<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 
  • Saturday, June 29, 2024 11:41 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    In the midst of mid-century modernism in the United States, the organization Northwest Designer Craftartists (formerly Northwest Designer Craftsmen) was founded by a group of Seattle artisans dedicated to supporting and promoting the rich tradition of craft in the region. Through August 24th, the organization is exhibiting a major show at the Schack Art Center in Everett, Washington. The exhibit includes the work of nearly 100 artists based in the Pacific Northwest,juried by art professionals Carol Sauvionand Sarah Traver. In addition to theshow, the Schack Art Center and NWDCare hosting masterclasses by artistsGeorge Rodriguez and Lisa Telford for both members and the general public.

    There has been a kind of divide between “Art” and “Craft” for centuries that was amplified in the mid-twentieth century. When asked about the importance of craft, NWDC Executive Director Daniel Wallace replied, “Viewers appreciate handmade objects that are made directly with one human’s hand. There is also an appreciation for the slowness of the process. Sometimes it takes an artist a year or more to complete a work.” This is true for the works in the exhibition NWCraft24 at the Schack; it is a critical survey of the status of craft in the United States. By featuring both members of the NWDC and guest artists, the organization reinforces its commitment to dialogue about the genre amongst each other and also the public. Artists and the general public can learn much from the experienced artisans in the show. Wallace continued to say that “our membership has a life-time of experience and have been working in their method for 40+ years. The objects speak to that and are connected to the individual maker.” The over 100 objects in the show speak to that level of artistic mastery and lived experience.

    Visitors to the show experience work by beloved craftartists of the region, including, but not limited to, DickWeiss, Tip Toland, Crista Van Slyck Matteson, Lanny Bergner, NaokoMorisawa, Patti Warashina, and many more. It is important to point out that art appreciators can see Warashina’s workat both the Schack Art Center andthe Seattle Art Museum this summer, which is delightful! All of the work in the show demonstrates the creator’sexperience in the material. For example,Dorothy McGuinness’ “Variations ona Theme 5” contains watercolor paper,acrylic paint, and waxed linen thread. McGuinness challenges the shapes that exist in traditional basket forms, andexpands on this craft through materials and techniques. The resulting objects areconstructed with hundreds of pieces of paper woven in unexpected ways.

    The materials on display in the show are vast, which is fitting for a region with a long history of craft that is inspired by so many sources. Ceramics, glass, jewelry, stoneware, wood, silk, and more can be found in NWCraft24. The dialogue between the traditional and contemporary methods are witnessed in many works, but perhaps best illustrated in Ellen Ramsey’s tapestry. Ramsey’s “Portal to the Metaverse” measures 77 x 68 inches and connects the artist’s experience with the loom and an interest in bridging those techniques with themes of consumption and technology. Whether the artists are using solely their hands or bringing in an outside, technological instrument (such as Ramsey’s use of generative software) the time and technical commitment is evident. 

    The NWDC was founded in 1954 and was solely managed by dedicated volunteers until 2022 when the organization hired Daniel Wallace as the first Executive Director. Under Wallace’s leadership, the organization continues to acknowledge their commitment to supporting members and educating the broader community about the importance of craft in their region. According to Wallace, “It is important that people know the history of this organization that has been a hidden gem while also having an enormous impact on the region.” The exhibition and accompanying programs provide a thorough education in the field of craft, and by visiting the show viewers are supporting an organization and dozens of artists who are truly committed to perfecting and evolving their craft. Art and craft alike continue to evolve; by recognizing a technique’s past these artisans are able to bring their work into the present in new and surprising ways.

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    “NWCraft24” is on display through August 24 at Schack Art Center, located at2921 Hoyt Avenue in Everett, Washington.Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Be sure to check the Schack Art Center website,, for more information about programming surrounding the exhibit.

  • Saturday, June 29, 2024 11:11 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Approaching Mary Ann Peters’ provocative exhibit, the edge becomes the center, we first encounter “the impossible monument (gilded)” filling an entire wall. Screening set in a large gold frame obscures the interior, we only have a partial view of details as we move in front of the work. What we can decipher are keys, keyhole plates, and ribbons along with laminated survival blankets. Peters refers to the act of “glazing over groups who are domestically unmoored, covering their full stories with a patina of incomplete explanations, particularly in conflict zones. The telling of the experience is gilded, defusing responsibility.” She invokes home with her choice of material. As we gaze at the keys we think particularly of the Palestinians holding the keys to their homes after 75 years. But the key as an icon of a lost home can also be a universal symbol. 

