• Wednesday, November 06, 2019 7:51 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    On August 14, Ed Bereal woke to find a National Guardsman outside of his studio pointing a gun at him. It was 1965 in Los Angeles and the artist was living in the midst of the Watts Rebellion. Curator Amy Chaloupka titled this section of her essay describing the event as “An Awakening”. From that moment, Bereal’s artworks intensified and became even more pointed and critical. Building on his training and life experiences, his artworks continue to tackle corruption, corporate greed, commercialism, racism, and gun violence. By using characters prevalent in popular culture, from George W. Bush to the Joker, Bereal draws the viewer in by using startling imagery mixed with recognizable figures. The images are often astonishing, and will no doubt hurtle the viewer towards introspection and discussion. Layers of intricate drawings are sometimes superimposed with rough, found materials. In the end, Bereal constructs a poignant criticism and reflection of the challenging aspects of American history.

    “Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace” is the artist’s first solo museum retrospective. It is incredible that Bereal had never had a significant solo museum exhibition before this point. His work has been exhibited widely internationally at important art institutions like the Getty Museum and Centre Pompidou.

    This exhibit includes Bereal’s artworks from the last sixty years in all areas of his career, including collages, sketches,  photojournalism, sculptures, and videos of his theater work. It also includes the never-before-seen installation, “Exxon: The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” a forty-foot long piece with five “horsemen” created from assembled materials and projected light. The exhibition is impressive for several reasons. The scope and breadth of the artworks exhibited is the first of its kind. In addition, curator Amy Chaloupka expertly organized the exhibition so that a visitor who is new to Bereal’s work can move through his artistic career and many of the artworks have extended labels with more information. The museum does have a word of caution for visitors before they enter the exhibition, and the message states that the content may be emotionally charged for some visitors and that some artworks contain adult content.

    The exhibition is organized into several sections that represent the phases and evolution of his artistic career. At the entrance, the viewer encounters “Political Cartoons” which filled with logos, familiar faces from politics and popular culture, and sarcasm. It is in this section that Bereal’s use of dark humor and his talent for illustration really shine. There is a wall filled end to end with sketches from the 1980s through the present. Bereal studied at the Chouinard Art Institute in their advertising design program and the institute was known for training Disney illustrators, so it is not a surprise that Bereal’s drawing skills are excellent.

    After seeing the political cartoons and large-scale installations, the viewer is brought back twenty years Bereal’s early career when he was experimenting with drawing and assemblage artworks. This portion includes information about his involvement in the infamous War Babies exhibition Huysman Gallery in 1961, examples of his unique use of materials, symbols, and ephemera from the period.

    Significantly, it was also during these formative years that Bereal lived through the Watts Rebellion. The impact of that event is evident in his work. “America: A Mercy Killing” is a mixed-media kinetic sculpture that he made while writing a screenplay and the artwork was originally intended to be a model for the set.

    He continued his interest in performance while teaching at University of California, Riverside and University of California, Irvine. In 1968 he organized a group of twelve student actors into a group called Bodacious Buggerrilla to bring critical perspectives to their communities. For the following decades, Bereal continued to bring performance to the masses and later took his skills overseas as a photojournalist in the 1980s and 1990s. He continued to teach while on assignment outside the United States and sought to demonstrate how people could use photography and film as forms of activism.

    It was very wise to put a warning at the entrance to this exhibition. The images are powerful, at times disturbing, and often evoke an immediate response. As a caucasian, millennial woman, I came to this exhibit with ideas and experiences informed by my life and the world around me. I can’t imagine experiencing what Ed Bereal experienced. A t the end of the exhibition, there is a table with several chairs for people to reflect and discuss their thoughts on the show. Notebooks titled “I leave wanting to…”, “I am still thinking about…”, and “I want to have a conversation about…” are sitting on the table. My recommendation? Take the time to observe the details, maybe chuckle at some of the sarcasm, deliberate about the challenging images, and witness the strange in this show. I also recommend reading the essays in the corresponding catalog. The authors expertly provide context for the artworks and respectfully share Bereal’s story. The curator also gives gallery tours and Bereal has participated in several events at the museum.

