The new exhibit at the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner includes the work of regional artists — even if they resist the label.

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Abstract, pulsating and witty, the paintings in Camille Patha’s “Turn Up the Volume” — her new show at the Museum of Northwest Art (MoNA) — are being presented by MoNA as one of three solo exhibitions by “prominent regional female artists.” But Patha bristles at being categorized that way.

“Location has no bearing on what I paint,” she declares in an interview pamphlet supplied by the museum. “My thought process drives my concepts and content.”

So much for the “regional” label.


Museum of Northwest Art

Camille Patha: “Turn Up the Volume”

Debora Moore: “Paphiopedilum”

Sara Siestreem: “Clockwork White: Lights and Signs”

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, noon-5 p.m. Sundays-Mondays, through June 11, Museum of Northwest Art, 121 First St., La Conner (360-466-4446 or

In “Volume,” Patha plays at the edge of sense, with her titles offering keys on how to enter the color-scapes she creates. Her oil-on-canvas “Glimpse,” with its pale misshapen void surrounded by bruised purple, turquoise, red and orange shapes, is a case in point. It feels as if it’s pulling you into an abyss on the other side of the painting. “Collective Voices,” an oil-on-canvas shaped like a cartoon’s dialogue bubble, is filled with dozens of colorful forms in chaotic contention with one another.

“Plaid Water Sports” has fun with a red-and-green tartan pattern half-obliterated by canary-yellow squiggles. The abstract lines of “Speedy Go” (ink on paper) have an appropriate whirling-dervish character. Again and again, title and image are a perfect match.

In a number of paintings, Patha pits right-angle regularity against anarchic daubs and streaks of paint. “Rumor” and “Secrets” both feature sturdy rectangles filled with gorgeous stained-glass colors, overlaid with curlicue wisps of paint that hint at something more random or elusive. Here’s a mind that knows exactly how to manifest itself in color.

Patha has good company in glass artist Debora Moore’s orchid-inspired “Paphiopedilum” (the Latin name for Venus slippers, with their pouched blossoms). Moore has a knack for making glass look like anything but glass. “Orchidarium II” and “Orchidaceae” depict multiple orchids in bloom, in panel displays that look as though they belong in a natural-history museum.

Oher pieces re-create epiphytes growing from mossy tree trunks. They’re so lifelike that if you were to pass them in a tropical conservatory, you might not pick them out from the real thing. But Moore is messing with you here. The moss-covered tree trunks derive from the Pacific Northwest, while the flowers speak of Southeast Asia.

Portland-based artist Sara Siestreem, a Native American of Hanis Coos background, is the third artist with work at MoNA, including photographs, video and basketry.

The photo installations in “Clockwork White: Lights and Signs” are by far its biggest draw. They cover whole walls and consist of dozens of uniformly sized prints.

Some are figurative. Others are abstract. Some are in color, others in black-and-white. Some feel caught on the fly. Others look as though they were staged.

In her artist’s statement, Siestreem explains they were shot over an 11-year-period in New York, New Orleans, Los Angeles and various parts of Oregon. Her camera-eye takes in war protests, traffic cones, plants, people, animals — you name it. Text appears in a number of her shots, either transparent in meaning (“CROSSWALK CLOSED”) or thoroughly enigmatic (“Hold thought in line with unselfed love”).

Her assemblage of these images into encyclopedic miscellanies lends them a cumulative allure and power, with the merit of individual photographs becoming almost a secondary consideration. Result: Siestreem, against the odds, wields worlds that don’t hang together into some kind of order.

It works.