    Near the large “monument” hangs an empty oval frame invoking a lost ancestor. The absences in Peters’ work are as crucial as what we see, our inclination is to fill in the gaps with our own personal experiences. Her work reaches us by what we cannot see as much as the physical materials that we do see. 

    The ten large abstract paintings collectively titled “this trembling turf” again suggest missing and hidden histories. As we look closely at these paintings, we dive into a mysterious world of suggested images that pulse and disappear. It feels like we are being tossed in a turbulent sea or churning earth.

    They were inspired by Peters’ visit to the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut which houses 600,000 photographs, all archival images created since the turn of the twentieth century. The artist accidentally found photographs of unidentified mass graves lying underneath an upscale golf course.  As seen in the “impossible monument” work here and other earlier examples, the artist has long been interested in creating monuments to forgotten histories.

    Each “trembling turf” has thousands of small and even tiny strokes, created with a white pigment pen on a black surface. Each painting has a distinct stroke, that builds into swelling shapes. The artist said that the titles of the work emerged from creating it, as for example, “the waters” or “the surge.”

    Mary Ann Peters is a second-generation Lebanese American, who has focused for almost forty years on histories that are not told, of marginalized events, people, and places. Her work is particularly timely at this historical moment, as marginalized histories are being exposed in the Middle East and Ukraine, and decolonization of history is ever more prominent.

    But these drawings are inspired by new archeological forensic techniques which give far more detail than the early photographs. On the other hand, the interpretation of these mass graves is also disputed, although prominent historians have confirmed them. We are not given information on a particular historical moment that led to this mass grave (there are certainly a lot of possibilities in Lebanon). The point for the artist is that this could be anywhere, really (think of the recently-discovered graves at Indian Boarding Schools using the same forensic technique). Her purpose is not to be specific, but to suggest that the acts of obliteration are worldwide. 


    We can examine each of these works for a long time. The earliest, from 2016, with no subtitle, suggests the pulse of a heart monitor, with its thrusting verticals at its center. The waters give us no rest, as we feel deep beneath the heaving sea, moving in all directions, its swirls seeming to coalesce into an image, but then slip away. The work is suffocating, it suggests the sense of inescapable movement, the feeling of no base to stand on, much like people who migrate across water, many of whom drown. The surge is equally turbulent but provides an escape in a black sky above. Several others have a focal point that emerged as the artist works, as in “the oasis,” “the burst,” and particularly “the hollow” with its large black center.

    The artist has not shown this entire series together before, many of them are owned by collectors or organizations like the Seattle Convention Center. The ten works interact and immerse us in a world of unknown parameters, which is exactly what people experience as they lose their homes, migrate, or whose stories are forgotten by history. 

    Be sure to allow time to plunge into these swirling churning paintings.

    Susan Noyes Platt 

    Susan Noyes Platt writes for local, national, and international publications and her website is

    “the edge becomes the center” is on view through January 5, 2025, at the Frye Art Museum, located at 704 Terry Avenue in Seattle, Washington. Hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For further information, visit

  • Saturday, June 29, 2024 10:31 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Any showing of new work by printmaker Wendy Orville is a special event for her many collectors and followers. But this summer’s show seems especially auspicious: after years with the Davidson Galleries, Orville has joined the fine roster of artists at the Harris/Harvey Gallery. Her first solo exhibit at this new space is a showing of recent monotypes that explore a new thematic direction in her work, as alluded to in the show title, Seeing Trees.

    It’s true that we’ve been seeing trees in Orville’s prints throughout her career–some of her most emblematic images feature a tree or two. But note the plural form in the show title: It reflects the artist’s shift from observing a tree in isolation to considering forests and other large gatherings of trees. 

    She is drawn to windswept coastal conifers like those at Point Wilson in Port Townsend, and riparian woodlands like those at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge.  But she also finds inspiration in a docile suburban park, past the swing sets and pickleballers. Wherever there’s a grove or stand or forest of trees, she’s there to explore its potential for image making.

