Gretchen Bennett

You could call Gretchen Bennett a scavenger, dumpster diver, found-object appropriator, or Zen tagger, but none of the labels gets at exactly what makes her work resonate. She is drawn to what has traditionally been viewed as urban ephemera—castoffs and marginalia. After scavenging stickers from the streets of Seattle and Brooklyn, she cuts, rearranges, and recontextualizes them into elaborate topographical collages. She also places stickers around town as a way of creating a dialogue between the coasts, between the street and the gallery, and between the city and herself. Landscape Flair, Bennett's most recent solo show at Howard House, was a continuation of her quest to use appropriated urban markers—such as stickers and buttons, of the kind usually associated with bands or political beliefs—to create natural landscapes. And McSweeney's 15, Bennett's commanding and elusive contribution to the Kirkland Arts Center's group show Release & Capture, was made with self-adhesive contact paper, the kind with a kitschy fake wood grain pattern. Her work in both shows revealed a restless, brilliant mind on the move. NATE LIPPENS

Mary Simpson

Mary Simpson's prints seemed to be everywhere this last year—at Tollbooth Gallery in Tacoma, in Release & Capture at the Kirkland Arts Center, and in Nocturnes at SOIL. Each appearance fortified the sense that Simpson is going places. She is a thoughtful artist building a strong body of work. Her large etchings feature isolated figures and Victorian building façades, along with other shards of street scenes. The men reference the Depression era, their isolation and desperation made more pronounced by the white that surrounds them. For Nocturnes, a group show, Simpson created a Super 8 film, Be Ahead of All Parting, that conflated the early American ballad "Black Jack Davey" with a reimagining of the myth of Orpheus. The setscapes and the characters were made from etchings, monoprints, and drawings. It was an exquisite animation, homemade and magical, that proved Simpson's signature prints can have several lives and enter several mediums without losing their potency. NATE LIPPENS

Jeffry Mitchell

Jeffry Mitchell has been making excellent work for years, and his solo show at James Harris Gallery last winter was his most impressive to date. It toyed with sentimentality with its tchotchkes, but there was a core of unease in the work that never revealed itself completely, and therefore retained its disquieting power. His primary medium is ceramics, and the best work in the show displayed his vast knowledge of the decorative arts, particularly Chinese. The pieces were arranged in Asian-inspired tableaux but were made using the Delft ceramic technique: light blue on white glazing. The scenes were emotionally fraught—small figurines of bearish men grieving and comforting each other. Mitchell is adept with a variety of materials, including cast plastic, hand-built plaster, and glass, and all of his work—nude plump ceramic men embracing, watercolor peonies, metallic glazed magical forests—is touched by his knowing naiveté and a sly emotional undertow. His next solo exhibition at James Harris opens in November, and everyone seems to be looking forward to it. He's something of an artist's artist—adored by his own. NATE LIPPENS

Todd Simeone

Todd Simeone had his first post-BFA solo exhibition, From A to A, at the small yet impressive Crawl Space this last year. The much-discussed show was about the nature of uncertainty, and was a stunning success—spare, but so thoughtfully conceived that it left no doubt as to his talent. Five large-scale digital photographs, along with fake office plants and cardboard boxes of various sizes, suggested the blues of post-grad decisions about relocation, job security, and artistic commitment. The funniest piece was "Paycheck" (the artist's first), with all the relevant details removed except the unmistakable logo of the Washington State Employees Credit Union and a shadow of the artist's signature from the reverse side. Simeone's influences range from '60s conceptual artists (notably Bruce Nauman) to contemporary artists like Gabriel Orozco and Andreas Gursky, but his devotion isn't slavish or imitative. His early investigations into erasures and self-deprecation indicated humility and humor, but it's anyone's guess where his next work will take him. We don't have long to wait though; he will participate in a group show at Crawl Space at the end of November and has a tentative show scheduled at James Harris Gallery in the summer of 2006. NATE LIPPENS