• Sunday, November 01, 2020 10:18 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    On August 20, 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified and gave women the right to vote. After a lengthy, nearly seventy year fight, the suffrage movement finally received what the women at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention set out to accomplish. While there has been much progress towards gender equality in the past century there is still a lot of work to be done. Holly Ballard Martz’s exhibition, “Dirty Laundry & Domestic Bliss,” raises important questions about women’s rights, the patriarchy, and the role of women in society. Using mixed media artworks, Martz references or utilizes many common household objects to address these questions and provoke the viewer to think about a particular issue in a different way. 


    Upon entering the gallery it is impossible not to notice the long table with sculptures that appear to be pieces of meat. The artist painstakingly applied over 40,000 sequins to the sculptures to give them a fleshy and shiny surface. As the viewer peruses the sculptures it becomes obvious that while some look like cuts of meat, others do not. There are several sculptures with obvious depictions of the vulva and vagina on the surface. Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party” might come to mind as an art historical reference for this imagery. Chicago’s installation evoked religious reverence for the series of tables to inform the viewer that they are about to enter a sacred space. Each plate included the name of a significant woman in world history and was set upon an intricate tablecloth.


    In contrast, Martz’s installation may appear cold, even crude, with all these cuts out in the open on a bare, wooden table. The comparison is an obvious one, but Martz is careful to draw a line between them. In this case, the cuts of meat actually reference a dressmakers ham. These pillows are used as a mold for pieces of a garment that need to better fit the curves of the body, such as a waistline or sleeve. But the pillows that Martz constructed are useless as dressmakers hams because they have sequins and are really more of a decorative object. In a statement on the gallery website that artists asserts that the female body is also often reduced to cuts of meat that are laid out for decoration and the enjoyment of others. The imagery of women reduced to parts as entertainment or objects of the patriarchal gaze set up an even more somber installation directly behind the table.  


    In the exhibition text Martz notes that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It is impossible to ignore the bright pink wall at the end of the gallery with the cursive script, “Love Hurts”, written out with 6,000 9mm spent shell casings. The artwork is a series of contradictions. The beautiful script and color pink remind the viewer of a Valentine or sweet note between lovers. But there is obviously a much more sinister message. On the gallery website the artist cites a statistic from a survey by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention which states that almost twenty people are physically abused by their intimate partner every minute in the United States. She states a further study from the American Journal of Public Health that notes the risk of homicide increases by 500% if a gun is present during a domestic violence situation. “Love Hurts” represents the very present danger that many women and men face in their lives. Sometimes this threat is hidden from friends and family, but Martz’s bright pink wall and gold script is impossible to avoid. 


    There are many other objects in the show that connect to work that historically has been done by women. There is a large blue ironing board with a series of gold halos around its “head” in reference to the artwork title: “Lady Madonna.”  Martz’s well-known hangers also appear in this exhibition. They are also beautifully adorned with beaded flowers and reference the traditional work of women in the home. But these hangers aren’t useful as they are installed by the artist. Martz installed them upside down so that they are in the shape of undergarments and the female reproductive system. Every object and material in this exhibition has a purpose and supports the guiding question: Is this really domestic bliss? 


    This exhibition and the questions it raise continue to be extremely relevant. With the election right upon us many people are discussing the points that Martz addresses through her meticulous artworks. But the issue of domestic work and duties that women often perform have also been magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic. The combination of professional work, teaching children who are now learning from home, and housework is causing many women to question their role in society. We are seeing record numbers of women leaving their professional careers as the pressures of home and family weigh down on them. It seems that the issue of dirty laundry and domestic bliss are just as relevant today as they were decades ago.


    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    “Dirty Laundry & Domestic Bliss” is on view through November 15 at ZINC Contemporary, located at 119 Prefontaine Place South in Seattle, Washington. The gallery is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. For more information, visit

  • Sunday, November 01, 2020 10:14 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Saturday, October 31, 2020 12:58 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Artists collectives are truly a great boon to our art scene, especially when grass roots collectives reach out to support each other.