    People tend to mistake Orville’s monotypes for black-and-white photography; closer inspection shows how painterly they are, how unfussy and free. The artist earned a Masters of Fine Art in painting, then dallied with printmaking some time later, and was soon wholly absorbed by the process. Her lack of formal training in the art form helps to account for the originality of her monotypes. 

    Orville sketches with dark charcoal to work out her compositions. The real magic occurs in the translation to ink. It’s here that those “photographic” details emerge, often by removing ink from the printing plate with rags, squeegees, and Q-tips. These marks convince you that sunlight is spilling on underbrush, or glinting off ripples on a peaceful bay. Her graceful tonal blends capture subtle changes in shade or vegetation, and convey distance and atmospheric phenomena. In twilight works like “Winter Forest No. 2” you can see and almost feel the mist rolling in through the thicket. 

    Ambiguity and mystery, spontaneity and surprise are always in play. In “Port Gamble Grove” and “Forest Edge, Port Gamble,” she lifts ink from the mass of black woods in a series of quick vertical strokes—tree trunks in the forest. The more forceful strokes read as trees on the sunlit perimeter, while more tenuous strokes define trees in the shadowy interior. This addition (achieved by subtraction) gives realistic spatial depth to the woods, and it enriches the emotional landscape—the dark forest as a primal motif, a place of fear, a place to be drawn to. 

    In terms of visual energy and rhythm, these same quick strokes in the woods establish a strong pulse moving horizontally across the plane. Maybe it’s this motion that gives those high-altitude clouds their sense of expansive silent stillness. In “Port Gamble Grove” the strokes march gently downwards to suggest the underlying landform. You may not notice at first that one stroke is diagonal, to render a tree at a tilt, as if weakened by a wind gust. This touch adds subtle drama to the scene without calling attention to itself. Nothing ever seems too showy or forced in Orville’s work; secretive details patiently await their discovery.

    Certain prints in Seeing Trees seem to bend the norms established in Orville’s earlier work. “Battle Point, Flooded” is twice as wide as it is tall, a departure from the squarer format the artist prefers. But that wide horizon supports the disorienting scene—a flat parkland overtaken by floodwaters. Water standing everywhere mirrors the bright sky so that we are flooded with light as well as with water. Basic distinctions are dissolved—where has the ground gone? Where does the water end and sky begin? The park itself seems astonished at its predicament. But if the flood is the antagonist here, we have a protagonist in the row of old maples. Planted on a berm that lifts them just above the waterline, the trees stand tall over standing water, images of stability in one respect and of fragility in another.

    One more piece in Seeing Trees stands slightly apart from previous work, “Grand Forest.” Here the viewer does not look out toward the scene, but looks up from the forest floor into the surrounding crowns of trees that tower overhead. Trunks and branches huddle in from all four sides of the frame, nearly blocking out sky—an unexpected move for Orville, who exults in space and light. The sense of enclosure and restless energy strays from her customary voice. Some will see and feel something joyous here, I’m sure—Orville allows that her prints are often seen as “cheerfully moody.” But I’m left unsettled by “Grand Forest.” I feel that I am no longer gazing at the forest, but that I am occupying it, and the forest is looking at me. (OK, trees seeing? Maybe I need to get out more.)

    Orville seems vexed that it took so many years of living in the Pacific Northwest to see that the woods are a compelling subject. (She was busy with other fascinations—skies and cloudscapes, coastal wetlands, animals.) The wait was worth it. Her best monotypes feel strangely like one’s own personal memories. The thought is never “I want to go to there,” but more like “Yes, I’ve been there, wherever it is. I was there and it was sweet like that, and I felt very alive in that place.”

    Tom McDonald

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

    “Seeing Trees” is on view from August 1 through August 31 at Harris/Harvey Gallery, located at 1915 First Avenue in Seattle, Washington.  Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, please visit

  • Tuesday, April 30, 2024 12:49 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Art Blooms in Skagit Valley

    i.e and Smith & Vallee Gallery • Edison, Washington

    While crowds flock to the Skagit Valley throughout April to witness the beautiful tulip blooms, May is quickly proving to be another excellent time to visit the area. Edison continues to be a favorite for both locals and visitors with its excellent food and drink options, home goods shopping (including a newish bookstore), and beloved art galleries. The two staple art venues continue to be Smith & Vallee Gallery and i.e. Both galleries exhibit primarily the work of local artists but the artistic styles of their gallery directors can range greatly from traditional landscape painting to sculptural assemblages to ceramics. In short, a visit to the small town of Edison can quickly fill the day of both foodies and art lovers alike.

