Her paintings are a complete riot

Real estate doesn’t get any more fantastic than Peggy Fogliano’s house. It’s surrounded by peaceful landscaping and graced with a magnificent view of Seattle and the passing ferries.

  • Monday, June 9, 2008 11:52pm
  • Life

Peggy Fogliano in her red-walled living room

Real estate doesn’t get any more fantastic than Peggy Fogliano’s house. It’s surrounded by peaceful landscaping and graced with a magnificent view of Seattle and the passing ferries.

But even richer is the garden inside her living room.

“I have to have color around me, as you can see in my house,” she said. “I love color. Color and pattern.”

Fogliano has produced so much work over her long life as a painter that canvases are hung and stacked – albeit artfully – in most of the corners of her airy, red-painted front room, along with her entryway, he stairwell, and her cottage studio. The last she describes as “terribly cramped.”

“My neighbor says when (the paintings) get more than two deep, we have to do something with them,” she said.

It was presumably that neighbor, Beverly Gimlin, who persuaded Fogliano to give some of her work a little breathing space for awhile. So through May, the two artists’ riotous, spring-like work is on display at Gallery Fraga.

This show is Fogliano’s first in awhile, and her very first on Bainbridge. She created a tie to the island when her family purchased its Rockaway Beach house in 1973. She moved into the house permanently roughly a decade ago, remaining content to paint for herself and to fill her spaces with pieces that struck her fancy.

Fogliano’s style and chosen media have shifted over time. She began with an interest in ceramics and has worked in metal and paper. But painting has remained her passion.

Within that medium – first oil and later acrylic, when the turpentine proved too toxic to take – she has explored various subjects and formats. Her period of abstraction is shown in the 4×4 canvas propped on a bureau at the entrance to her living room. The work, in oil, shows star bursts of bright, saturated pastels splashed all over the field in dense, criss-crossed, almost flower-like profusion.

Tucked into the landing on the stairwell is a pair of pattern-oriented pieces, similarly hued but with a strongly geometric sensibility that includes rounded squares and soft trapezoids covering the field. These, reminiscent of the signature paintings of Gustav Klimt, are similar to the types of pieces she plans to take on next, inspired by a set of patterned tiles she recently fired and glazed.

Back in the living room, stacked on top of the large square canvas, is a vertical piece indicative of her current Fraga show, the “5300 Series” of florals.

In that series, as in many of her current pieces, Fogliano begins with layered arrangements of torn Japanese rice paper, followed by thick, painterly acrylic flowers. The rice paper provides the effect of stems, with the flowers popping out in jubilant contrast.

“I’m having great big fun working with paper on paper,” she said.

A Los Angelino by birth, Fogliano got a taste of showing art when a piece she made in sixth grade was displayed in a bank window. She later had a talented high school art teacher who nurtured her own artistic passion by taking her out into the field to paint watercolors.

During a two-and-a-half year stint studying art at U.C.L.A., one of her ceramic bowls was selected for a public showing in town.

“I really miss that,” Fogliano said. “I let the dog eat out of it for awhile, and it got broken.”

When her first husband died, Fogliano regrouped, got her teaching credentials and taught elementary school. With young children of her own, teaching seemed a good fit schedule-wise, and she worked art classes in during the evenings.

And even though she wasn’t doing a tremendous amount of painting for herself, the art classes she prepared for her first graders each Friday were killer.

The artist’s inspirations run the gamut, from a black iris a friend brought to the weeping trees she’s planted around the property. And while at first she pauses at the standard question of who her influences are, she quickly warms to the topic, rattling off a list of modern and contemporary heavy hitters. Her enthusiasm and sparkle grow with each name: Pablo Picasso, Robert Rauschenberg and Paul Gauguin along with Klimt and others. She appreciates the mastery of, well, the old masters, but it’s modern art that really trips her trigger.

“People do such different things, and where their mind is coming from is so interesting,” she said.

Having shown at Fraga for the better part of the month, Fogliano says she’d love to do another show on the island. But showing publicly isn’t driving her – she just wants to continue painting, exploring and trying new approaches. Inquisitiveness remains her primary source of inspiration.

“It’s so much fun when you can free yourself from doing what you think you ought to do,” she said. “The freedom to try anything.”

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