Our subconscious and conscious minds often seek a dream-like middle space where the folly and sense of life can wrestle and cogitate — a place to let the mind wander and process. Many poets find this transcendent space on paper, singers in aria, and painters on canvas. Women Painters of Washington (WPW) explore such terrain in their new show Abstract Marks, which runs January 5-April 1 at the Columbia Center Building in downtown Seattle.

Six founders started WPW in 1930 in order to bring together extraordinary women painters from across the state to encourage, engage, and foster artistic growth, as well as help these painters overcome hurdles not faced by their fellow male colleagues. Throughout the years, more than 1,000 women have taken part in the organization, which currently boasts more than 200 active participants from Seattle to Spokane.

Abstract Marks will be the first show of its kind for the group according to Irene Yesley, the show’s chairperson. Although the WPW includes abstract paintings in other exhibitions, this is the first show dedicated exclusively to the genre. All realms of abstraction, from non-objective art to abstract reality, will be represented by the more than 30 artists featured — many of them artists from right here in the North End. “

Abstract paintings are like pathways into the human soul,” said Helen Drummond, current WPW president. “They give the artist a way to express ‘reality’ and/or emotions in a means unique to them.”

The realities these artists express may offer viewers new ways of perceiving the world or understanding their own experiences within it. “In abstract art, image ambiguity forces the viewer to a more intensive study of the work,” explained show participant Cheryl A. Richey. “In this closer examination, deeper layers of reality and illusion are revealed. When it succeeds, abstract art releases a tableau of associations and meanings for viewers who invest the time to engage with it.”

Delve deeper into abstract paintings accompanied by the artists themselves during a special presentation about the show on February 4, from 4-6 p.m., at the Women Painters of Washington Gallery. You may just walk away with a new outlook on reality.

"Abstract paintings are like pathways into the human soul."