    i.e. gallery typically exhibits one-person shows that can include both 2D and 3D artworks in their one-room space in the historic Edison Eye Building. However, May is a departure from their usual program. The gallery exhibits photographs by David Hall, an artist that the gallery represents, in addition to artwork on loan from Stonington Gallery in Seattle by Indigenous artists based in the Pacific Northwest. The show is titled “Reflections on Northwest Coast Formline” and it includes Hall’s series titled “Shoreline Reflections” and the work of numerous Indigenous artists including Susan Point, Preston Singletary, Kevin Paul, Rande Cook, and many more. The impetus of the exhibition began when Hall was photographing the water along the shore of Ross Lake, and he began to notice a similarity between the curves of the water and the shapes included in the iconic formline imagery. The comparison between the artworks provokes discussion about the origin of this imagery and its continued utilization in the present day.

    It is important to note the significant work that is included in the exhibition, especially Tom Hunt’s “Kwaguʼł Thunderbird” from 1999. There are several artists based on Vancouver Island in the exhibit, and Hunt’s work is a key example of the master carver’s skill and artistic perspective. Another artist to note is Kevin Paul, also a master carver whose recently completed totem can be seen outside of the new La Conner Swinomish Library. Bringing all of these artists and their work together in conversation with David Hall’s photographs is quite the achievement, and visitors benefit greatly by learning more about formline along with the opportunity to experience many excellent examples in person. If you do visit i.e., please note that the beloved Tweets Café is right next door. But be sure to bring cash so that you can purchase one of their delectable baked goods.

    A short way down the road from i.e. is Smith & Vallee Gallery. The gallery director and curators often exhibit the work of two artists during their month-long shows in the historic school house, and May is no different. Local painter Lisa McShane continues to transfix viewers with her sweeping vistas of the surrounding landscape, as the reader can see in her painting titled, “Blanchard Mountain at Dusk.” McShane shows with ceramicist Brian O’Neill who meticulously forms his vessels and pays extra attention to their surfaces. The gallery is comprised of one large room with a smaller gallery space in the back of the building. This space provides the gallery the opportunity to work with artists not on their roster, and in May they feature work by Perri Lynch Howard. Howard reflects on the landscape and includes a series of lines that emanate from various points in the picture plane. The artist refers to these as “frequencies” and writes in their artist statement that the sounds of a place transferred into a visual manifestation bring the viewer closer to their natural environment.

    In summary, May brings artists from across the Pacific Northwest to the small, yet vibrant, town of Edison in the Skagit Valley. The themes range greatly and provide a rich, substantial viewing and learning experience for even the most frequent gallery visitor. If you do decide to visit and want to see even more artwork, continue to La Conner to see the Museum of Northwest Art’s exhibits, peruse the art galleries on South First Street in downtown Mount Vernon, or head to Camano Island for its 25th Annual Camano Island Studio Tour from May 10-12 and 18-19.

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    “Reflections on Northwest Coast Formline” is on view Friday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., May 3 through June 3, at i.e., located at 5800 Cains Court in Edison, Washington. Visit for more information.

    Until May 26, Thursday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., view exhibitions by Lisa McShane, Brian O’Neill, and Perri Lynch Howard at Smith & Vallee Gallery, located at 5742 Gilkey Avenue in Edison, Washington. For further information, visit

  • Tuesday, April 30, 2024 12:26 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    Henry Art Gallery • Seattle, Washington

    Hank Willis Thomas plays tricks on us in order to see racism before our very eyes. The artist began his tour of “LOVERULES” with “An All Colored Cast,” a painting that looks like bright squares of minimalist color. But when we took a flash photo of it, we suddenly saw that each square had a portrait of a famous Black actor, singer, or performer. Thomas is pointing out that no matter how famous Black performers are they are still much less visible than white performers. To underscore this, there was no list identifying the performers.

