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  • Friday, April 28, 2023 3:01 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Through summer, visitors to the Bellevue Art Museum have the opportunity to see an excellent selection of contemporary art from the collections of both Jordan Schnitzer and the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation. The artwork in “Strange Weather: From the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation” covers five decades (1977-2020) of art history to review and discuss the areas where the body and environment often collide or intersect. Curated by Dr. Rachel Nelson and Professor Jennifer González of University of California Santa Cruz, the exhibition brings together some of the most important contemporary artists working today to discuss important topics such as trauma, capitalism, and our rapidly industrialized world, global intersections, and forced migration. Interestingly, Dr. Nelson also stated that climate change specifically was on the minds of the curators as they selected solely portraiture, landscape, and abstract artworks to convey these ideas to visitors.  

    “Strange Weather” highlights many influential artists, many of whom create prints or multiples. It is sure to come as no surprise to those familiar with Jordan Schnitzer that the show includes numerous prints, works on paper, and multiples given the collector’s passion for this area. Even with a collection of over 20,000 artworks, prints remain a collecting focus for the collection. Three lithographs by Hung Liu provide an excellent example of the quality of the works on paper in the collection. Liu is primarily known for her powerful portraiture of often overlooked figures impacted by war and displacement, something the artist herself experienced firsthand. The works are made even more poignant due to the sad passing of the artist in 2021, the same year her solo exhibition opened at the National Portrait Gallery.

    Nearby Liu’s “Official Portraits” are works by Wendy Red Star and Joe Feddersen. Visitors are sure to be delighted to see works by these two Pacific Northwest artists included in the exhibition alongside their peers from other regions of North America. Similar to Liu’s work, Red Star’s “Four Seasons” brings attention to the erasure and displacement of Indigenous people from their land. The photographs include a figure (the artist) surrounded by fake objects and the illusion of nature, without including the actual land itself. These images are a powerful example of the show’s thesis in action: a body that has been forcibly moved and a landscape that is continuously reaped for commercial benefit. In addition, the photographs reference the visual language utilized by Edward Curtis and his contemporaries to capture images of Indigenous people in inauthentic situations with objects or garments that would not be appropriate for that situation.

    Prints and multiples certainly hold a special place in Jordan Schnitzer’s heart, but the exhibition includes many unique works as well. Leonardo Drew’s wall and floor installation comprised of wood, paint, and sand is impossible to ignore. The artwork is situated perpendicular to the title and introductory text wall and is a dynamic visual example of “strange weather.” The artwork has a frantic energy as the hundreds of pieces of wood appear to explode from the central core. The wall label connects the chaotic movement of the wood pieces to the frenzied destruction created by natural phenomena like a tornado or hurricane, but of course each piece is painstakingly created and placed by Drew, who is knownfor his multi-step process of aging materials. The installation reminds the viewer that nothing is forever, and even the structures we confidently build can be destroyed in a moment.

    Adjacent to Drew’s installation is a powerful sculpture by Alison Saar that connects numerous themes included in the exhibition in one artwork. “Grow’d” synthesizes the impact of capitalism and industrialism on the human body by referencing the horrific reality of enslavement. But Saar’s figure is also presented as royalty and gazes over her subjects. It is as if the artist is asking, “How can this strong female figure use these tools as an act of defiance in the face of tremendous adversity?”

    Saar’s question is just one that is posed by the exhibit, but there are countless others to be considered by the visitor. Guests can also see a selection of work by Glenn Ligon in a nearby gallery, also from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his family foundation. In addition, check out the Community Education Gallery on the first floor by the museum store. The current exhibit is titled, “20 Under 20: Daydream” and was coordinated in collaboration with the Teen Arts Council.

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

    Chloé Dye Sherpe is a curator and art professional based in Washington State.

    “Strange Weather” is on view Wednesday through Sunday from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. through August 20 at Bellevue Arts Museum located at 510 Bellevue Way NE in Bellevue, Washington. For more information, visit

  • Friday, April 28, 2023 12:58 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    In Memory of Steven Charles.

