Seattle Art Museum Short: Ralph Pugay

An hour in I was feeling mildly disappointed and unable to fully appreciate POP DEPARTURES, the current new exhibit of Pop Art big names at the Seattle Art Museum that felt so boring in its coolness and its flashing and focus on so many objects. My usual backup, the luminous American oil masterworks, were only mildly inspiring, though my interest was briefly piqued by the ancient art, a collection of tiny frog amulets from Iraq and marble Roman busts – marvels of humanity generally.


So when I walked into Ralph Pugay's corner of paintings (Pugay won the 2014 Betty Bowen Award), I felt a lift. I'd seen Pugay's paintings before in a group show in Eugene, OR and liked them then. I still like them - they illicit an immediate reaction by poking unexpected nerves, and they make you laugh. Beyond being humorous and fun to decipher, his impossible scenes, vivid with color and action, relatable moments lurk amid the absurdity and confusion.


The weird mystical loneliness of standing alone at night in the kitchen and feeling hypnotized by a glowing appliance, empathizing with inanimate objects (discount items in a supermarket, in this case), confusion over the motivations and actions of other people, these are things that Pugay paints and things I understand. The paintings are a reminder of the strange and ridiculous, equally sad and funny, parts of being a person.


What an unusual thrill to be truly moved and amused by art.

Ralph Pugay