    Another theme is sports. Near the door of the Henry Art Gallery a ten-foot tall shiny steel arm spinning a basketball looms over us. The title is “Liberty (reflection).” We can immediately see the irony in the celebration of this glorious arm. It echoes the Statue of Liberty and its torch; so does basketball lead to equality and freedom as promised by the statue? Hank Willis Thomas wakes us up to the truth starring us in the face, that there is no equality and freedom through sports or other means promoted to Black people to escape racism.

    A partner piece to this large arm is “Endless Column,” in the main gallery: a stack of dark blue fiberglass basketballs with a shiny finish directly imitates Brancusi’s original “Endless Column,” a monument to soldiers who died in World War I defending their town against German forces. In this case, by using the same title, Thomas suggests an homage to individuals and sports players, but with a dark edge that echoes that Brancusi homage. 

    An homage to people killed by gun violence, “20,923 (2021)” puts a white star embroidered on a blue flag, drapedon the ground—one star for every personmurdered by guns in the U.S. in 2021. The numbers are staggering, indicated by the title, exceeding deaths in foreign wars.

    As a result of the death of his cousin and close friend in a vigilante attack in 2000, apparently to take a gold necklace, Thomas has pursued the theme of the grotesque stereotypes and racist lies contained in commercial advertising images. He found it obscene that the murder occurred basically to obtain a commodity. The role of advertising in creating status had become a deadly promise. 

    Included are two series of photographs called “UnBranded,” one with the subtitle “Reflections in Black by Corporate America,” the other subtitled “A Century of White Women.” Thomas removes the text from the advertising images and gives his own titles to the work.In the case of “Reflections in Black by Corporate America,” one example is “Farewell Uncle Tom, 1971/2007.” It shows a Black couple wearing clothing and hairstyles popular at the time,one smoking a cigarette; the image suggests the contradiction of the effort to be in touch with the 1970s and its glamorization of cigarette smoking.

    In “A Century of White Women” (which fills a large gallery) we see women in suggestive poses dating from 1915 to 2015. All of them are rife with sexual puns or explicit racial hierarchies. The artist declares that women are being consumed by this advertising, made into objects and exploited. The advertisements targeting Black audiences rely on the super-beautiful and the cliché. 

    A third category of work plays with our racism using words: “Pitch Blackness Off Whiteness” is a neon sign that flashes alternately on these four words plus “ness” to create combinations as it flashes, such as “Pitch Black” and “Off White”—color speaking to the subtleties of color beyond a binary. 

    Words and images stray into violence in the “Absolut” series, such as the silhouette of the bottle as the “Door of No Return” through which enslaved people were forcibly sent to America, or such as “Absolut Reality,” in which a murdered Black man lies on the sidewalk, his blood in the shape of the bottle.

    Hank Willis Thomas strips the pretense from American society. His work reveals the racism and sexism ingrained in our culture through advertising and language. He creates art that leads us to activism, both in our own lives, by rethinking clichés of racism and its violence, and in public, though resistance to the suffocating pressure of cultural norms. The images he finds are so potent that we can’t help but be inspired to fight for change. It is remarkable that this confrontational exhibition comes from one individual private collector.

    Susan Noyes Platt 

    Susan Noyes Platt writes for local, national, and international publications and her website,

    “LOVERULES” is on view through August 4, at the Henry Art Gallery, located at 15th Avenue NE & NE 41st Street. Hours are Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5p.m. For further information, visit

  • Monday, April 29, 2024 11:46 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    On the front door of Peter Miller Books in Pioneer Square is a sign:



    The message is direct, stylish, and polite—not unlike the shopkeeper, Peter Miller, who will have a bright welcome for you as you enter. The sign suggests that the space you are entering is a kind of respite.

    Step inside. Books are everywhere. Mostly about art, design, and architecture. Big thick tomes from prestige publishers like Phaidon, Taschen, and Rizzoli. Softcover books from small presses. Books on typography, books on color, books on flowers and gardens. Books on landscape design, interior design, graphic design, urban-, industrial-, and information design. Books about writing, books about books.

    But not only books. You find fountain pens and mechanical pencils. Sketch pads and journals, briefcases and shoulder bags. There are lights and lamps to purchase, and then to read by, or to work under. Unexpected themes emerge—one of them is Time: there are stylish clocks and watches, and on every wall a fetching wall calendar.