    Many famous contemporary Indigenous artists first had major solo exhibitions at the Sacred Circle Gallery curated by Steven Charles from the late 1980s to 2002. His contribution to our awareness and understanding of contemporary Indigenous art in the Northwest cannot be overstated.  

    To prove that point “Indigenous Strength and Wellness,” curated by Gail Tremblay (Mi’kmaq and Onondaga), Robin Sigo (Suquamish) and Chief Curator Greg Robinson, includes eminent artists like Marvin Oliver (Quinalt/Isleta-Pueblo), Joe Feddersen (Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation), John Feodorov (Navajo [Diné] and European), Preston Singletary (Tlingit), and Lillian Pitt (Warm Springs/Wasco/Yakama). But it spans several generations and a wide range of media.

    As we approach the museum, male and female “Welcome Figures” by Kate Ahvakana (Suquamish) greet us in a multi-story window. They include symbolism that refers to treaty signing as well as contemporary challenges to save the salmon. Above in “Sunrise Flight,’ a blue jay brings us light and health.

    The more than twenty artists in the exhibit transform traditional imagery to address urgent issues of the contemporary world. For example, Alison Bremner (Tlingit) dramatically places an imitation melting ice cream cone inside an historic cedar basket (of no financial value because it was damaged), suggesting our current condition comes from the ignorance and disrespect of historic practices.

    Ed Archie NoiseCat (Canim Lake Band of Shuswap Indians and the Stl’atl’imx) deliberately echoes the title of Munch’s well known work in his totem-like “Scream.” A monster-like black oil pipe line grabs an orca above and kills salmon below.

    In the context of the theme of strength and wellness, several artists inspire us to re-double our efforts to resist the exploitation of the earth. Joe Feddersen’s “Purple Rain,” includes his familiar symbols of the outlines of electrical towers, but now even those are being assaulted by pollution from the sky, as horses gallop wildly away in the foreground.

    John Feodorov addresses pollution on the Navajo reservation with flat yellow squares evoking uranium as an ironic twist on the squares of utopian modernist painting.

    Corwin Clairmont (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes) depicts the devastation associated with the Alberta tar sands in a selection from his multi-paneled installation “Two-Headed Arrow/The Tar Sands Project” Both photography of the destroyed environment, and symbolism, such as the two-headed arrow, point to our current choices between extraction and life.

    Humor is, of course, rarely absent from Indigenous art, but humor with a twist. Peg Deam (Suquamish) speaks to perceptions of casino culture with her money vest woven from one dollar bills, George Washington prominently visible; Indigenous casinos profit from white people’s vices. The Sacagawea dollars on the vest suggest another layer of irony.

    Masks appear in many guises. Two strong masks by David A. Boxley (Tsimshian)speak to spirit powers and supernatural forces. “Killer Whale Transforming Mask” opens during a performance to reveal the duality of spirits.

    On “His X Mark,” by Jennifer Angaiak Wood (Yup’ik), ink drips over an anguished mask/face; a headdress of antique pens and points refers to the pens used to sign treaties of the mid-nineteenth century. The earrings are giant Xs referring to the mark made by leaders on those scandalous agreements.

    Linley Logan (Tonawanda, Seneca Nation) makes coyote masks out of recycled bleach bottles! Toma Villa (Yakama) creates looming wall hung masks not intended to be worn.

    Be sure to look carefully at the “Teachings of the Tree People” near the end of the show. Small cedar squares designed by artists from over fifty different cultures all over the Pacific Rim created a collaborative project for the House of Welcome — Evergreen Longhouse, Evergreen College.

    I will end with “Finding the Way Home,” a wall sculpture by Jennifer Angaiak Wood: a kayak carved from old growth cedar painted on the bottom with the outline of a seal, and a sun-like face wearing a scarf of dried seal intestine at the center. Angaiak Wood’s work suggests peaceful journeys.

    The exhibition also includes ribbon shirts and beaded COVID masks by Suquamish artists, included in “Sovereign Style,” the Suquamish Foundation’s annual fashion show. Exhibition-related programs include poetry readings, films, history, and dances.

