Anderson’s work a rare treat for Fairhaven gallery

Younger artists and fans who have never seen abstract expressionist Guy Anderson’s work will have a rare opportunity in Bellingham today.

Fairhaven’s Lucia Douglas Gallery, owned and directed by Linda Gardner, will have a show and sale of Anderson’s work beginning today and continuing through Oct. 27. A gallery reception from 5 to 8 p.m. will be held today.

After achieving fame while working in Seattle, Anderson (1906-1998) lived in La Conner for most of the last three decades of his life.Gardner discusses the impact of the Northwest abstractionist’s work:

Question: Linda, what’s special about Guy Anderson’s work in your opinion?

Answer: I am really excited about this showing. I’m in my ninth year at the gallery, doing monthly shows of local and regional artists, and Guy Anderson is the most famous deceased painter I’ve ever shown. His work has been rarely shown and he was an absolute icon in Northwest art circles. This is really a nice piece of art history and an opportunity that doesn’t come around often.

Q: He was among the first Northwest artists to gain national acclaim, right?

A: Yes. In 1953, Life magazine came out with a piece on the “Northwest mystics.” It was the best-known article ever written about painting in the Northwest and covered all four of the “mystics” — Guy Anderson, Mark Tobey, Kenneth Callahan and Morris Graves. They were all looking into Buddhism and Joseph Campbell.

Q: Why didn’t he exhibit in New York?

A: He chose to live a more reclusive lifestyle, even though he was offered shows in New York and overseas. He was an extremely spiritual, highly moral man. He wasn’t driven by the market and so he was able to work in his own, unique way. He exhibited at the Francine Seders Gallery in Seattle.

Q: Since his work is seldom shown, how did this show develop?

A: Deryl Walls, his heir, agreed to the show and sale. After Anderson died, Walls operated Gallery Dei Gratia in Mount Vernon to accommodate the large number of paintings in Anderson’s estate. His work hasn’t been shown in Whatcom County since a 1975 show at the Whatcom Museum. We have eight large paintings and 37 smaller prints, produced in extremely limited numbers.

Q: How would you describe his work?

A: His early influences were Northwest Coast Native American carvings and Asian sculpture. He fuses a Native American look with this Asian influence. The large-format paintings on construction paper, laminated with tar and reinforced with wire mesh, took over when he moved to La Conner. They are large oils on paper, divided into two sections with figures floating at the top of each painting in darker tones and a large, luminous cosmic circle below. He created a Northwest palate of strong, masculine colors: grays and greens the color of the night sky and water.

Q: He made only a few of each print, right?

A: For most of the 37 prints on display, there are only one to three others in existence. The mixed-media prints are the main focus of the show, lino and wood cuts. He would print a couple of images each year in the 1970s and 80s for friends as gifts or “cards.”

He would use oil paint instead of printer’s inks, with very painterly techniques. They’re monoprints, unique except for being made on the same plate. Their value is intrinsic. I feel they’re a piece of history that’s affordable. We think they were studies for larger paintings.

Q: What does his work typically sell for?

A: The prints range from $1,450 to $1,850 and the large works for about $38,000 to $40,000.

Q: So the showing figures to attract serious art buyers from throughout the Northwest, as well as are lovers who want to see images they’ve never seen and likely will never see again.

A: That’s it. This really is an unusual educational opportunity on the local art scene. With so many newcomers in the Northwest, it’s a great chance for them to see Guy Anderson’s genius.