    Speaking of walls, admire the shop’s brickwork for a minute, and the thick cedar timber beams above—feel the solidity and presence of the shop itself. Everything has been considered. Hear the symphonic music playing—it emanates from a compact Tivoli radio—Miller keeps various colors in stock. And now, turning the corner, the next theme: cooking utensils and dish towels, espresso makers, juicers, pepper grinders.

    If you have questions at this point, the place to find answers is in Shopkeeping, a new book written by Peter Miller, publication date May 7th.

    The book is not a manual, or a how-to. It’s more of a why-to. But it describes how the 44-year-old shop came to be, and came to be curated in this curious way. It answers the question of how Peter Miller Books became the iconic place that it is—with supporters and patrons the world over—despite missteps, despite relocations in the face of rising rents and other pressures. How does a store become more than a store but a touchstone for a thriving creative community?

    Seattle had little going for it, architecturally speaking, when Miller settled here in the early 1970s; the region’s economy was in decline (Boeing layoffs). What was he thinking? And yet five decades later Seattle has an embarrassment of architectural riches. Buildings by Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Steven Holl (among other luminaries); it has Olympic Sculpture Park, renowned for its transformation of urban space as much as for its artworks by Louise Bourgeois, Richard Serra, and more. But Seattle also gave rise to Costco and to Amazon with its One-Click buying and same-day deliveries. Those developments spelled death for any number of small shops, and drained the vitality and sense of purpose from the core of small towns everywhere. There’s a reason why Miller carries four different editions of The Life and Death of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs. And a reason for adding one more book to the shelves with Shopkeeping.

    Jacobs, Walter Benjamin, and other thinkers have written about the vital role that small shops play in creating a vibrant city. But until now we’ve not heard from actual shopkeepers. Theory is great, case studies wonderful, but what is it like, in practice, to keep a shop running so well and for so long?

    You don’t need to or want to run a store to relate to Miller’s tale. Your spirits will sink when you read about the shop getting broken into, or the time it flooded. And you will exult at that moment when a customer orders one copy of every book in the shop, for a design school starting up in Japan. (That one transaction turned a bleak sales season into a rosy one.) The advice in Shopkeeping seems applicable to anyone pursuing any creative pursuit that is their own. “It is the great difficulty of running a shop—the fragility of your own confidence and optimism. You are the steward of an invented form, and it is your huff and puff that gives it life.”

    To run a small shop day in and day out doesn’t exclude travel, and Shopkeeping is in some ways a travelogue. We have scenes from Belltown, Pioneer Square, Bozeman, Milan, Copenhagen, and Sydney, Australia (where Miller finds a “very brave” food shop). Magic and serendipity are necessary tools in the shopkeeper’s kit, but you never know where the magic will happen: one of Miller’s best finds, a treasure trove of architecture books, fell into his hands in Anacortes, Washington. Same with customers: someone browsing the store may exit without saying a word, or they may buy one of everything, or turn out to be Rem Koolhaas. Many items in the shop are well-travelled too. Miller likes to share their backstories—I enjoyed the mini-history of calendars in Italy, the inside scoop on the drama behind graphite pencils. Every item has a story, and every shopper. But the book’s main protagonist is always the shop itself.

    Shopkeeping is thoughtfully put together, full of surprises, a joy to read. Miller’s a uniquely gifted writer. Colleen Miller’s charming illustrations bring space and light to the text. 

    As architects like to say, “Only common things happen when common sense prevails.” Peter Miller Books is no common shop, and Shopkeeping is no common book.

    Tom McDonald

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

    Peter Miller Books located at 304 Alaskan Way South, between South Jackson and South Main Street in Post Alley, in Seattle, Washington, is holding a book launch on Wednesday, May 8, 4-6:30 p.m. Visit for more information.

  • Saturday, February 24, 2024 1:34 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Silva Cascadia: Under the Spell of the Forest

    Museum of Northwest Art • La Conner, Washington

    Forests and the trees that populate them are the inspiration for generations of artists across the world. In “Silva Cascadia: Under the Spell of the Forest,” curator Kathleen Garrett and the twelve artists included in the show explore the various perspectives provided by the forest. Garrett summarizes these views as aesthetic, forensic, metaphorical, and ecological. In summary, the exhibition offers both a holistic and in-depth view of how we are impacted by the forest and the lessons humanity can glean from how trees live (and die). The exhibition is specific to the Pacific Northwest, as the title tells us, but its lessons carry over to forests across the world. However, the show is uniquely rooted in the ecology of this region, as are the artists included. Through their observations, research, and experiences, each of the artists illustrate many of the quiet moments of reflection spent in these environments.

