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Thursday, May 14, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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A World Out Of Balance -- Gaylen Hansen's Unsettling Paintings Offer A Vision Of Nature Gone Wrong Under Assault By Technology

Special To The Seattle Times

------------------------------- Visual arts review Paintings by Gaylen Hansen Through June 27, Linda Hodges Gallery, 410 Occidental Ave. S., Seattle; 206-624-3034. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays. -------------------------------

In what amounts to a small survey of paintings, prints and drawings done in the past two years, Linda Hodges Gallery has created the perfect introduction to the art of Gaylen Hansen. Now 77, the retired Washington State University professor of art has been painting nonstop since he left Pullman in 1982. He has had shows in New York, Berlin, Chicago and Los Angeles.

The new work restates earlier themes of nature under assault by technology but brings a thicker, painterly quality that is juicy and delightfully indulgent. Hansen's vision has also expanded, moving his people, flora and fauna into the city, away from the deceptively idyllic rural settings that resemble the state's southeastern corner near the Idaho border.

A major new work, "Invasion," 1997, unleashes giant locusts or grasshoppers on an unsuspecting traffic jam. Far from the happy-face, children's-book-illustration feeling of his earliest work, "Invasion" depicts a world of ecological disaster.

No matter how amusing or enchanting a Gaylen Hansen painting appears, there is always an unsettling quality that suggests nature gone wrong. "Fish in Stream," 1997, depicts a mass of fish battling upstream. Red, orange and green spots on the salmon not only identify their species, but suggest the toxic aftermath of years of industrial pollution.

In works such as "Dog and Man" and "Magpie and Bison," the extraordinary reversal of scale makes pets larger than people, and birds bigger than buffalo.

Living in Palouse, Whitman County, downwind from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, the Utah-born Hansen has long been concerned about delayed effects of scattered radiation. His paintings manage to raise such issues without screaming their alarm. A single dog caught in a nuclear windstorm next to a tulip field under a scary yellow sky sends a similar message without sacrificing artistic effect.

For those already familiar with Gaylen Hansen, his mythical character the "Kernal" makes a welcome return. A stand-in for the artist, the "Kernal" seems the sole survivor in a forlorn wilderness where birds have become as big as pterodactyls and giant insects confront humans with amusement. The "Kernal," like all humanity, is dependent on nature, wandering widely, but never fully at home, even when asleep on a tree branch in "Bird and Kernal in Tree."

Be sure to walk past the desk to see additional works. Linda Hodges has gathered a wonderful selection of pen-and-ink drawings, big unframed oils on paper and a few framed smaller works. Hansen's world of nature looks appealing and humorous in these works, but as with the large new paintings, an uncertain menace or danger usually lurks beneath the surface.

Remembering Guy Anderson

Guy Anderson, who recently died at 91 in La Conner, Skagit County, was also an artist concerned with humanity's relation to the environment. Several local galleries are noting his passing with small groupings of works by this prolific artist who, like Hansen, was a recipient of the Governor's Arts Award.

Francine Seders Gallery in Greenwood represented Anderson from 1966 to 1995. Seders has a large and varied inventory of his work for viewing upon request. Kurt Lidtke Gallery in Pioneer Square is currently host of a small loan-and-resale exhibit of prints, paintings, drawings and sculpture dating from the 1930s to the mid-1980s. The show closes May 31.

Gordon Woodside / John Braseth Gallery, Anderson's sole estate representative, is hanging an extraordinary 16-foot-long painting, "Totem," 1981, along with 11 other works in two rooms at the Ninth Avenue and Pine Street location. The gallery will follow up in November with a major show of Anderson's last works.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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