    “Indigenous Strength and Wellness,” with funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, gives fitting tribute to Steven Charles, the pioneering curator of contemporary Indigenous art. We see his legacy expanding in the present and the future, as new generations of Indigenous artists continue to address the urgent concerns of their lives and our planet.

    Susan Noyes Platt

    Susan Noyes Platt writes a blog and for local, national, and international publications.

    “Indigenous Strength and Wellness” is on view through June 4 at Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, located at 550 Winslow Way East and open daily 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. For information, visit

  • Thursday, April 27, 2023 11:26 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Wednesday, March 01, 2023 10:41 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    A short ferry ride away from the mainland, Vashon’s vibrant visual arts scene keeps strutting its stuff in high style.

    Vashon has been a haven for artists since the 1960s and 70s, when an influx of young artists changed the cultural landscape of the island.


    Many of those people helped establish Vashon Allied Arts (now Vashon Center for the Arts) as the cultural linchpin of the community, as well as led numerous other arts enterprises on the island throughout the years.


    Some of them are still doing it.


    Case in point: Swiftwater Gallery, a brand-new, 51-member nonprofit arts’ collective, which opened in February in a prime location, 17600 Vashon Hwy. SW,  in Vashon’s town center.

    The gallery is the former home of Gather Vashon, a gallery that also featured local art, run by a mother-daughter team from 2018 to September of 2022.


    Prior to that, the storefront was the longtime home of the Heron’s Nest Gallery, a retail gallery run by Vashon Allied Arts.

    Swiftwater Gallery organizers included a number of longtime locals who had shown their work in both of those former venues—and were determined, when they first learned that Gather would close, to find a way to keep the retail space artful.


    Their planning came to fruition with Swiftwater Gallery’s recent grand opening

    —a packed and celebratory occasion. 

    Swiftwater Gallery

    On a recent afternoon, volunteer gallery manager and photographer, Kim Farrell, and collective member artist, Charlotte Masi, worked the well-lit gallery, which was filled with a variety of art by all the collective’s members.


    Swiftwater Gallery opens new rotating exhibits on the First Friday of every month, when Vashon Island holds its monthly Gallery Cruise—a longstanding evening art stroll through shops, galleries and eateries. Find out more at

    But wait, there’s more…

    Vashon’s main street boasts not one but two galleries run by artists’ collectives — VALISE Gallery, Vashon Artists Linked in Social Engagement, has been around since 2009, at 17633 Vashon Hwy. SW.

    VALISE Gallery

    In February, VALISE pranked islanders by plastering the gallery’s windows with posters advertising a new business: Zamfir’s, a pawn shop/smoke shop. But some islanders with long memories got the joke: when VALISE opened, 14 years ago, the same posters and signage were on display. Zamfir’s is part of the gallery’s origin story, said Jiji Saunders, of VALISE, and throughout the years, the gallery has mounted several exhibitions that touch on its recurring conceptual themes of high and low commerce.

    In March, VALISE hosts an invitational of 13 island artists who have never before shown their work at the gallery. In April, the exhibit, “Extra Cheese, Please,” features collective members creating art out of pizza boxes from O Sole Mio — a New York-style pizza joint just down the street from the gallery. Find out more at

    The Hardware Store Restaurant Gallery

    A historic island building, on the corner of Bank Road and Vashon Highway, now houses an Americana restaurant—the food is tasty, but don’t miss the gallery tucked in the back of the restaurant, featuring exhibits of the work of local artists that rotate monthly. 

    Caffe Vino Olio

    A stylish wine, coffee, and bagel shop next to The Hardware Store Restaurant also boasts an art spot, tucked into the back of the space. Works by local artists fill its walls each month. 


    Artists Works

    Also in downtown Vashon, tucked away in a storefront at 9922 SW Bank Road, you’ll find Starving Artists Works (SAW)—a small shop stuffed with an abundance of work by local artists and artisans. Visit the gallery’s Facebook page, or call (206) 979-4192 to find out hours.