    “Silva Cascadia” includes the work of twelve female artists: Maria Cristalli, Linda Davidson, Kathleen Faulkner, Patty Haller, Laura Hamje, Hart James, Claire Johnson, Donna Leavitt, Karen Lené Rudd, Juliet Shen, Kimberly Trowbridge, and Suze Woolf. The show is expertly organized by Kathleen Garrett, a long-standing and beloved curator based in the Pacific Northwest. The show exhibits the hallmarks of Garrett’s curatorial body of work: a thoughtfully considered and researched exhibition filled with artwork that speaks to the curator’s experience as a researcher and writer of art. It is thrilling to see an exhibition curated by Garrett at MoNA (she was their curator in the past) as she expertly and confidently guides the visitor through aesthetic, forensic, metaphorical, and ecological comparisons and contrasts. Hopefully this is the start of even more exhibitions curated by this long-standing Northwest curator.

    All of the work in the exhibit connects to the overall theme of the show and is beautiful from both an aesthetic and technical perspective. What is particularly fascinating are three facets of the exhibit: the choice of sculpture, the juxtaposition of living trees and those impacted by fire, and the metaphorical connection of the “Mother Tree.” First, let’s review the two sculptors included in the exhibition: Karen Lené Rudd and Maria Cristalli. Rudd utilizes the often discarded cardboard box to recreate tree stumps to comment on the over-consumption and deforestation of these living organisms. These cardboard constructions are exhibited alongside Cristalli’s forged steel sculptures. There is something poetic and symbolic about the juxtaposition of a cardboard sculpture of a tree stump with a steel sculpture forged in fire and heat. In fact, one of Cristalli’s sculptures is titled “History of Fire.” Using exhibition design and dramatic lighting, Garrett calls our attention to the themes of construction, fire, and regeneration.

    The exhibition comments on fire and trees again through more representational methods in Suze Woolf’s detailed documentation of trees damaged by wildfire. Utilizing varnished watercolor on torn paper mounted on wood, Woolf captures the impacted forests with incredible precision while also highlighting their ghostly beauty using color and shadow. These artworks are often in the same field of vision as Patty Haller, Hart James, and Laura Hamje’s luscious paintings that explore the layers of the forest in varying degrees of abstraction. James almost cuts through the layers to reveal the inner workings of the vegetation, while Hamje provides the viewer with a perspective from the forest floor through the canopy of the trees above. As living organisms, dead from fire, or somewhere in between, these majestic figures of the forests continue to tell both a cautionary tale and a lesson of beauty.

    Another through-line in the exhibition is humanizing the tree and making connections to the concept of a “Mother Tree.” The gallery guide examines this metaphorical perspective quite well and articulates that the “Mother Tree” is often the largest tree in the forest with a vast network of fungi that is used to communicate with the surrounding trees so they can pass critical resources and information throughout the forest. According to the guide, this concept is central to Suzanne Simard’s research and her on-going project titled “The Mother Tree Project.” These trees are strong, old, and critical for a healthy forest to flourish. Fittingly, museum guests are greeted by three such trees in Kimberly Trowbridge’s large  paintings near the entrance of the exhibition. In her statement for the show, Trowbridge states that “trees epitomize the great lessons of figure-ground: how to embody self while also dissolving the boundaries between self and environment.” For the purposes of the metaphors within the “Mother Tree” concept, these trees extend beyond themselves to provide enrichment, comfort, and support to those around them. Similarly, Kathleen Faulkner writes that “the tree community is always available to protect, warn, feed, and heal its family. Trees understand the concept of teamwork.” Perhaps this is the most important lesson from the exhibition.

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    “Silva Cascadia: Under the Spell of the Forest” is on view through May 12, at the Museum of Northwest Art, located at 121 South First Street. Museum hours are Sunday and Monday from 12 to 5 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. For further information, visit

  • Saturday, February 24, 2024 12:55 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Saya Moriyasu: Ozekitachi - Stone Tails

    J. Rinehart Gallery in Seattle, Washington

    In Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall Kimmerer’s momentous book on botany and the indigenous relationship to the natural world, the author describes her difficulty learning a Native American language; there were no nouns for bodies of water: no “bay”— only a verb meaning “to be a bay.” In her struggle, she reaches epiphany: for indigenous people, water is a living being, not an object; it may decide to be a bay, or a river, or an ocean, but it maintains its identity as water: as a living, spiritual presence with its own consciousness—and as humanity’s relative.