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

    “Ed Bereal: Wanted for Disturbing the Peace” is on view through January 5 at the Whatcom Museum located at 250 Flora Street in Bellingham, Washington. Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 5 P.M. For more information,

  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 7:44 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

        i am dancing
        for my mother
        who carried me
        on her shoulders
        and made the earth

    Alan Chong Lau
    Alan Chong Lau is a poet and visual artist based in Seattle, Washington. He serves as Arts Editor for the International Examiner, a community newspaper. As a visual artist, he is represented by ArtXChange Gallery in Seattle, Washington.

    John Levy
    John Levy is a poet and photographer. His most recent book of poetry, “On Its Edge, Tilted,” published by oata in 2018 and some of his previous books of poetry have been published by First Intensity Press and The Elizabeth Press. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

    Alan Chong Lau and John Levy have just published their third volume of poetry and photograph collaboration with the online literary magazine,
    otata. To view more of their work, visit  

  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 7:34 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

        with nothing to hide
        i bunch up
        my turtleneck
        and spill
        out of my shell

        the hair
        on my head
        coiffed into
        a soft frizzy
        exclamation point
        of what i’m
        all about

    Alan Chong Lau
    Alan Chong Lau is a poet and visual artist based in Seattle, Washington. He serves as Arts Editor for the International Examiner, a community newspaper. As a visual artist, he is represented by ArtXChange Gallery in Seattle, Washington.

    John Levy
    John Levy is a poet and photographer. His most recent book of poetry, “On Its Edge, Tilted,” published by oata in 2018 and some of his previous books of poetry have been published by First Intensity Press and The Elizabeth Press. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

    Alan Chong Lau and John Levy have just published their third volume of poetry and photograph collaboration with the online literary magazine, otata. To view more of their work, visit  
  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 4:39 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Lyft Share, Yes Please

    Some of my worst days lately have been the ones that I thought driving across town was a good idea.

    So, I’ve decided to sell my car.

    And here’s why. Now that we have the Lyft share option, I can no longer justify owning a car in the city.

    Now, I’m not preaching the gospel of not owning a car; if I believed that, I’d have sold mine years ago. 

    One friend says that since I’m from New York, I’m more cut out for public transit. “But I’m from Seattle,” he said.

    “But Seattle is the most forward-thinking city about transportation,” I said.

    I don’t remember much else about that conversation, just that the real differences between us were highlighted in the collection of odd shaped mirrors above the bar at Tavolata where they’ve been brought to light before. Last time he said that my apartment reminds him of a bento box.  

    Granted, I live in Belltown, where parking is more of an issue. But the fact that I can ride to just about anywhere I need to go in the city for under five dollars if I’m willing to share feels like a gift.

    It is a gift. “Thank you!” I cried the first time I tapped the share option, as though I’d just unwrapped one.

    Many of my Lyft drivers have been surprisingly enlightening. My last was from Afghanistan. He wanted to know all about Velocity, the dance studio he was taking me to, because he loves to dance but under the Taliban he was not allowed to. He had a regal presence with brown hair and eyes and a white dress shirt. I wore workout sweats. But the rider we picked up was so covered with dog hair and what looked like dog slobber that this put a lid on my feeling frumpy-American.

    He was nice though.

    Our driver said he was grateful to be in this country. “I wish Americans had just helped us more, not invaded.” I found his comment refreshing. I no longer want to hear what journalists think Afghans think. I want to understand from Afghans what they think.

    Once he cleared that up, we talked about other things. Like the last mass shooting, though, sadly, I don’t even remember which one. He said—I’m paraphrasing, but only slightly—“he had so many rounds, that crazy shooter! He shot and shot! I really don’t think our forefathers had an AK-47 in mind when they thought about the right to bear arms. I don’t think they ever meant that.

    What really got me was the way he said, “our” forefathers. I mean every time our government pisses me off lately, I’m more than happy to call myself an Italian again.

