Victoria Haven was recently awarded Seattle Art Museum’s prestigious Betty Bowen Award, and not a moment too soon. Haven does incredible things with lightweight materials such as tiny Mylar rings and shelf paper. But fragile is an adjective that should never be applied to Haven’s art. Even though her works are made from whispy, ephemeral materials, there’s a formidable solidity to her work. The show’s title, “Wonderland” derives from a large-scale two-dimensional mountain cut from a maze of shelf paper printed with phony wood grain. The whole assemblage is truly wonder-inspiring: but like Disneyland, this vast mountain is founded on something profoundly artificial. But that’s Haven’s true genius: being able to take a cheap material and confer the sublime upon it. Haven’s “Halo,” a series of Mylar loops arranged in a bubbly constellation on the gallery walls, has all the grandeur of an evening sky to it. The cut-paper in “Clearcut” (shown) is a virtuoso heap of loops and tangles that feels much more weighty than the few ounces of wood fiber it’s made from. In Haven’s intricate inner landscapes of line and form, you could get lost for days. Howard House, 604 Second Ave., 206-256-6399. 10:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sat.
With Mount St. Helens rumbling once again, Emmet Gowin’s apocalyptic black-and-white photos of the aftermath of the 1980 eruption now on display at the Henry are sufficiently humbling. After flying over Mount St. Helens and later the Hanford nuclear site, the photographer had an epiphany of sorts and became obsessed with aerial photography. In addition to the volcano shots, this show features a retrospective of Gowin’s work from 1986 to 1997, a period when he became a kind of Edward Weston of aerial photography: seeking out luscious shapes, abstract geometry, and shimmering sunlight seen from high above. But Gowin always seeks the human-altered world: nuclear test craters, toxic waste sites, mining tailings and circular fields of commercial agriculture. It’s an old trick, turning something ugly into something abstract and beautiful, but Gowin’s photos do it extremely well. Henry Art Gallery, UW campus, 206-543-2280. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tues.-Sun; 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Thurs.