    Vashon Farmers Market 

    A bustling marketplace on Saturdays, from April to October, typically includes work by local artisans. The market is in the town center, at ​​17519 Vashon Hwy SW. Visit


    Vashon Center for the Arts

    Any day trip to Vashon should probably begin and end at Vashon Center for the Arts (VCA)—a gleaming new performing and visual arts space that opened in 2018.Curatorially, the gallery runs the gamut of exhibits by local, regional, and national artists, with themes that range from delightfully decorative to blisteringly political. At times, they’re  just dazzling, as was the case last fall, when the gallery was filled with a retrospective of the work of world-renowned cartoonist, Jim Woodring, who happens to be a Vashon resident. 

    In March, the VCA hosts an invitational juried show, “Choice,” prompted by the shocking reversal of Roe vs. Wade by the Supreme Court last year. The 30 works on view include “Where are you From,” by Fumi Amano—an interactive sculpture of a uterus that gallery-goers can climb inside. In April, VCA celebrates Earth Month with an exhibit of new works by tile artist Clare Dohna, a large curtain installation made of twigs by Terri Fletcher, and printmaking by Vanessa Lanza. Find out more at


    All this, and studio tours… 

    Visit the website of Vashon Island Visual Artists (ViVA) at, and mark your calendar for the membership organization’s two annual studio tours. The spring tour takes place  May 6-7 and 13-14, at approximately 40 artists’ studios and galleries on Vashon Island. 

    Elizabeth Shepherd

    Elizabeth Shepherd is the editor of The Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber, the town’s newspaper of record.

  • Wednesday, March 01, 2023 10:39 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Looking Back at the Italian Festival

    My good friend Dennis invited me to sign copies of my new book at our last Italian Festa and I was thrilled. The invitation gets better: “I can’t find another Italian author this year. You can have the table to yourself.”

    Well, an invitation like that doesn’t come along all that often.

    Now, at a festival celebrating all things Italian—and by “all things” I mean what 99% of the people come for: the food—I knew most vendors would be selling gelato or cannoli or pasta or pizza. Even so, I accepted the invitation. Courage can be its own sort of blessing.

    My first no-sale of the day was a man who picked up my book and read the cover. I tried to summarize what the book is about, which is always hard to do, for others, for myself. He nodded but I could tell from his eyes that I’d lost him. You usually do, going on about your book. The key is finding balance between explanation and too much. You want to say enough to make the book appealing but leave room for imagination. He turned my book over to read the back. He read the cover again. He read the spine. Then he took about twenty minutes telling me about his own writing. He told me about his grown children. He told me about his dog. But this is normal. The world is full of lonely people. If I even begin to imagine how many, I could cry. Still, I thought the whole encounter was funny, but not funny laugh-out-loud-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha. I imagined myself waving a wand to make the whole weekend pass quickly.

    And then.

    A teacher looked through my new children’s book and said, “I’ll take five of these.” Oh. Those. Words. Those generous words. I can’t help it, I thought, I love this. I love selling my books. You’d think I’d love the whole new world of internet connection, but for me, the best experience is all about meeting my readers. Things were starting to look up.

    I’ve been selling my creativity my entire life. I know you must be thinking, really, your entire life?  But it’s true. Since year four. Painted rocks. Popsicles with pansies frozen within, edible art long before its time. Handmade puppets, clutches, note cards. Drumming up business. Scared to death, but excited. Alive.

    A well-dressed man (shirt, tie, dress pants made of whatever it is that fabric with a sheen is made of these days), scolded me when I couldn’t answer his question in Italian. In the Northwest, I often feel like I act too Italian compared to the general population. But today, he is not the first person who has made me feel like I am not Italian enough.

    This makes me smile.