    Not every ride is as interesting. One driver picked me up at the Fauntleroy Ferry and for the entire drive I was on the receiving end of a nonsensical monologue. Before driving off, he thanked me for the great conversation. “Is that what that was?” I said. And slammed the door.

    Yet, all of these people make me get up from my desk and look out the window at the street beneath my fifth floor window. And I think, that driver, in his grey Toyota Prius, who is he? 

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Mary Lou Sanelli, author, speaker, and dance teacher, lives in Seattle. Her forthcoming novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio (of Yucca Springs)” is to be published in September,  (Chatwin Books). Please join her at Village Books, in Bellingham, 7 P.M.; at Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, Saturday, October 12, 6 P.M.; at Watermark Book Company on Thursday, October 17, 6 P.M., on Bainbridge Island at Eagle Harbor Book Company on Sunday, October 20, 3 P.M.;  or at the Rose Theatre in Port Townsend, Sunday, October 27, 1 P.M. For more information, visit

  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 4:38 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    this girl

    from a vermeer painting

    sits on a bus 

    engrossed in words

    everything around her moves

    but she sits still

    in time

    the silence

    will tell 

    its own story

    Alan Chong Lau

    Alan Chong Lau is a poet and painter exhibiting his art locally at ArtXChange Gallery in Seattle, Washington. 

    Alan Chong Lau and John Levy have just published their third volume of poetry and photograph collaboration with the online literary magazine, otata. To view more of their work, visit  

  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 4:31 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    this crow

    taking flight

    its shadow

    a paper cut


    on this wall

    Alan Chong Lau

    Alan Chong Lau is a poet and painter exhibiting his art locally at ArtXChange Gallery in Seattle, Washington. 

    Alan Chong Lau and John Levy have just published their third volume of poetry and photograph collaboration with the online literary magazine, otata. To view more of their work, visit  

  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 4:29 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 4:14 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    From three galleries away the huge self portrait photograph of Zanele Muholi dominates the view. The mesmerizing image called “Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness,” gazes at us in a side wise glance. The giant mane of hair, a headdress of sheepskin, cascades and almost buries the small face. Keeping in mind that it is the male lion that has a mane, this lioness identifies as they. Their expression is hard to decipher. While the scale of the work suggests domination, the face is self contained and private. 

    This title image by South African artist Zanele Muholi prepares us for what is to come. Every single photograph is a self portrait, with the artist gazing fixedly and inescapably, sometimes directly at us. Opposite the “Lioness,” a mural sized reclining Muholi clutches plastic pillows against a background of stacks of newspapers. They are unavailable, gazing beyond us. Reclining Venus they are not. At the end of the adjacent hall, a “Statue of Liberty” Muholi, wearing a crown of foam loops, gazes skyward.  

    As we enter the Jacob Lawrence and Gwen Knight Gallery at the Seattle Art Museum, the full force of the gazes of the self portraits strikes us from all four walls. The first wall refers to colonialism, with a huge portrait sporting a (paper) ruff (from the packing for children’s toys) as in the era of Rembrandt and the occupation of Africa. On one long wall we start with plastic pollution, then move to enslavement, and service and exploitation. A few images turn away, some are personal, as in the self portrait honoring her sister, a gentle and proud Muholi wears a crown and necklace of rubber inner tubes that confer majesty. They are defiantly inverting the violent history of rubber in Africa, where the Belgian King Leopold ruthlessly killed thousands to satisfy his thirst for that “natural” product. Rubber appears repeatedly here as a garment, necklace, or headdress. 

    The props gathered in the street, and thrift stores, drastically alter the effect, transforming the same face from royal to ironic, but never oppressed. Defiance is the common theme. In one work, the artist dons a milk stool on their head, and tangled straw around their neck as a reference to farming. In others they blend into a rocky landscape or deep forest commenting on making visible the invisible black body. As a mask in the midst of African market kitsch the artist gives us the absurdity of tourist capitalism.

