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Seattle artist Terry Furchgott paints self-contained women, women who know who they are. You, the viewer, are perfectly welcome to watch them perform or admire their repose, but whatever they do, they do it for themselves and for nobody else. Each has an inner strength that illuminates her persona just as the artist’s shimmering colors embellish each of their images.

Furchgott calls this new collection of her work now on view at the Lisa Harris Gallery “Les Sauvages,” a term that translates as “The Wild Ones.” Many of her canvasses depict women in colorful costumes — adventurous circus performers, odalisques, harem girls. But somehow, we conclude that even those who recline or sit quietly have within them an untamed spirit.

As an art-history major at Radcliffe College, and a student at the Camden Arts Center in London, Furchgott learned to love many of the painters of the 19th century. The harem scenes of Ingres, the barmaids and dancing girls of Toulouse-Lautrec, the colors and images of Matisse and the other Fauvists all provide sustenance for her artistic soul. Most of the works in this exhibition pay homage to those masters, but do so in her unique fashion, one that weaves together Eastern and Western traditions.

Her canvases glisten with saturated colors, colors that have been carefully selected and laid down so precisely to complement one another that to remove even one of them would be to reduce the power of the image. She paints in acrylics and particularly likes the way she can layer them to produce luminous effects and even achieve the illusion of transparency.

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In “The Pink Window,” we see a reclining woman in front of an open blue-framed window. Yellow curtains blow in behind the woman as the sun’s rays envelop her, bouncing yellow flashes off her orange skirt and providing a sharp contrast to the pinks, purples and greens on the back wall shelves.

In “The Little Odalisque,” a contemporary woman in harem pants leans back on a bed covered in design-filled multicolored pillows. The light from a lamp on the bedside table behind her dramatizes the flesh of her face, arms and chest. She practically glows, but she’s not looking directly at us, and certainly she doesn’t need us or our admiration.

“I like the mystery in the faces of my subjects,” says Furchgott, “You are never quite sure what they are thinking about.” And indeed, though many of her women look at you, they’re not revealing everything they know. Furchgott allows you the viewer to add something, to pull something out from the image she has provided. The full story of these paintings demands your participation, and that’s what makes them so intriguing.

Recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, Furchgott has large-scale works in public buildings throughout the Northwest Coast including Seattle Center House.

Nancy Worssam:

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