    Such is happening in November when the long established artist-run space Shift Gallery is reaching out with an online benefit sale to support the much more recently established Central District black cultural center Wa Na Wari. 

    Wa Na Wari describes itself as a “center for Black art, stories and connection in Seattle’s Central District. This Central District home owned by a black family for five generations, continues to be a legacy of kinship and community building.” As you enter the house we read that it encourages the community to be part of the process of “preservation, reclamation and celebration.” 

    Wa Na Wari plays a crucial role in Seattle. As the home of founder Inye Wokoma’s grandmother, it has a long history with his extended family. Wokoma’s innovative multi media creations based on film and photography offer us his personal family history as well as that of the Central District where he has lived all his life. 

    He decided to save his grandmother’s home at 911 - 24th Avenue from the ravages of gentrification (he lives in another home owned by his family next door). With a team of three other people, Elisheba Johnson, Jill Freidberg, and Rachel Kessler, Wa Na Wari (meaning “our home” in the Kalabari language of Southern Nigeria), presents black artists in many media. It holds workshops, films,  readings, lectures, fashion shows, and art exhibitions. It also collects oral histories from residents and former residents of the Central District. You can listen to them on an old fashioned telephone. 

    The curator Elisheba Johnson brilliantly presents visual art exhibits that create a synergistic energy suited to the spirit of the house. Every exhibit is sophisticated and provocative combining artists from the Northwest with those living elsewhere, youthful emerging artists and established professionals.  

    Looking at the current exhibition, the four artists intersect both emotionally and spiritually with each other, with us and with the house. Each room/gallery is small and devoted to one artist, making it possible to dive in deep and really experience their work. 

    As we enter the former living room dining room area, now called Wilson Hall, the large gallery shows the work of Zahyr Lauren, also known as The Artist L.Haz. His woven cotton blankets based on a meditative process speaks through sacred geometry and symbols to suggest “Black pride, power, and regality, alongside pain and grief.” We feel their almost magical presence as we move through the space. Particularly overwhelming is the work, appropriately hung over the fireplace, with the title “The Door of No Return.” 

    In the first gallery upstairs, Gallery Kyle, the video “Human Design” by the amazing Ilana Harris-Babou requires several viewings to fully appreciate her sincerity paired with parody. Her work explores the absurdities of consumer culture, in this case looking at what she calls “the white washing” of culture from Africa. She takes us on a tour of various sites in Senegal, her own country of origin, as she presents the steps to understanding the real sources of the art work in upscale design stores. Her final visit is to the place from which slaves were shipped now, a museum, “Maison des Esclaves.” This piece is a great choice for Wa Na Wari. Other works by the artist parody cooking shows, make over advice, and other themes. She is humorous and biting at the same time. 

    In a second room, Gallery Birdie, Andrea Coleman’s digital artworks combine old photographs and abstraction. The haunting family photographs emerge from layers of browns and blues and yellows. In “Finding a Seat at the Kitchen Table,” 2017, we see the old photograph capturing an ordinary moment with family that resonates with many layers of references, even as we simply appreciate the artist’s aesthetic subtlety.

    Finally, the work of Zachary James Watkins “Listen to Clarence” combines archival footage of the Civil Rights March on Selma, brilliantly edited to encompass all the different perspectives on the march, including the participants, young children, the police, and white nationalists holding confederate flags. 

    The video is paired with a recording of Watkins sound/video piece “Listen to Clarence” which includes an interview with Dr. Clarence B. Jones, Martin Luther King’s speech writer, describing the “I have a dream” speech, along with Watkins’ haunting sonic work “Peace Be Til” a commission with the Kronos Quartet. 

    Together these works all provide a spiritual and emotional journey through time and space, through history and the present.

    The Shift Gallery is also a special space that makes a perfect partner to Wa Na Wari. The Shift Gallery artists explained their sense of community, collaboration, mutual support, and collective spirit. They share all the responsibilities of running the gallery on a volunteer basis, from producing a professional publication to installing exhibitions. 

