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Originally published Friday, April 4, 2014 at 6:16 AM

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Oils that are different, yet complementary, at Prographica

A review of oil paintings by Anne Petty and Laura Hamje at Prographica Gallery in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood.

Special to The Seattle Times


Laura Hamje and Anne Petty

11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays through Saturday, April 26 at Prographica Gallery, 3419 E. Denny Way, Seattle (206-322-3851 or

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Norman Lundin knows talent and is especially interested in local artists. As University of Washington professor emeritus and a painter whose works are in major art museums nationwide, he has a long history of curating national and regional exhibitions. The current show at Prographica, his Madrona gallery, features two especially gifted young, local artists whose work has already been widely exhibited.

Both were students at the University of Washington. Anne Petty received her master of fine arts in 2009 and today teaches art at Gage Academy of Art in Seattle. Laura Hamje received her bachelor of fine arts in 2008 and today is co-owner of Blindfold Gallery in Seattle. Their paintings nicely complement each other. Both are exhibiting oils in this show though subject matter couldn’t be more different.

Petty captures human drama. Each of her paintings explores body language in psychological space. The viewer can’t look at her works without being drawn into the tale that’s depicted. But the wonderful aspect is that she implies the narrative but doesn’t really tell you what it is. You must make up your own story.

In one particularly arresting large oil, she has painted a bearded man, from torso up. There’s a woman behind him. She’s holding or lifting the man up. But wait a minute, is she leading him away? Has he been taken ill? Is he drunk? What’s their relationship? It’s up to you the viewer to create the narrative. The picture is called “Stumble,” and even with that information, the story possibilities are numerous.

In “Lucas plus Katie” she gives no hints. A woman in black underwear is in the foreground. She is depicted from the back. You can’t see her face. Across the room squatting on the floor is a figure that must be Lucas. But what on Earth is he doing? What’s his relationship to her? Petty won’t tell; you create the meaning.

A number of her works focus on hands, which are, after all, the most expressive part of the body after the face. She captures the nuance of gesture with extraordinary skill, creating drama but never sinking into melodrama.

Hamje doesn’t deal with people per se; she focuses on the bridges, viaducts and tunnels that people build. Occasionally she includes their cars — look for them, often in the distance. Her work is a balance on the edge of abstraction and reality and her predominating colors are muted. She’s remarkable in the breadth and depth of her blacks, grays, and tones of white.

The girders in “Underway” are real, yet they form an abstract geometry, and it’s that geometry that you see before you focus on the subject. This is a common feature of her work. She applies paint with both brush and knife to add texture to the geometric lines and shapes of her urban landscapes.

One of the more difficult tasks for a painter is handling the middle ground. She is a master at it and is particularly gifted at transitioning from foreground to background. Make note of how she moves your eyes back into space in “Eastlake Dusk.”

Two women, two styles, two reasons to check this exhibit out.

Nancy Worssam:

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