Artists bring wit and playfulness to disturbing subject matter — from childhood trauma to anxieties about aging — in two new shows at Linda Hodges Gallery and Abmeyer + Wood.

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Seattle often feels more open than other cities to quirkiness and humor from its painters and sculptors — but that doesn’t mean our art eccentrics can’t tackle serious issues.

Cases in point: Andrea Joyce Heimer’s new show at Linda Hodges Gallery and Patti Warashina’s “Thinking Clearly” at Abmeyer + Wood Fine Art.

Heimer, in her meticulous acrylics, watercolors and pencil works on board, panel and paper, delivers a kind of sophisticated primitivism. Her focus is on suburban family secrets and dysfunction, and her sensibility is sharp yet fanciful. She’s also quite the writer, with sentence-long titles such as: “The Johnson Boys Acted As If They’d Been Raised By Wolves & They Were Savage & Wild & Beautiful.”

Exhibition Review

Andrea Joyce Heimer

10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays through May 28 at Linda Hodges Gallery, 316 First Ave. S., Seattle; free (206-624-3034 or lindahodgesgallery.com).

Exhibition Review

Patti Warashina: ‘Thinking Clearly’

11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays through May 31, Abmeyer + Wood Fine Art, 1210 Second Ave., Seattle; free (206-628-9501 or abmeyerwood.com).

In a book just published by Linda Hodges Gallery, “Andrea Joyce Heimer: Paintings” ($18.75), Heimer reveals that she grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in Montana where she was “very much the black sheep” in her family.

Patti Warashina’s “Brain Storm” at Abmeyer + Wood combines glass, ceramic and a laser lamp.
Patti Warashina’s “Brain Storm” at Abmeyer + Wood combines glass, ceramic and a laser lamp.

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“Much of my work is about feelings of familial disconnect and loneliness,” she wrote by email last week. Yet her paintings often elicit a dark, knowing laughter: “Humor has long been an important part of my life, particularly as a member of a family whose wisecracking skills could be accurately described as bloodsport.”

Her paintings are action-packed and emphatically narrative in character. Figures fight, cavort and partake in sexual rituals and transgressions, though always with a buoyant innocence. Bodily proportions and scenic perspectives are wildly jumbled and distorted, and the rules of gravity are sometimes gleefully ignored. Her crowded images often have wacky, half-concealed details. (In “Pillow Fight,” one bedspread is patterned with a tiny father-mother-son trio, with the boy asking: “Say Pop! Why don’t you whistle at girls when Mom’s along?”)

Several paintings (including “The Boys Showed Off in the Courtyard and Their Muscles Gleamed Like Buttered Bread”) reveal a fascination with unruly adolescent males. Some hint at trauma (“After the Bad Thing Happened the Yard Was Ticketed for Overgrowth, Over & Over”).

Others are either more benign (“It Was at the Schwartz’s Garage Sale My Mother Purchased the Shirt That Would Become My Lucky One for the Next Three Months & Seven Days”) or gently melancholy (“Growing Up Our Books Were Like Gateways to Strange & Perilous Lands & It Is Not So Different Now”). They all share an on-the-mark specificity when it comes to family entrapment and the urge to escape.

“The Boys Showed Off in the Courtyard and Their Muscles Gleamed Like Buttered Bread,” a 2016 acrylic and watercolor, by Andrea Joyce Heimer at Linda Hodges Gallery.
“The Boys Showed Off in the Courtyard and Their Muscles Gleamed Like Buttered Bread,” a 2016 acrylic and watercolor, by Andrea Joyce Heimer at Linda Hodges Gallery.

Ceramic sculptor Patti Warashina could have called it quits a few years ago with her magnificent Bellevue Arts Museum retrospective “Patti Warashina: Wit and Wisdom.” Instead, she has expanded her horizons by incorporating glass and LED/laser light displays into her work. “Thinking Clearly” features ghostly glass forms haunting, seducing or merely bumping into her ceramic mortals.

Some pieces are exuberant, while others acknowledge sinister forces at work. “Censored” is a speak-no-evil, see-no-evil, hear-no-evil triptych of ceramic heads with blinking lights inside their tall glass hats, pulsing with messages that can’t get out. In “Pressure Overload,” glass bulbs sprout from the mouth and ears of a calm ceramic head that seems unaware it’s about to explode from within.

Some of the pieces’ visual illusions mark new territory for Warashina. Look at “Kiss” from a certain angle, and its glass and ceramic figures aren’t just making lip-to-lip, but eye-socket-to-eye-socket contact. Demonic cats and languid females — one of them enjoying a glass-bubble bubble-bath — round out a show that’s impeccably crafted and hugely entertaining.