    Shift Gallery’s support of Wa Na Wari is through an online benefit sale at from November 12 through December 19. Twenty artists have contributed a work worth $200 or less. All the sale proceeds go to Wa Na Wari. 

    Susan Noyes Platt

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

    Wa Na Wari, located at 911 - 24th Avenue in Seattle, Washington, is open Fridays from 2 to 8 P.M. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. For more information, visit

    Shift Gallery, located at 312 South Washington Street in Seattle, Washington,  is open Friday through Saturday from 12 to 5 P.M., and by appointment. For more information, visit

  • Saturday, October 31, 2020 12:17 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Forty years in the making, “Manzanar: Their Footsteps Remain,” is photographer Brian Goodman’s exhibition and accompanying book of the same name. Featured at Northwind Arts Center this November, Manzanar is, “a photo essay about the remnants of the incarceration of our neighbors,” says Executive Director Michael D’Alessandro. The images of Manzanar transport us from the lush, salty shores of our Olympic Peninsula experience, to the parched, cracked earth of the Owens Valley in California, and to a time of xenophobia and fear. 

    In 1942, our neighbors in Quilcene, Bainbridge Island, Seattle, and elsewhere—120,000 adults and children of Japanese ancestry—were forced to leave their homes and take only what they could carry by bus. Their destination: hastily erected camps dotting the mountain west’s most remote landscapes. Manzanar was one of those camps, and Goodman’s photography lays this story bare. 

    “As a child of ten, I remember soldiers with rifles, barbed wire fences, and observation towers with lights in 1943 and 1944,” said Michael Adams, who recalls visiting Manzanar with his father, Ansel Adams. Adams, like Goodman, was called to document Manzanar through photography and his images were influential to Goodman’s work.  

    Photography is often about the arresting of time, and Goodman uses his camera to full advantage. Each black and white image begs the question, “Was this 75 years ago, or is this now?” In his work it is both. By toying with our perceptions of time and the surreal atrocities of recent history, Goodman uses the contrast of light moving across a broken object, a shadow arcing across a flat plane, and allows time to slow to a stop and stare us in the face. 

    Goodman remarked, “when I captured the first images at Manzanar over 40 years ago, I had no idea what I was photographing. Over the years, as I learned more about this place in our country’s history, it kept calling me back. I believe it is an important story that many people have no knowledge of, and it relates directly to some of the issues we are dealing with as a society today. My hope is that this exhibit will make viewers pause and realize how delicate and precious our freedoms are and how easily they can be taken from us.”

    A close friend of Goodman’s commented that he was torn when he viewed the images. On one hand, they are striking photographs with exquisite attention to composition. At the same time they are intimate examinations of racist actions taken against an entire community of people, most of whom were native born American citizens. 11,070 people lived at Manzanar over three and a half years. For anyone with a sense of justice, it is hard to reconcile the dueling emotions of appreciating beauty and understanding truth. 

    Goodman and his partner, Shira, who helped develop the work and book, were originally planning to tour the exhibition across the United States. COVID-19 emerged just as the book went to print, and the show, scheduled at Northwind for May, was postponed. With life in a holding pattern since then, the next exhibition is currently slated to travel to Peninsula College in Port Angeles in early 2021. The Goodmans still plan to take the exhibition to California, as well as their message. “The most profound and moving stories have been from some of the actual survivors of the camps and hearing their memories of their time of incarceration. November 21st is the 75th anniversary of the closing of the camps and very few incarcerees remain, so it’s extremely important that we never forget what took place and we never let their stories disappear. I hope the photographs instill curiosity and a desire for the viewer to learn more about what’s behind the images.” 

    With curiosity in hand, there is no better place to turn than the voices of those who lived the experience. Densho, a non-profit based in Seattle, collects oral history interviews, photographs, newspapers, and other primary sources on the Japanese American experience from immigration through redress, with a strong focus on the World War II mass incarceration. is their extensive, online digital archive, and the most comprehensive community-based resource for learning more.

