Rachel Kaye's colored pencil drawings on paper are dense universes with a heavy gravitational pull; you fall into them. In this new world, you find that every surface has been colonized by patterns. Only the human faces are unpatterned. Everything else is flattened and covered in stripes or zigzags or dots or wavy lines or triangles of all colors. You can see that some of the drawings are based on photographs: a mother holding her baby in what used to be a casual snapshot is now enveloped in a hall of mirroring patterns; two fashion models posing in an advertisement have been swallowed by the patterns on the surfaces of the clothes they sell. The surfaces have smothered any interiors of people or objects. It's uncomfortable, like when more than one person shows up to the same event wearing the same clothes. Patterns form their own tribes. But they don't mean anything.
I Was Talking with a Ghost is the name that Seattle curator/artist Robert Yoder gave to this show of Kaye's drawings, which are paired with paintings by Bellingham artist Peter Scherrer. Kaye's ghost-talking drawings began when she saw a "new" shoe put out by Givenchy. The shoe is wild: a high wedge in which the heel is covered in zigzags that Kaye immediately recognized as reminiscent of a classic 1970s Missoni pattern. Who owns a pattern, and for how long?
In these drawings, the patterns fold in on each other and eat their own tails. They feel like outsider art, but also like high industrial modernism—Joseph Stella's Brooklyn Bridges, Charles Scheeler's towering silos—and also like the nightmarish experience of shopping at H&M or Forever 21, stores disorientingly packed with patterns that beckon as much as they repel. For a time, you'll affix your identity to a series of patterns and colors purchased in these clothing stores (or others), but only for a time. Eventually, you'll move on to other patterns. This can be bewildering or freeing. Kaye's drawings are like this; they're versions of each other. The mother and child and the fashion models in earlier drawings reappear as patterned silhouettes in later drawings. Things keep moving without getting anywhere. The patterns are hungry to be looked at.
Kaye is from San Francisco, and the sunny, dry Californianness of her drawings contrast with Scherrer's thick heart-of-darkness-with-a-sense-of-humor paintings. (The two share a post-'70s aesthetic.) I Was Talking with a Ghost could be referring to the ghosts of the American West Coast, these ideas about place that are formed by the appearances of the landscape. Scherrer's large painting, Orange Owl, is a Northwest forest crawling with trippy detail. It makes just enough pictorial sense to keep you from getting entirely lost—there's a tree branch, there's the owl—but wait, how is that branch so gnarled, and is that a hill or a road, and do they make orange owls? The forest is a mystery you want to stare into for hours, and yet the mysteriousness is pushed so far that it's kind of funny, too: Is that a face in the tree bark? Scherrer doesn't sacrifice one experience for the other. You can have your transcendentalism and eat it, too. How unsurprising that Scherrer spent two years as studio assistant for Glenn Rudolph, maybe the quintessential Seattle photographer: messy, mystical, no-nonsense. Scherrer is a great find by Yoder, someone to certainly watch.
The same goes for Molly Mac Fedyk, an artist recently relocated to Seattle from New York. She attended the University of Washington for printmaking, then went to Hunter to do her MFA in "combined media," and her first show here is about the idea of coming home. It's a series of printed note cards and a two-channel video projected onto a wall so that the projections are stacked on top of each other, creating one vertically aligned film, with ambient recorded sound (the sound of the refrigerator, the sound of a lightbulb buzzing—sounds from home).
The film features a man whose face you never see. He is shifting in a chair in a living room. It looks like he's trying to get comfortable, trying to feel at home, trying to act out the obviousness of the artist's metaphor. Nothing else is obvious—everything is encrypted. The man is wearing a shirt with a grid pattern on it. Colored lines crawl across the grid in three colors, which correspond to the three colors of the printed note cards. Sounds attached to each color play when the lines appear. The note cards say "endless 'IF'ing," "routine goodjobbing," and "healthy fizzing," and the lines are like visual chants of the color-coordinated words. There's a system here, this is all choreographed, but we don't know what the system is, and trying to figure it out is like trying to discern the obscured logic of someone else's house.
Beautiful and humorous things happen. A red bowling ball falls seemingly out of the sky onto the chair where the man was just sitting, with a comedic soft thud. Certain images repeat, like the one Mac Fedyk calls "the scissor." On the bottom projection, the man is slouching in the chair, his legs forming a V. On the projection above, an image of his torso has been cut in half and reversed so that each half of his body is at the edges of the image like the grips on the V of his scissor legs. Where his torso should be is empty. This one image is perfect, like exactly the right word in a sentence. But then the sentence shifts around the word and you've lost your bearing. How often do you move the objects in your home? Do they have to stay in place for you to feel at home?
Home, Please is showing in a closet that has been renovated into a gallery in a Central District home. This is its inaugural show, and the venue has been dubbed TaRLA. This house was once the site of TARL, an artist collective with a nonsense name, and TaRLA picks up where TARL left off, continuing to show contemporary artists—but with a title that's a little more femmey, trashy (doesn't Tarla sound like a bad name?), and ridiculous (MoMA, TaRLA). It's run by artist/musician/writer Emily Pothast, who blogs under the name Translinguistic Other, "a multidimensional [non]being." Welcome to a new state of [non]being.