    By Sunday, I was out of books (out of books!), so I packed up early, and on my way out the door, I turned back to see Dennis watching the band. He’d just pulled off Seattle’s 30th festival with knack and finesse. I wished I could’ve stayed and danced, but I had to go, and I didn’t want to bother Dennis, not even with a personal “ciao e grazie di tutto” which can take a lot of oomph, good oomph, but still oomph, so I’m saying it here.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Mary Lou Sanelli is the author of Every Little Thing, a collection of essays that was nominated for a Pacific Northwest Book Award and a Washington State Book Award. Her previous titles include poetry, fiction, and non-fiction. For more information about her and her work, visit

  • Wednesday, March 01, 2023 10:15 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    In the Spring of 2023, the Whatcom Museum presents “Katazome Today: Migrations of a Japanese Art” in the Lightcatcher Building. The exhibition features the work of seven national and international artists who all explore katazome, a Japanese textile dyeing process, in their work. While traditionally used for kimono dyeing, this process continues to be used as an expression of creativity by artists around the world. By tracing the international migration of this historical method, the exhibition offers the guest an opportunity to explore the evolution of a dyeing process as it interacts with various cultures and environments throughout the global artistic community. The exhibition is co-curated by Seiko A. Purdue, Professor in Fibers/Fabrics at Western Washington University and Amy Chaloupka, Curator of Art at the Whatcom Museum.

    One of the most exciting aspects of “Katazome Today” is the inclusion of a national and international roster of artists: Akemi Cohn (Illinois), Melinda Heal (Australia), Fumiyo Imafuku (Japan), Cheryl Lawrence (Washington), John Marshall (California), Yuken Teruya (Germany), and Mika Toba (Japan).But before entering the exhibition, guests encounter “Dadai: Generation After Generation,” a display of artworks created by Professor Purdue’s students at Western Washington University. The students all utilize the katazome process in their own unique way as an illustration of the importance of passing key artistic knowledge from the teacher (Professor Purdue) to the next generation. The colorful pieces each highlight a motif created by the artist and lead the museum visitor to the entrance of the exhibit.

    Visitors are immediately greeted by a wide range of sizes, colors, and materials upon entering “Katazome Today.” Those unfamiliar with the process may be surprised by the variety of work included in the exhibition, which is excellently evident in the first gallery. Melinda Heal’s “The Cliffs, they are breathing” is one of the first artworks that visitors will experience upon entering the gallery and it includes imagery of the cliffs near the Australian town of Bermagui. The scale of the cliffs is referenced in the sheer scale of the artwork. According to the artwork label, this is the largest work Heal has created using the katazome technique so far in her artistic career.

    Heal’s expressive and graceful work is installed adjacent to another large work by Washington-based artist Cheryl Lawrence, titled “Women of the 116th Congress.” Created by a group of twenty women gathered by the artist, this installation documents the 113 women of the 116 th Congress, which was the most women sworn into Congress in a session. Each portrait is detailed with thread, buttons, and other beaded embellishments to create unique and personalized tributes to the 113 women in the installation.

    Figurative work is rare in this exhibition, and that makes this artwork even more impressive. Lawrence made an empowering and historically significant decision to bring together a group of women to create this work, and the artwork label connects this act to the tradition of women gathering in groups to create quilts throughout history.

    The katazome process includes hand-cut stencils (katagami is the type of paper used) on which a dye-resistant rice paste is applied to then dye the fabric. The exhibition does include a video and photographs of the process to assist the guest in understanding this process in application. Interestingly, some artists in the exhibition utilize only a part or step of the katazome process to make their work.

    Yuken Teruya’s “Golden Arch Parkway McDonalds (Red Yellow)” is made up of a McDonald’s paper bag and glue, but Teruya hand-cuts the paper bag to create a tree within the bag by employing his understanding of cutting katagami stencils. The exhibition also includes katagami stencils from the early 1900s as examples of the traditional method.

    “Katazome Today: Migrations of a Japanese Art” draws from an international roster of artists who are all using a traditional technique to demonstrate contemporary ideas in a unique way. Whether they use the process in its entirety or select elements of the historical method, each artwork and installation brings the viewer to a closer understanding and appreciation for an artform that was carefully preserved for generations. The artworks range greatly in size, material, and form, which makes for an interesting and unexpected viewing experience for those new to katazome and guests already knowledgeable about the process. The exhibition is open until June 11, so there is still plenty of time to experience it for yourself and learn something new about this important Japanese artform.