    Shelly Leavens

    Shelly Leavens is an artist, writer, curator, and the Executive Director of the Jefferson Museum of Art & History. She lives in Port Townsend, Washington with her family.

    “Mazanar: Their Footsteps Remain” is on view though November 29 at Northwind Arts Center in Port Townsend, Washington. Northwind Arts Center is open Thursday through Sunday, 12 to 5 P.M., or by appointment. The exhibit’s companion book is available for sale in the gallery. Visit for appointments and more information. 

  • Saturday, October 31, 2020 12:16 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    I Have

    Well, if Michelle Obama can admit to feeling blue, so will I.

    At first, I didn’t want to read her interview. Clearly, I thought, there are things I am not ready to hear.

    But after reading it, I realized that it’s become more than the lurking virus. It’s that living downtown has begun to take nerve. It’s a lot less intimidating to stay home and reorganize the closets.

    How slippery the edge of a neighborhood can feel.

    I envy my neighbor Amal. She is devout. She believes it’s all up to Allah. I wish I could think that so I wouldn’t have to wrestle with what I believe. She raises her hands to the sky so I raise my hands to the sky. And it does make me feel better. But that’s the thing about better. It’s more fleeting than worse. Will the neighborhood ever bounce back?


    I lose myself in work. I am devout at losing myself in work.   

    Somewhere I read that writers are preoccupied by their own competing minds, and that they can’t forget that they are preoccupied. One mind just wants to live, while the other keeps commenting on how well, or how terribly, they are going about it.

    There is so much truth to this. And while I don’t think it’s the only reason I write, I do believe that you can turn this competition into a sense of guidance for yourself.

    So while one of my minds knows that my friend Stephanie is, by now, sitting in our rooftop garden and that I could go up and bother her, the other reminds me that this is the point of her day when she likes to stare out at Elliott Bay, smoke her allotted cigarette, and be grateful that there is nothing more she can do about today.

    Fortunately, both minds know not to interrupt her alone time.

    Our rooftop has become the epitome of alone time.

    But there is great news! Kamala when I cast my ballot I am voting for Y O U.

    And get this. I just heard that my first children’s book will be published this spring. I should celebrate. I will. I promise myself that I will. Because even if I haven’t yet felt like celebrating the moment, I do need to celebrate the triumph.

    In fact, I wish that I could have reached across the Zoom cosmos this morning to give a good long triumphant hug to one of my dance students when, mid-plié, she paused to say, “You’ve written a lot of books.”

    And for a little while, after she said that, I did feel like celebrating.

    Because I have.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Mary Lou Sanelli, author, speaker, and dance teacher, lives in Belltown. Her column has been a part of Art Access since 2004. Her latest book, a novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio of Yucca Springs” was recently published (Chatwin Books). For more information about her and her work, visit

  • Thursday, August 27, 2020 11:20 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    ArtXchange Gallery has been hosting art viewing sessions of two exhibits, one by Deborah Kapoor (click here for further information) and another by Lauren Iida (click here for further information) accompanied by cello performances by Asim Kapoor, who is part of the 1st level of the Seattle Youth Orchestra. He was just asked to volunteer teach beginning cellists how to play, on behalf of SYSO during the pandemic. Asim is the son of ArtXchange Gallery artist Deborah Kapoor. You can see more about Deborah Kapoor's art in the beautifully designed catalog by Laura Brown. Click here to view the catalog.

  • Saturday, August 01, 2020 1:26 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    In January 2020, the Whatcom Museum announced that they are participating in an exciting new partnership with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. This five-year collaboration allows the Whatcom Museum, one of five museums in the West selected for the partnership, to borrow artworks from one of the largest collections of American art in the world. Not only does this relationship bring artworks to communities that were previously not available to them, but it also gives educators and curators the opportunity to facilitate dialogues between artworks from different regions, time periods, and styles in exhibitions. The first exhibition is titled “Conversations Between Collections: The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Whatcom Museum” and it includes three artworks from the Smithsonian: Fritz Scholder’s “Indian and Contemporary Chair” from 1970, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s “State Names” from 2000, and Jasper Francis Cropsey’s painting from 1854, “The Coast of Genoa.” These loans are on display with artworks and objects from the Museum’s permanent collection in two galleries through January 3, 2021.

