Each spring and fall, River Gallery shows work by dozens of Northwest artists. Even several hundred paintings and three-dimensional pieces do not make this repurposed greenhouse look crowded.

Charlotte Slade Decker, a longtime regular, makes a bold impression with vivid abstract paintings. “Connection” and “Wandering XII” are in freely brushed, transparent acrylic in bright red, blue and yellow. She smiled at my remark that she looks like her art. You can see for yourself when you visit her dress shop in La Conner. Colorful clothing fills racks beneath her bright canvases on the walls.

Among this year’s newcomers is Susan Martin Spar of Port Townsend. Her still-life oils of bottles, glasses and pots evoke 17th century Holland (the genre extends back to ancient Egypt and Rome). Another newcomer is artist and educator Hannah Salia, offering entrancing forest and ocean scenes. She’s inspired by love for the Pacific Northwest and the music of Ravel and Debussy.

It’s amazing what some artists can achieve with pastel. Dedrian Clark’s superb portraits of marine creatures—“Koi Pond,” “Sea Horse,” and “Down Under”—are equalled by her renditions of condors and a heron. Cozie Bettinger offers an entire wall of engaging water and forest scenes.

Nancy Crowell’s “Important Date” is an elegant photo print of snow geese flying through fog above winter trees. Another leafless tree set against white sky and snow is the subject of “Sentinel.” And she discovers an abstract relationship of fields and water in “state of mind.” Crowell is a trained bird photographer and a passionate activist to outlaw the use of anticoagulant rodent poison—which rages through the food chain, destroying owls, raptors, foxes and cougars.    There’s more natural abstraction in Joan Enslin’s “Stones 1.” She transcends realism with “Thoughts of Nature. “Passing Through” captures the eye with hints of feathers, eyes, a statue.

Jacqui Beck’s whimsical imagination never falters: She introduces sketchy animal figures in several mixed-media compositions. A cat regards a boat stuck in a tree in “Boat Nest.” “Freedom and License” features a blue mist, across which a tail becomes a leash joining two animals. Blue and taupe celebrate the union of blackbird, cat and goat in “Old Friends.” And there’s delightful “Many Socks,” a six-legged, spiny monster, accompanied by indecipherable scribbles.

Maria Wickwire’s ceramic sculptures have so often depicted female figures in torment. Her latest images—“Second Thoughts,” “Nest of Stars,” and “Windfall”—appear more resigned, even sober. The rough iron oxide finish of their limbless trunks evokes ancient relics long buried, recalling past centuries of misfortune.

While Kathleen Ritz gives us spectacular landscapes such as “Pink Delight,” Kent Nordby excels in portraying them in nighttime. His meticulous “Seattle by Night” (oil) shows a misty full moon, its silver light enlivening cloud tops above the city. Its myriad lighted windows and reflections of them mingle with those of the stars in Elliot Bay. It’s sensational.

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A couple of issues back, I offered up a “Local Love” guide pointing to art-related events designed with holiday shoppers in mind. Turns out I could’ve published a much longer screed on the topic, as creative Christmas collaborations show no sign of slowing down in coming days. This time…

Nestled into Sharon Scott’s Collection shop on First Street in La Conner are the sensitive and beautiful works of Skagit Valley artist Beki Killorin.    

Killorin’s artistic skills include collage, watercolor, ink drawing and painting in oil and acrylic, which she learned in her home…

A friend on Facebook recently posted a “Crap-Free Christmas Gift Buying Guide” that resembled a food pyramid, and it made a lot of sense. For those who already eschew big-box shopping in favor of seeking out unique items handcrafted by people who live and work in the vicinity, the idea that…

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