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

    Chloé Dye Sherpe is a curator and art professional based in Washington State.

    “Katazome Today: Migrations of a Japanese Art” is on view Wednesday through Sunday from noon to 5 P.M. through June 11 at Whatcom Museum located at 250 Flora Street in Bellingham, Washington. For more information, visit

  • Wednesday, March 01, 2023 11:59 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Spark&Thread is a women-owned art boutique in the Capitol Hill/Stevens neighborhood. Established in late 2021, the shop features locally-made creations for the home, and it showcases the work of the owners/artists Juli Hudson and Solia Hermes.

    Central to Hudson’s and Hermes’ vision for Spark&Thread is to represent other local artists and craftspeople, and to connect to the surrounding arts community — Hermes calls the shop itself “a living arts space.”

    March 8 through April 30, Spark&Thread is spotlighting the work of painter Trisha Gilmore and ceramist Gretchen Siegrist.

    Trisha Gilmore is a Seattle-based artist who has taught art in and out of the classroom with Pratt, Powerful Schools, Seattle Public Schools, The Community School, and other venues. She works most frequently with acrylic paint on a square or close-to-square canvas. Gilmore likes to complement her acrylics with traces of ink or graphite, and she applies swatches of vintage paper or other material to the paintings. The collage material is directly on the surface in some pieces, but subtly so, while in other works the collage material is painted over, and left to make its presence known only as a ghostly shape or a faint texture just below the surface.

    Gilmore is drawn to natural forms —f lowers and plants, in particular. Frequently she depicts the flowers arranged in vases set on tables or countertops that anchor the composition. You might be thinking still-life, but visually there’s little stillness — in fact the work hums with happy activity. The colors are sometimes muted, but the organic shapes are plentiful and rendered loosely and playfully. Freeform marks, drips and smears, and the vague trace of forms painted over contribute to this mood of contented restlessness.

    Even as Gilmore plays with floral themes and designs she strongly embraces abstraction; she paints and draws intuitively and imaginatively. Figure and ground are in a dervish dance in many of her pieces, and things that are solid seem to melt into air. In “Mending Wall” the vertical stripes of the tablecloth make an assertive and colorful foreground, but the neutrally-colored flowers and bulbs that are the painting’s focus tend to blend or incorporate into the background — the wall itself.

    Although even here we face ambiguity — a solid mass of color in the background on one side of the canvas is balanced against
    the other side’s depiction of airy lattice-work (a support for plants to cling to as they climb up from the ground). Perhaps inspired by Robert Frost’s famous poem of the same name, “Mending Wall” seems to reflect on the nature of walls, and “What I was walling in or walling out.”

    The botanical theme in Gilmore’s work is echoed in the clay creations of Gretchen Siegrist, a Resident Artist at Seward Park Clay Studio. Her painted clay surfaces often depict sprigs and leafs and flower petals. The pieces in her delightful “Houses” series you can think of as birdhouses or simply tiny houses (but really tiny, many standing tall at 10 inches at the most) but in each dwelling fun overrules function – the house shapes themselves are skewed, fanciful rather than practical, and not many creatures could get in through their sliver-thin door openings.

    In Siegrist’s cups and in her other containers (planters, bowls, birdbaths), we see a shift towards actual function (as you would expect) and a shift in tone within their visual vocabulary—less whimsical than the houses, more considered and closely observed. Rather than the simplified and isolated flower outlines or line drawings, we find intricate imagery and more “scenes” — birds and ferns, pine cones and seed pods, a stand of fir trees. One piece illustrates new growth sprouting from a nurse-log, an image that reflects the artist’s interest in natural decomposition — Siegrist even builds pieces from clay remnants, a way of embodying the life-cycle concept within her materials and processes.

    It’s not only color glazes on the surface that paint pictures.

