The smiley face refreshingly devoid of any Wal-Mart or emoticon association figures prominently in "Where the Good Thoughts Grow," an exhibition of new work by Ryan Bubnis. The Portland artist, whose stock is on the rise (it's easy to see why in this show), uses the image to explore themes of openness and spirituality in inky, kinetic drawings and colorful papier-mâché sculptures.
An organic sensibility unites all of the pieces, and is echoed in his materials, which include paint, clay, pine cones, coffee-cup sleeves, yarn, and wood. Among all those faces of exuberant cheer, the lone frown here and there stands out as a pointed reminder that we're not all happy all of the time, not by a long shot. "I'm just baffled by these dark times, and this is my way of figuring out what it all means," says Bubnis. "I'm not trying to preach. I'm simply trying to convey my perspective on things, and hopefully the viewer can relate to that."