    Two videos provide background, speaking of the ten year project of documenting the victims of hate crimes against LGBTQIA South Africans,as well as photographing the dignity and beauty of Trans and Lesbians in over 500 portraits. They wanted to celebrate community and create respect.

    In 2012, their studio was ransacked and the perpetrator deliberately destroyed the hard drive of current work that had not yet been published or even printed. 

    It was then that Muholi turned to self portraiture, a painful act of exposure. These portraits are identified by and subtly connected to the location where they were taken, a wide ranging geography. But the artist stood in humble hotel rooms to stage the images. 

    Each work has a title in isiZulu, and English. Muholi (that word actually means Leader) confronts us with their occupation of our white space on their own terms. We come away with a feeling of uplift, humility, and awe, for their photographic prowess as well as their courage.

    Not far away on the same floor is the Betty Bowen award winner Natalie Ball (Modoc, Klamath). Ball is descended from the famous leader of the late nineteenth century Modoc resistance, Captain Jack. That heritage of warrior defiance is obvious here. Ball’s two pieces “You Mist, again (Rattle)” and “Re Run” make up the installation “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Snake.” The title tells you a lot, interrupting the familiar nursery rhyme about the stars with a snake that can be both threatening and magical. The installation is ironically (intentionally?) juxtaposed to a well-known work by Marsden Hartley in the adjacent American Art Gallery which borrows native American designs, a widespread practice in the early twentieth century (and still). In every detail of these complex collaged sculptures, Ball explores the collision of indigenous and white cultures as well as African American, also part of her heritage (note the bullet shells embedded in one of the works). But she is also celebrating indigenous vitality and incorporating trickster humor. 

    Rattlesnake skin appears as part of both works (although significantly identified simply as rattlesnake), a skin that a snake has shed, after it regrows another, a clear reference to the survival abilities of indigenous peoples, in spite of white man’s best efforts to obliterate them. The diamond patterned quilt suggests joy, but everything is off kilter. The cut up sports jerseys, letters, and logo disrupt any possible cliché of Native or African American culture, giving us instead a proud declaration of survival in the face of extreme pressure.

    Susan Noyes Platt

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

    “Zanele Muholi: Somnayama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness” is on view through November 3 and “Natalie Ball: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Snake” is on view through November 17. Both exhibits are at the Seattle Art Museum, located at 1300 First Avenue in Seattle, Washington. Museum hours are Friday through Monday from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. and Thursday from 10 A.M. to 9 P.M. For information, visit

  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 3:24 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    It’s common to hear Skagitonians refer to their home as “Magic Skagit.” For decades, well-known Northwest artists have been visiting or moving to the area in order to capture its light and landscape. Morris Graves, Guy Anderson, Philip McCracken, Richard Gilkey, and the infamous Fishtown group are just a few significant artists who chose to live in Skagit Valley. But another town in the valley is now making its mark on the Pacific Northwest art scene. You may have heard of the amazing food in Edison, Washington, but have you heard anything about the thriving art scene in this tiny town? As a lifelong Skagitonian myself, I have many fond memories of traveling to this small town to get cookies at the Breadfarm, but over the last few years I have been mostly drawn to the amazing art community. In order to get an insight to this unique place, I spoke to Margy Lavelle and Andrew Vallee, the directors and founders of i.e. gallery and Smith & Vallee Gallery respectively. 

    Margy Lavelle isn’t new to the Northwest art scene. She managed Mia Gallery in Seattle for five years in the 1980s and 1990s. As an artist herself, Margy often came up to Skagit Valley for inspiration. In our interview, she said:  “I used to drive up here with my kids on the weekend. I love the light, and I love the space. After the kids finished college and got settled…I moved up here to paint.” We also talked about Dana and Toni Ann Rust, who ran the Edison Eye Gallery in Edison and were significant patrons of the arts in Skagit Valley. The Edison Eye building had been sitting empty, and Margy started asking Toni Ann if she could curate art shows in the space. Eventually, Toni Ann gave in and Margy started the gallery with David Kane, another artist, in 2015. Now, Margy is the sole proprietor and the beautifully curated shows clearly exhibit her vision. 