    Siegrist also shapes the clay to create her small organic forms. She’ll make birds that perch on the lip of a cup, or a fig branch with detailed fig fruit. The thick rim of a birdbath is incised and shaped so that it looks convincingly like rugged bark, complete with wormholes and other signs of life and decomposition.

    But not every piece is a celebration of nature. On occasion, her work bears handwritten expressions, and playful shapes—swoops and swirls—are always a possibility. In one piece she impresses the shape of musical notes into the clay, where they dance around impressions of Spanish-style guitars.

    Nor does Siegrist limit herself strictly to clay. Many of the sculptural pieces involve wood, rope, string, and wire, either for decorative or functional purpose, or a bit of both at once.

    Siegrist seems to share that community-based vision that inspires the co-owners of Spark&Thread. She puts effort toward supply drives for her unhoused neighbors, for example.

    Her work may be light in spirit but in her art-making and in her life she is pushing back against “an upside-down, industrialized world” (to quote from Siegrist’s website).

    Tom McDonald
    Tom McDonald is a writer and musician living on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

    Artwork by Trisha Gilmore and ceramist Gretchen Siegrist is on view March 8th through April 30th, Wednesday through Saturday from 11 A.M. to 6 P.M. and Sunday from noon to 5 P.M. at Spark&Thread, located at 1909 E. Aloha Street in Seattle, Washington. All are welcome to come to the Artists’ Reception on Friday, March 17, 5-9 P.M. For information, visit

  • Wednesday, March 01, 2023 11:07 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    If you want to escape the winter blues, this exhibition is the best place to start.

    Caryn Friedlander and Alan Lau both offer us abstractions that celebrate the natural world. They share a deep love of Japanese calligraphy and sumi-e painting: Sumi-e painting is affiliated with Tai Chi, in exploring opposites of Yin and Yang: “The Philosophy of Sumi-e is contrast and harmony, expressing simple beauty and elegance…The art of brush painting, aims to depict the spirit, rather than the semblance of the object.”

    Both artists have spent time studying calligraphy and sumi painting in Japan. But each takes these principles and develop them in entirely different ways.

    The exhibition is accompanied by Lau’s detailed statement on some of the many styles and masters of Japanese painting that have inspired him even as he states: “Though I loved the process of brushing ink on paper, I knew eventually that I would have to find my own way of working with these materials if I were to forge my own path in art.” We can see that in the freedom of his calligraphic forms.

    Lau grew up in the small town of Paradise (recently devastated by fire), as part of the only Chinese family. His father wanted to open a Chinese restaurant where there wouldn’t be any competition. Lau’s first contact with calligraphy and Chinese culture came through his grandmother who lived with them. But by serendipity, he ended up going to Japan instead of China in the 1960s and began a life long connection to Japanese painting and calligraphy.

    In this exhibition we see an incredible range of imagery demonstrating Lau’s willingness to experiment in every work. “Where the Stars Fall” created with several media as well as sumi ink, has a layer of soft pinkish white textures overlaid with dancing energetic yellow and black lines. We can see the calligraphy in the lines as a point of departure, even as we recognize that Lau’s own gestural lines. The tiny marks and shapes of “November Steps” in black and white suggests microbial life slowly moving in the midst of the dark days of early winter. It is dedicated to the avant-garde musician Tōru Takemitsu, so we can also read this in terms of the large sounds of percussion billowing out amongst tiny light sounds of woodwinds.

    Friedlander is a transplant from New York City where she grew up. That experience (which I share), makes us hungry for nature. Friedlander has lived in the Northwest since the late 1960s. She studied calligraphy as an apprentice in Japan for four years in the 1980s and had two exhibitions at museums in Kyoto.

    Calligraphy, like sumi-e painting emphasizes a Zen approach in order to achieve balance and harmony.

    The large triptych “Sargasso Sea” honors both the deep blue of this sea without land borders off of North Carolina, as well as the golden brown of the Sargasso seaweed that nourishes aquatic life there. She draws us in with saturated colors inmany layers.