    There is a similar spirit at work in “Ozekitachi - Stone Tails,” Saya Moriyasu’s solo show of sumi paintings, ceramic sculptures, and small, hand-built clay figures at J. Rinehart Gallery. A Portland-raised artist with a Japanese father, Moriyasu is leaning into her heritage, into the indigenous Japanese Shinto religion, in which the spirits of nature are recognized and revered as they are in the spiritual traditions of the First People of the New World.

    For this latest work, Moriyasu was inspired by mineral springs encountered on the road trip to a New Mexico residency. She describes soaking in hot springs, feeling “enveloped in the wordless communication of the waters,” in the “presence of deities of the depth.” She sought to express, in ink and clay, those spirits and named her creations Onsen (“hot spring”) creatures. In Moriyasu’s conception, as they encounter human presence, the Onsen creatures awaken, rising to the surface and communicating through minerals exuded through their eyes and mouths.

    Moriyasu is concerned about our relationship to the earth; she uses a green process of creating art: rainwater and solar-powered kilns, hybrid car, and eating low on the food chain. Using earth-sourced clay, she lets her hands find where faces hide. Hand-sized, her creatures invite touch. She leaves them lumpen, Caliban-like, some little more than piles of sediment with pareidolic suggestions of a face. “Blue Kappa Is Watching” is a seaweed-covered lump of mud with two large staring eye-spots; a Sumo-loving, reptilian water spirit, the kappa becomes lethal when not respected.

    Some of Moriyasu’s creatures take their names from geologic formations. Her “Meromixis” Onsen creatures are named for a type of deep lake whose temperature differential at different depths prevents complete mixing, causing stratification of the water. Glazed black on the bottom like the primal slime they emerge from, the white porcelain-slip tops gape comically like a kindergartener’s clay ghosts, green puddling in their eyes, spilling as drool from their mouths.

    Larger than most, “Geode Rises from Stomatolite” references a mysterious, tube-shaped, layered, sediment formation that has provided fossils of the most ancient life on earth. Moriyasu’s creature hides a double identity: a green, frog-like face peers from the interior of the mouth—a hidden geode. Red kumihimo (Japanese braids used for samarai swords) streams from his eyes like tears.

    Moriyasu has designated her Onsen creatures Ozekitachi, members of the Ozeki, the second-highest rank in Sumo wrestling. Sumo has roots in the Shinto religion, originating as supplication and entertainment for the kami, the spirit deities of nature. Sumo also has its place in the Shinto creation story; through violent Sumo battles, the kami gained superiority over common humans and, through their battles, the earth with sun and moon was formed.

    Many of her creatures do have the rotundity and sweetness of modern Sumo wrestlers. Like Sumo, they seem playful, yet hint of power and strength. (“Yokozuna Onsen,” his title designating him as a grand master of Sumo, rises above the slime, amphibious features exuding dignity and evaluation.) And as we who live under the looming threat of the overdue “Big One” know, ancient geology is not to be taken lightly. Like the kami, nature has two faces: it can nurture, and it can destroy.

    Moriyasu tells us that “Ozeki” can be translated as “Tail of the Stone”—and hence the title of the show and also perhaps a pun: these are the tales that stones might tell, if stones could tell tales. And here they can and do, speaking of the ancient origins of life and an alternative relationship with the earth, reminders of our deep connection with the earth—and the earth’s powerful need for our respect and care.

    Elizabeth Bryant

    Elizabeth Bryant tutors English and writes about art.

    “Ozekitachi - Stone Tails” is on view through March 27 at J. Rinehart Gallery, located at 319 Third Avenue South in Seattle, Washington. The Opening Reception is on Thursday, March 7, 5-8 p.m. An Artist’s Talk is on Saturday, March 16, from 2 to 4 p.m. For more information, visit

<< First  < Prev   1   2   3   4   5   ...   Next >  Last >> 
2023 © Art Access 
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software