Tracy Curley

A Paul Klee quality of beguiling—and misleading—simplicity pervades the abstract oil paintings of Tracy Curley. Feathers, fish bones, amoebas, words, drift in and out of focus—nothing quite discernible. Yet you get the sense that there's an underlying seriousness of purpose to the imagery in her mysterious canvases. Some of the primitive symbols appear snared in the mists of some distant past (Accomplice), or part of a deep reverie, with links, perhaps, to the artist's mixed Navajo/Anglo heritage (The Myth of the Sacred Bull Dance). Still others, like Ethernet, reveal a clearly modern sensibility. "When painting I think of a word long forgotten, 'palimpsest,' which means having the quality of being rubbed away and written on over and over again, using layer upon layer of information," says Curley. Like Klee, Curley is not afraid to use color, sometimes in bold patches, elsewhere blending shades together in a more imaginative romanticism closer to Chagall's. She also effectively uses white. The Arizona-born artist, who now lives in Seattle, makes her solo debut at the charmingly quirky new La Familia Gallery, run by two sisters and two friends from Talkeetna, Alaska. "Is it really abstract," asks gallery owner Lanae River-Woods astutely, "if the artist is painting something real that you can't see?" Good question. The best abstract paintings indeed capture something real, but often intangible—a wisp of a dream, a fragment of a once-important symbol, an unfinished thought or mood. Or simply something you might find under a microscope, beautiful in all its translucent strangeness. 117 Prefontaine Place S., 206-291-4608. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues., Thurs., and Sat. Ends March 31.

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