Painters Harry Bennett, Thomas Bennett and Bobbie Jansen explore "Three Directions" in a new exhibit at RiverSea Gallery that runs through Sept. 7. Meet the artists at a midshow reception featuring piano jazz with vocals by Dinah Urell from 5 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20.

The "endless surprises" in painting fascinate Harry Bennett, compelling him to paint the same models or landscapes several times. In this way, he says he is "opening new worlds that hang around inside me." His long curving brush strokes push against each other and vibrate across the canvas. Bennett says the "trove of wild feelings" escaping him while he paints leads to "a glee of release" as he distorts his paintings. "I don't distort people - I distort the painting," says Bennett. Calling the distortion "the way I feel it," he says that such emphasis reveals the mystery and excitement he feels about painting and life.

A fixture in the region's art scene since coming to the North Coast in 1986, Bennett moved to Astoria in 1989. He has exhibited in solo and group shows in Oregon, New York, Pennsylvania and throughout New England. His work has won numerous awards and is in private collections across the country.

A sense of "an exhilarating, intoxicating adventure" animates the paintings and monotypes of Tom Bennett, Harry's son. Contrasting sweeps of saturated color shape pulsating faces and bodies. "Motion is central to my work," Bennett says. His work includes representation and abstraction and incorporates both formal and symbolic elements. He sometimes discovers symbolism and designs in his work that he was not aware of and credits this subconscious imagery to his travels in Europe and Africa and living in Spain. Like his father, Bennett marvels at the creative process itself. "When I'm into it," he says, "I don't remember where I am - it's subjective and subconscious."

'Purebred,' oil painting by Harry Bennett.Bennett lives in Brooklyn, N.Y. and visits Astoria frequently. He showed his work in Astoria in 1995 and 2003. The recipient of many awards, he has been exhibiting in solo and group shows for more than 20 years on the East Coast and in Spain, California and Oregon. He is represented in public and private collections throughout the U.S. and Europe.

Because she believes that everyday objects "communicate something about who we are," such items are central to Bobbie Jansen's richly colored oil paintings. Even the simplest chair or candle assumes what she calls a "symbolic potency." In many of her paintings, a single bright flower or figure seems to float against a background of shimmering dark shades. Jansen says that objects are at times isolated, multiplied, intertwined, whole or fractured, veiled and disintegrating. Although there is a certain calm and order in her work, she says she chooses to leave her paintings mostly unplanned, "to allow space for the unconscious suggestion."

Jansen's work was part of a traveling exhibition to New York City, Atlanta, Istanbul, Cairo, Casablanca and Berlin, sponsored by the Meridian International Center of Washington, D.C. The Albany artist has shown her work throughout Oregon and in Singapore, Montana, Washington, Santa Fe and New Jersey. She has had recent exhibits in Portland and Ashland.

RiverSea Gallery is open daily at 1160 Commercial St. in the heart of Astoria's historic downtown. The gallery features contemporary North Coast and Northwest artists, with original fine art and fine craft in all media and distinctive designer jewelry. Regular business hours are 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. For more information about this and future exhibits, call the gallery at (503) 325-1270.

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