    The exhibition poses the question, “What is American art, and what does it look like?” When discussing the importance of the loans, Curator of Art Amy Chaloupka states, “Presenting these special masterworks in dialogue with work by American artists form our collection allows the Whatcom Museum to tell a truly expansive and complex story about what American art can look like.” The portion of the exhibition in the larger Lightcatcher gallery features landscapes from the museum’s collection alongside Cropsey’s “The Coast of Genoa.” Cropsey was a member of the Hudson River School, a group of artists who worked in the Hudson River Valley and are known for their majestic depictions of the American landscape in the midst of the industrial revolution. Cropsey’s Italian scene stands in contrast to another painting in the gallery, “Western View” by Richard Gilkey. Gilkey was a member of the Northwest School, a group of artists working in Western Washington that were brought to national attention thanks to a 1953 article in Life magazine. The painting is an excellent example of Gilkey’s style: a grey sky allows filtered, Skagit Valley light to shine down onto a windswept field. I would encourage everyone to watch Chaloupka’s virtual tour of the exhibition so that you can see a close-up of the painting, which provides a close-up of thickly applied paint, which was Gilkey’s signature technique. The virtual tour also includes two additional highlights: Victoria Adams’ “High Falls” and Paul Horiuchi’s “Rocks and Shadows.” 

    On the second floor of the Lightcatcher building guests can view the exhibition “People of the Sea and Cedar” which includes the other two artworks on loan from the Smithsonian, both by Indigenous artists. This exhibition is ongoing and features art and artifacts from the museum’s collection that illustrate the historic and contemporary perspectives of Northwest Coast people. Fritz Scholder and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s paintings are on display alongside bentwood boxes, carvings, woven blankets, and Lummi language interactives. 

    Both artists use expressive brushstrokes and bold colors to convey their central messages about identity, history, and leading narratives. For example, in Quick-to-See Smith’s painting the viewer immediately recognizes that it is a map of the United States. But at closer look they may observe that not every state name is present and that the state borders are blurred under long drips of paint. According to Chaloupka, the artist only included state names that are from Indigenous sources. But while the painting certainly comments on colonization, it also reminds the viewer of the resiliency and survival of Indigenous people. 

    The “Conversations Between Collections: The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Whatcom Museum” exhibition is a unique opportunity to compare and reflect on the relationship between regional and national artworks while seeing them in person. Since visitors can not do that at this time, the Whatcom Museum offers two virtual tours by the art curator so that they can see the photographs of the exhibition and close-up images of some of the artworks that are included. In addition, the museum has a digital version of their Story Dome. Since the exhibition is about a sense of place, guests are invited to share a story, poem, or song about their sense of place based on prompts provided by the museum. Since everyone’s routines have been disrupted, it may be consoling to reflect on our favorite places or how we connect to our current landscape. In the end, I encourage you to check out the museum’s website for additional information and resources connected to the exhibition while we all wait to see these masterpieces in person once again.  


    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    “Conversations Between Collections: The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Whatcom Museum” is on view through January 3 at the Lightcatcher Building of the Whatcom Museum, located at 250 Flora Street in Bellingham, Washington. The museum is due to open during the Phase 3 of the Governor’s Safe Start Plan. For more information, visit

  • Saturday, August 01, 2020 1:08 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    We could all use a little guardian right now. Someone (or something) that exists without our acknowledgment that would protect and guide us through these uncertain times. Or maybe we need something in the form of a spiritual message from beyond, our ancestors  telling us to stay grounded because survival is both mandatory and attainable. Being hit with the double whammy of a pandemic and a social uprising is overwhelming but it doesn’t mean this is the death of resilience. What it does mean is that we need to be more resourceful at coping.