    Margy has a clear vision for her gallery, and that is evident in the September and October shows. In September, i.e. gallery welcomes Drie Chapek. Chapek is an abstract painter who uses broad brushstrokes, thick paint, and a natural, yet colorful, palette. Margy reported that Chapek’s new work is more angular, contrary to her usually billowy paintings, and the colors more subdued. Juliana Heyne will fill the gallery in October with landscape paintings from her travels. Her pieces often include an element of collage, making them also textured in their own way. Both artists certainly contain “the hand” that Margy mentioned that she looks for when selecting artists for the gallery. 

    Right down the street, visitors can stop by another art gallery. Interestingly, Dana Rust and the Edison Eye also brought Andrew Vallee to Edison. After showing his artwork at the gallery, Rust kept inviting Valley back. One evening in 2006, he was walking down the street with his future wife and they saw that a historic schoolhouse was for sale. They put an offer on it the next day and Smith & Vallee Gallery was born. But the Smith & Vallee brand consists of more than an art gallery. Andrew Vallee and Wesley Smith also make furniture and cabinetry and have been in business since 1997.  Regardless of whether they are making cabinetry or selling artworks, the result is consistent. When asked about his vision for the gallery, Vallee responded that “Smith & Vallee has the highest standards with the artists we represent and the way we show their artwork, while fostering a friendly environment where everyone is welcome to enjoy the experience.” And that is clear the moment you walk in the door. 

    Smith & Vallee Gallery shows often consist of two artists. The September show features Andree Vallee and Patty Haller. It is interesting to note that both Vallee and Haller live in Skagit Valley. Vallee is showing his sculptures and Haller paints large-scale oil paintings of nature scenes. Texture is again a theme for the gallery’s October exhibition which includes Julia “Joules” Martin and Brian O’Neill. Martin paints landscapes in acrylic and is a newer artist to Smith & Vallee Gallery. O’Neill is a ceramicist, and both artists live in Whatcom County. 

    When I asked Vallee and Lavelle why they think people are drawn to Edison, their answers were relatively simple and consistent. Vallee believes it is because Edison is authentic. Everything is made locally, whether that food, wool sweaters, or art. Lavelle told me that the people in the area naturally live a “creative life.”  I encourage everyone reading to visit this town and stop in the restaurants, shops, and especially the art galleries. Beyond the two described in this article, a new gallery, Hadrian Art Gallery, opened recently and focuses on nature-inspired objects for everyday life. Come see for yourself what makes this place unique and why Skagitonians, myself included, refer to our valley as Magic Skagit.

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    These galleries are in Edison, Washington. i.e. gallery, located at 5800 Cains Court, is open Friday through Monday from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. For information, visit Smith & Vallee Gallery, located at 5742 Gilkey Avenue, is open daily 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. For information, visit  Hadrian Gallery, located at 5717 Gilkey Avenue, is open daily 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. 

  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 3:23 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Mostly in the open Charlie’s work

    went on rain and shine along hillsides

    the lay of the land back and forth

    only headed in for maintenance repairs

    where Evaleen would likely visit him


    in the barn bring her sewing sandwiches

    sit by him chat if he felt like or be still

    mend socks half a day while he figured

    how to adjust the chain drive then

    time the whirling combine head


    where the manual was none too clear

    and on the phone the dealer only said

    bring it in if Bud’s not too jammed

    at a hundred an hour he’ll maybe have a look

    but remember we close right at six


    so clearly stuck with fixing it himself

    Charlie would open up to her eventually

    explain how he thought the stupid thing

    was meant to work and what he thought

    should be adjusted round and round


    till something in them both would yawn

    at the lateness of the hour share a laugh

    that finally let in light enough

    to fix the cranky thing or blow a fuse

    and let the sudden darkness rescue them

    Paul Hunter

    This and twenty-some others grew out of a long poem about shy country people finding love, a piece called “Luminaries” that first appeared in his third farming book called “Come the Harvest” (Silverfish Review Press, 2008). 


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