• Thursday, August 01, 2019 4:40 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Once Evaleen feeding chickens

    all around her in the yard tossed

    the diamond out of her wedding ring

    so quit wearing the eyeless thing

    even to wash dishes weed the garden

    stuff their Thanksgiving turkey

    which had to bother Charlie

    it wasn’t the money it was

    what-all the shiny thing meant

    as near eternal as they’d likely get

    so for several years killing a hen

    for dinner once or twice a week

    out behind the barn he’d cut

    the craw from the gizzard

    dig the gravel there spread it out

    on a piece of white paper he kept

    folded around his reading specs

    down the front of his overalls

    till one night that sparkler bright as ever

    turned up there it was inside a life

    since the evening she’d lost it where

    once the hens were in for the night

    he’d looked hard with a flashlight

    for hours on his hands and knees

    knew if it was there he’d a found it but

    said you know how quick a hen can be

    once a thing catches her eye

    Paul Hunter

    These 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). 

  • Thursday, August 01, 2019 4:39 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    In bed with her with curlers

    the night before the big day

    eighth grade graduation

    for their oldest girl who also

    slept in the pink foamy things

    after fidgeting and sighing

    stirring half the night

    Charlie asked her to undo

    all she was holding together

    for later for the effect that

    she wanted to be perfect

    said who is the hairdo for

    anyway Evaleen said okay

    went to the bathroom and

    left the door wide so he

    could watch while she

    unwound each lock of hair

    shook and combed it out

    for the shine bounce and flair

    for him not some old PTA

    Paul Hunter

    These 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). 


  • Thursday, August 01, 2019 4:38 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    On the porch new farmer and new wife

    what with supper dishes done and dried

    settle into silence both let be

    to hear the twilit pond’s full chorus rise

    and usher in the summer prodigal

    with every living creature home at last

    every thing that wintered in the muck

    or trailed the southern flight now back

    awake to sing however loud and long

    its overture to interrupted life

    now Charlie lays a finger to her wrist

    and in the dark her blind hand catches his

    like the final bird of daylight strong

    but sure it has no business out this late

    about to settle for a quiet place to rest

    that both agree and in that subtle touch

    without another gesture trundle off

    to bed beyond the night still tuning up

    its purple bruise just fading in the west

    still breathless in the dark not cooling yet

    Paul Hunter

    These 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). 


  • Thursday, August 01, 2019 4:37 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    I’m reminded that I was not born in Seattle by just about every conversation I have with someone who was. Almost immediately I feel “East Coast.” More to the point, East Coast Italian, different in tone and temperament in ways I didn’t fully understand when I was younger.  

    After years of trying to clarify this feeling, I still find it difficult to explain why Italians communicate the way we do, especially to people unaccustomed to passionate debate as a way to, oh, I suppose the best word to use is, bond.  

    The first time I had dinner at my in-law’s table, I was afraid to open my mouth. I had no idea how to speak so softly about things I read in the newspaper. Used to waves of personal opinion rippling through even deeper waves of expressive reaction, I was shocked to sit with people, intoxicated people, who seemed to be content in the shoals of current events. 

    I long for conversations with more heat and hand waving. The dinner table in my childhood home was a competitive place. Everyone talked at once, interrupted each other, said things someone took offense to on purpose.  

    What fun! 

    The other day I walked to the aquarium because I just finished reading “The Soul of An Octopus.” I tell you this because it wasn’t the octopus I wound up studying. It was a group of Italians.

    And yes, I heard them, before I saw them. If that is what you are thinking. 

    But if there are intentional coincidences, and most days I trust there are, I believe this one occurred to remind me of a huge part of my personality I neglect now that I (try to) live by a more-Seattle code of ethics. Or what I jokingly call (but only to East Coast friends) BIDAN: Bring it down a notch.


    If the desire to be in the company of your biological tribe is one of the most overwhelming of human connections, I was reminded of where my qualities originate. Watching the group talk and touch and embrace each other freely, I had never felt more distant from the city in which I reside. I felt an urge to run up to them and say, “I am Italian, too!” 


    Thankfully I stopped myself. 


    I followed them into the undersea dome. I wanted to hug them. I wanted to hold on to this family with such a strong intensity that, when I couldn’t, I walked past them feeling deprived, devastated, deflated. 

    So I called my friend Vicki who was born in Seattle. She had no idea why I was calling, and I didn’t bother to say, but as soon as I heard her voice, I felt grounded.

    And it strikes me that talking, talking—however fast, drawn-out, cool, or impassioned—is still the best way to deal with complicated emotions when basic longings fall flat.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Mary Lou Sanelli has published seven collections of poetry, three works of non-fiction, and her forthcoming novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio (of Yucca Springs),” is to be published in September, 2019 (Chatwin Books). For more information about her and her work, visit

  • Tuesday, March 12, 2019 7:51 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    In its third biennial “Bellingham National 2019 Juried Art Exhibition and Awards,” the Whatcom Museum utilized the skills of experienced art historian and curator Bruce Guenther. The theme for this year’s exhibition is “Water’s Edge: Landscapes for Today,” which includes 71 artworks by 57 artists from around the country. As you may expect, Guenther references Bellingham’s location as inspiration for the show’s theme and title, but he also writes in his introductory text that the exhibition “was an invitation for artists to share their observations and feelings about humanity’s ever-changing relationship to nature and life at water’s edge…” Through many different artistic mediums, these artists each grapple with our connection to nature using the landscape as their method of communication. 

