a departure from her previous representational paintings, and is a stunning example of abstract art. Acrylic paint on linen canvas, her creation resonates with energy and evokes feelings adventure and movement. Allison says, “As this work took shape I saw forms like planets, faces and animals appearing then changing with the next layer of paint. The rust color in the painting felt like age and decay, the change of one substance to another and the processes of destruction and re-composition. So the title, Goodbye Kiss, is a reminder to me to love what exists in the moment, grieve for what is lost and look forward to what is next.”

Artists exhibiting abstract paintings in the show are, Laura Bauer, Yvonne Buijs-Mancuso, Pamela Coffey, Melinda Dryer, Alison Engle, Alayne Goodheart, Lisa Lamoreaux, Marsha McAllister, Joe Miller, Dana Roberts and Rudi Ann Weissinger.

However you experience abstract paintings, you’re sure to enjoy the many examples of the dynamic art form at the SJIMA Artists’ Registry show, on display now through February 21, 2022.

Located in Friday Harbor at 540 Spring Street, admission to the museum is $10. SJIMA members and those 18 and under admitted free. Museum hours are Friday through Monday, 11-5. Mondays are Pay as You Can Days. For further information visit


The Artists’ Registry show is brought to us by The Honeywell Charitable Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington State Arts Commission, San Juan Island Community Foundation, Town of Friday Harbor, Anonymous, Printonyx, Browne’s Home Center and Harbor Rentals.

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