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‘Summer Dreams’ brings the surreal to Winston Wachter Fine Art Gallery

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South Lake Union’s Winston Wachter Fine Art Gallery buzzed with energy June 26 during the opening reception for its summer installation, “Summer Dreams.” Visitors mingled through a surrealistic, vivid world of flashing patterns and neon lights in the shape of dripping hearts and gazed into stark black infinity mirrors, awed by sculpted animals coated in glistening velvet. 

Based out of New York City, the Winston Wachter Gallery expanded to Seattle in 1999. While the gallery has always placed emphasis on contemporary and often local art, “Summer Dreams” proved to be a point of departure for the gallery. 

“We normally showcase more framed, two-dimensional pieces, so we decided to do something a little different,” exhibit curator Amanda Manitach explained as she gestured to the many sculptural installations in the gallery. “For this show we wanted to find local, young, hip artists and let them do really whatever they wanted with the space.”

The exhibit features three artists: Seattle-based UW alumna Jennifer Zwick, Portland-based Peter Gronquist, and Seattle-based Neon Saltwater, as well as one collaborative artist group, Electric Coffin. Despite the variations in style, theme, and medium, the exhibit found cohesion in the overarching dreamy, colorful, and surreal nature of each art piece. 

“I think that we’re all attached to color in certain ways and the way that color makes people feel,” Abby Dougherty, a presenting artist who works under the name Neon Saltwater, said of herself and her fellow exhibitors.  

Included in the show were the vibrant staged photos of Zwick, whose vast body of work includes photography, installations, printmaking, and wearable sculpture. At the gallery, Zwick showcased work from two series, “An Exercise in Formal Composition” and “Flowers and Fabric.” Both capture elegant flower displays in various environments.  

An array of images and installations from Neon Saltwater’s “Mind Games at the Love Arcade” series took the overarching gallery theme of dreams to a whole different level. 

The series was composed largely of digital renderings of spaces which stimulate a sense of quiet isolation akin to the works of Edward Hopper. All have an underlying mechanical hum, evoked through a color palette of gentle neons and pastels. 

“Some of my digital renderings are like literal interpretations of my dreams,” Dougherty explained. “They come from the feelings that I kind of wake up with from my dreams.”

While painter and sculptor Peter Gronquist only displayed two pieces at the gallery, his “infinity mirrors” easily drew a crowd. Despite only projecting a few inches from the wall, the two square mirror installations (each measuring about four feet in length and height) gave the illusion of infinite depth as the viewer ponders diving into the world of darkness, flowers, and silk ferns within each mirror. 

Pulling perhaps the largest crowd of all was the “Nowhere (Now Here)” series by Electric Coffin, a self-described “artist-powered design studio.” Between walls displaying jewel-toned designs inspired by commercial slogans and pop culture-influenced iconography stood a collection of neon-velvet coated sculptures depicting wolves carrying temples, tigers with trucks, and bears with space shuttles strapped to their backs. 

This surreal world of “Summer Dreams” will remain at the Winston Wachter Gallery through August 22. An artist Q&A session will be held July 21 at noon. To reach the gallery from the University District through public transportation, take the Link light rail to University Street Stationthen catch the 62 bus heading northeast.

Reach writer Sophie Aanerud at Twitter: @thesraanerud

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