Kathleen Stone
King County Art Gallery, 506 Second Ave, room 200, 296-7580. Through March 29.

Blood and flowers and wounds and sex--it's an old Victorian cocktail: the vagina as gash; the stinging, fertilizing stamen; the swift cycle of reproduction and death. Here is the imagery developed by Georgia O'Keeffe, borrowed by Judy Chicago, reappropriated these days by ambitious, frank young artists.

Kathleen Stone tilts this imagery another notch along its evolving continuum in an installation called Calamity Blooming. The title calls up all sorts of ambivalences--the jaunty cadence conceals a kind of dreadful premonition--that are for the most part borne out. The installation consists of drawings on acetate, a delicate, rather floppy material, that are pinned around the gallery like insect specimens. There are bleeding flowers, wormlike things with stingers, little unexplained explosions. Some are cleanly elegant, others smeared and blotty, all of them have double visual lives which comprise their actual selves and their shadows cast below them. As if all those bloody flowers on specimen pins were asking, à la Eliot: "When I am pinned and wriggling on the wall,/Then how should I begin/To spit out all the butt-ends of my days and ways?"

At the far end of the gallery, a river of blood (again, ink on acetate) cascades from the ceiling and splashes off the floor. There is a distinct taste of horror here among the flowers, and the gallery attendant pointed out that this particular work reflects in the glass elevator doors across from the gallery in a bit of Kubrickian echo. Along another wall, a wound where the floor and wall join spurts both blood and seedlings, as stalky and white and lifeless as those potato sprouts that grow out of the compost heap. My favorite piece is a tiny flower placed near the floor and spitting out a long stamen into a little pool of blood, which splashes up into a little exclamation point, like a cartoon.

Stone's artist's statement mentions that this installation began as a response to 9/11; in other work I've seen, this claim has hollowed it of meaning rather than attaching significance to it. Here, there's an unfinished feeling, like breath still being held--these ideas, as I mentioned, are not exactly new, but it seemed to me that the artist was not uncomfortable in this state of becoming and rather welcomed it. EMILY HALL