Katherine Treffinger waves at me from across the room, and I saunter over to begin our customary cat-and-mouse game.

"I love the new work," I tell her, pointing at her enigmatic and lusciously textural abstracts on the walls of Roche Bobois, many of the paintings resplendent with gold leaf and swirling miasmas of turquoise and deep purple. "Are they 100-percent abstract, or are they based on something in nature?"

"You know I never answer that question," she says.

"I know, I know, but I see what looks like some pretty obvious imagery here: rivers flowing into the sea or nebulae in space or..."

She says nothing.

A man walks up and gushes, "I like the one of the burning tree."

Treffinger chuckles. The mystery remains.

Next stop on this First Thursday gallery tour, and I'm off to Pulliam Deffenbaugh for George Johanson's show Dogs, Nudes, and Rain. "The rain ones are the best," I hear somebody say. They're right. The vertical slashes of drizzle not only make for a great compositional motif, they also impart a moodiness to Johanson's Portland and New York cityscapes.

William Toney's expansive gestural paintings are over at Alysia Duckler, their scribbles and slapdash forms piled atop one another à la California cuisine. Across the street, Blue Sky subjects us to yet more of its arid photographic dispatches from a rotating list of Third World nations. Within Blue Sky, Nine Gallery features Paul Sutinen's subtly shaded cloud and color grids, which seem to wash over the viewer in a mood indigo.

A skip and a jump over at Blackfish, Annie Hoppe's oils on wood have big aspirations but fall short, visually confused and lacking focus. The best painting in the gallery is hidden way in back: Joellyn Loehr's Hyla 2, an eye-catching mustard- and Kermit-colored abstraction that grows organically from a geometric base.

Vinh Bui's in from Los Angles at Field with his marvelously titled Rhinestone Thong. The works are inventively presented: pink paint and '70s porno freeze-frames on wood paneling and Plexiglas. Field owner Michael Oman-Reagan has become, after the successive exoduses of Gavin Shettler and T.J. Norris, the curatorial anchor of the Everett Station Lofts. He and I talk about anthropology, Gerhardt Richter and the question of whether artists should strive for a recognizable style (I say yes; he says no).

On to Ogle and Monica em Lundy's scratchboard works of monkeys, coyotes and hookers. Butters is showcasing Betsy Wolfston's folk-arty stoneware and Connie Kiener's sculptures, but I'm more interested in Sonia Kasparian's new overpainted screen-photo contraptions by the far window. As soon as I enter Lawrence Gallery, a uniformed security guard politely but pointedly informs me the gallery is closing--it's 9 pm--and asks me to leave. "Come back next month," he says.

Cattycorner on the same block, Mark Woolley's is still hopping with lots of people and Joe Thurston's portraits (see review, page 58), along with a more traditional portrait show from Diane Remick.

After Woolley's, it's after 10 pm, and the only artsy place to go from here is Gallery 500, where there's a $5 cover for the opening party. The place is crawling with Reed students, babyfaced and attired in vintage duds. There's a band and a DJ and dreadlocked revelers in green leather, while owner Justin Oswald presides over the whole affair with a manner somewhere between Mafioso and mischievous elf. The group show of L.A. painters is interesting, but not as interesting as the party itself. At this point, I've been going since 5:30 pm, but the art is fresh and the crowd is young--and so, after all, is the night.

515 NW 10th Ave., 229-1010. Closes Dec. 3.

522 NW 12th Ave., 228-6665. Closes Nov. 29.

ALYSIA DUCKLER 1236 NW Hoyt St., 223-7595. Closes Nov. 29.

1231 NW Hoyt St., 225-0210. Closes Nov. 29.

420 NW 9th Ave., 224-2634. Closes Nov. 29.

FIELD 328 NW Broadway, #114, 810-4788. Closes Nov. 29.

OGLE 310 NW Broadway, 227-4333. Closes
Nov. 29.

BUTTERS 520 NW Davis St., 248-9378. Closes
Nov. 29.

MARK WOOLLEY 120 NW 9th Ave., Suite 210, 224-5475. Closes
Nov. 29.

GALLERY 500 420 SW Washington St., Suite 500, 223-3951. Closes
Nov. 29.