    Art is a healing and tangible source of comfort. It can be spiritual, religious, or magical and sometimes it’s a combination of all three. If you feel like you need a personal journey of reflection and healing, I strongly recommend you visit George Rodriguez’s show, “Urban Guardian,” at Foster/White gallery.

    A native of El Paso, Texas, Rodriguez celebrates his personal cultural background while pulling inspiration from many others. The “Urban Guardian” collection includes clay statues, vases, masks, headless bodies (or bodiless heads), that seamlessly combine Latino folklore, Greek mythology, and Italian architecture. An earlier example of this blending is from his “Lunar Vessel” group (not in this show) of clay animal-head vases that seem to be inspired by the Chinese zodiac with a Latino twist.

    The brilliance of Rodriguez’s work is in the humor that lives just below the surface. But before you notice that, you have to combat a strange nagging feeling that there is something a little off or a bit dark about these guardians. Looking at some of headless statues that stand a little under two feet tall might give you the feeling that if you glanced away, they would quickly scramble or scuttle to follow you home. Or find a million ways to change places with your shadow.  

    There are more heads in the collection than there are bodies, which creates a choose-your-own-adventure feeling, giving you the freedom to combine the parts in any way. What if the sphinx-inspired body was adorned with the head of the a woman who had bright red lips and a bonnet of flowers? Or what would it mean if you gave the skull head to the body of the monk/priest figure? Are you playing god? Would you be upsetting the spirits or would you get to be the trickster for once? 

    The storybook narrative continues in his piece “Seven Indulgences,” the largest in the show, standing about five feet tall. The ceramic vase is a 360° exploration that packs a tiny surprise. The faces that surround the top of the vase are gargoyles with stoic expressions and fangs. However, one gargoyle is very different. Peppered with wrinkles that collect around his eyes, along with some facial hair, there is no doubt that this is the face of a human. He’s not necessarily old, but he’s definitely someone who has seen a few things. The question is, how did he become part of this vase? What did he do to earn his place among the gargoyles? For that matter, how does anyone become art? 

    The dueling show stoppers of “Urban Guardian” are the rat and pigeon statues. Standing proudly, these two ceramic guardians have such a presence that when I first saw them, I found myself saying out loud, “Oh! Hello there!”

    Rats and pigeons reoccur a lot in Rodriguez’s work, probably because they are the epitome of literal urban guardians. They populate every city environment, stirring and lurking through the streets. Rats, living below ground, are the protectors of the cities that they secretly run, while pigeons are the gatekeepers and defenders of the sky and parks. 

    Since Rodriguez makes these two usually discredited creatures the center of his show, it makes me wonder if he wants us to have a different understanding of these animals. What if we thought of them not as disgusting or diseased vermin, but as the preservers and gatekeepers of the surroundings we call home? 

    One thing that’s not open to interpretation in George Rodriguez’s work is his attention to the details that go into each piece. Details so compelling that you can’t help but make up stories as you look at them. I wonder if the badge on the pigeon’s shoulder was awarded for its bravery. Or what has that head called “Ghost” seen that inspired the shocked expression on its face? Rodriguez knows, and he’s not saying. But that slight smirk behind all their eyes also invites you to calm your curiosity and let the spirit of his work guide you to a better place.

    All good artists tuck a little piece of themselves somewhere in their work. Rodriguez’s soft spot seems to be the eyes. Whether it’s the eyes of the devil that seem to track you from across the room or the stare of the wee man that appears fixated on a spot in front of him, their frozen but oddly animated faces all seem to express the quality of someone who is lost in thought or was recently interrupted in the middle of a sentence. And if you listen close enough you might be able to hear the words resting on their lips.

    Rose McAleese

    Rose McAleese is a writer, poet, and screenwriter born in Seattle. Currently living in Los Angeles because she figured what that city needed was one more writer.

    “Urban Guardians” is on view August 6 through August 22 at the Foster/White Gallery, located at 220 Third Avenue South in Seattle, Washington. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. For more information, visit

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