    “Helios” a bright yellow painting honors the sun, but we also clearly see the artist’s study of calligraphy. Since Friedlander works in oil, her work is less delicate than Lau’s, but dense with brilliant color. The artist has declared that her process is intuitive: “I make marks and respond to them with more marks, building and deconstructing layers. I get into trouble and work my way through it. At some point things start to make sense. The alchemy that happens when line, color, and space coalesce into a meaningful whole is deeply compelling.”

    The exhibition includes works of many sizes, including some that are very small such as the delicate whisper of Lau’s “Plum” and Friedlander’s more gestural “Duo,” “Dip,” and “Forest” in sumi ink and encaustics on panel.

    In spite of a common interest in Japanese calligraphy and sumi-e painting, as well as nature, Friedlander’s oil painting and Lau’s mixed media drawing create entirely different moods.

    Lau’s “The Secret of Stones I & II,” suggest a meditation on stones in water.

    Friedlander’s small “Wading Among the Lilies” feels as though the artist is enmeshed in the flowers.

    Be sure to visit this exhibition and immerse yourself in the deep reverence for both painting and nature that these artists explore. You may also achieve some balance and harmony in the midst of these chaotic times.

    Susan Noyes Platt
    Susan Noyes Platt writes a blog and for local, national, and international publications.

    “Elemental Gestures” is on view Tuesday through Saturday from 11 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. until March 25 at the ArtXchange Gallery, located at 512 First Avenue South in Seattle, Washington. For information, visit

  • Wednesday, March 01, 2023 10:42 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Tuesday, January 03, 2023 11:32 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Before Bainbridge Island had a bridge to the Kitsap peninsula, it established its first non-profit arts organization. Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, as it came to be called, is still going strong. This mainstay of the island’s arts scene celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, and it greets the milestone with a real splash: a showing of artwork by visionary ceramic sculptor Patti Warashina. 

    The term “visionary” gets tossed around casually, but surely it applies to Warashina: in 2020 she received the Smithsonian’s Visionary Artist award. The occasion honored the Seattle artist for her five decades of ground-breaking work in ceramics, and for being “a defining figure in the West Coast Funk Art movement.”

    Warashina’s influences include Rene Margritte, Hieronymous Bosch, and Louise Nevelson; she credits “the era of the Beatles” as another influence. What do those artists have in common and share with Warashina? The pursuit of a personal and often dream-like expression that frequently critiqued the broader culture or ignored its strictures entirely. 

    As a Japanese-American raised in Spokane during WWII, and as a single mother navigating the male-minated art world in the 1960s and ’70s, Warashina saw much to resent and to resist. Yet a humorous, whimsical, absurdist take on reality characterizes her work. It is as if she takes too much delight in clay and paint to strike an overtly angry tone in the work itself. This dynamic shifted after the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the rise of hateful bigotry in its wake. Warashina’s outrage is undisguised in polemical pieces like “Democracy on the Run.”  

    Now in her eighties, the Seattle artist remains productive, engaged, and relevant. Consider her “Gossipmongers” tableau: figures in a circle gossip via tin-can telephones (you know, where the cans are connected by a piece of string). But at the figure’s feet those same cans have been elongated to become sticks of dynamite, each with its string snipped short to form a fuse. Warashina is telling us about social media without telling us about social media. 

    In addition to tableaux, BAC has plenty of smaller ceramic pieces on display: tiny birds, a fantastical cat or two, painted plates, and cups that overflow with ridiculousness and obscure purpose. Two-dimensional works — lithographic prints and drypoint monoprints — round out the show. 

    With an internationally-renowned artistin the house, Bainbridge Arts & Crafts is stepping it up in its 75th year rather than resting on past laurels. Come out to celebrate, and learn more about Bainbridge Arts & Crafts’s rich history and its plans for a bright future.

    Tom McDonald

    Tom McDonald is a writer and musician living on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

    Patti Warashina’s art is on view at Bainbridge Arts & Crafts, located at 151 Winslow Way East on Bainbridge Island, Washington, Monday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. and Sunday from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. For information, visit

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