    The exhibit is not arranged chronologically or by sub theme, so it is fascinating to think about why Guenther placed artworks next to each other. A particularly striking arrangement includes Natalie Niblack’s “Watershed” (oil on canvas), which is flanked by Naomi Shigeta’s “Sky meets Sea” (oil on panel) and Amy Ferron’s “Over our Heads” (acrylic paint and paper on wood). Niblack’s visually imposing painting depicts a large explosion in the top two-thirds of the picture plane, with a trash-filled ocean below. The flames are painted in extraordinary detail and loom over the viewer. She has also drawn a grid in the white background behind the plume of fire and smoke. Is this her attempt to create an underlying structure beneath the swirling flames? Interestingly, Shigeta and Ferron also utilize straight lines to create structure in their paintings. Shigeta writes in her statement that the painting, especially the distinct vertical lines, “reflects the challenge in keeping balance.” Ferron creates her landscapes by first cutting paper with rotary cutters and X-acto knives and then pasting the pieces together. The result is a mosaic landscape reminiscent of the geometric structures of Nature: tectonic plates, molecules, and others. 

    Connections between Nature, Art, and Science are abundant in the exhibition. There are many photographs, including two tintypes by Alexandra Opie, included in the show which have long been used by scientists to document the natural world. Lynn Skordol printed on a vintage map to create “Map 4” to illustrate how humans have changed the natural landscape over the years. Vanessa Mayoraz’s “Progressions of pernicious change” almost appears to have been taken straight from a science lab. She writes that her “work concerns itself with understanding and decoding our reality,” which beautifully demonstrates the “power of place” that Guenther writes about in his introductory text.  

    Guenther awarded three cash prizes to artists in the exhibition. The Second Place winner was Natalie Niblack. First Place went to Philip Govedare’s vibrant, oil on canvas painting titled “Artifact.” Like other artists in the exhibition, Govedare also contemplates the impact of land use and his paintings are charged with doubt and anxiety about the condition of the landscape. His use of bright red signals alarm. In contrast, the Third Place winner, Patti Bowman connects her encaustic “Wave I” to the effect of gazing at the ocean. The painting purposefully lacks structure to orient the view, which gives the affect of an endless sea or enormous wave filling the picture plane with blue water and white foam.  

    While all three award winners are based in Washington State, the exhibition drew many artists from all around the country. And even though all the artworks are 2-dimensional, the exhibition does not lack in variety of mediums or artistic styles. If you are interested in representational paintings of the landscape, you will find several. If you are looking for abstract paintings seeking to find the essence of nature, Guenther has included many with this exact aim, but they utilize different methods for seeking the “spirit of nature.” The exhibition consists of many paintings, but photographs and prints are also in abundance. There are even several fiber artworks, including Krista Kilvert’s “Altered Landscape” (dye sublimation on polyester) which moved with the air flow as I opened the door to the gallery. 

    As I was leaving the gallery, I looked up at the second story to see a canoe through a cut out in the wall. The canoe is part of the “People of the Sea and Cedar” exhibition and seeing the object beautifully connected both exhibitions through the “power of the essential element Water to life,” as Guenther writes in his text. I suggest visiting both exhibitions while you are at the Whatcom Museum. 

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

    Chloé Dye Sherpe is a curator and art educator

    based in Washington State.


    “Bellingham National 2019” is on view Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 5 P.M.  through May 19 at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Building, located at 250 Flora Street in Bellingham, Washington. For more information, visit

  • Tuesday, March 12, 2019 7:50 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Tuesday, March 12, 2019 7:32 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    I was flipping through a magazine when a line jumped out at me: “We fall in love with objects not only for what they are, but for what they allow us to believe we can become.

    It was three summers ago when I spotted a set of six vintage long-stem aperitif glasses at the Bigelow Block Sale on Queen Anne. I picked one up. I blew on it, though it wasn’t dusty. I set it back down. “Ah,” I said, more of an exhale than a word. I didn’t want to seem too interested.

    I continued to walk up and down Bigelow because, as any shopper knows, joy is in the pursuit, not in the prize.

    Unless the prize is six vintage long-stem aperitif glasses that belong to a woman who wears a turquoise pendant, turquoise rings. Her love, her pride, for her home was obvious, but her car still had Arizona plates. All this meant to me was that maybe, just maybe, she was moving back to the desert and I’d be able to get a really sweet deal on the glasses.

    The second time I passed the glasses, I knew I had to have them, a response I have never been able to talk myself out of when it hits, and near the corner of Boston and Bigelow it hit hard.

    I told myself I’d gift one to each of my friends, but every December I convince myself my friends would probably not love the fragile stems as much as I do.

    The oddest thing about seeing the glasses is that during all the years I was actually looking for vintage long-stem aperitif glasses, I could never find one. Not at a rummage sale. Not at Goodwill or Value Village.

    I was remembering all this, when the glasses caught my eye for the third time. The way they gleamed felt like a sign—nothing smaller than a billboard.

    But this is not what made me walk closer.

    My own mother had aperitif glasses, but I can’t remember ever using them, and I have no idea what happened to them. The glasses brought back a whole stage of my girlhood. Suddenly I was no longer an adult writer with deadlines of her own, but thirteen again scribbling, “So, Diary, I met this boy today and he is sooo cute.”

    When I finally decide to buy the glasses, the sale is slowing down, with some people folding up their tables already, but there were my vintage glasses, unsold, flashing me knowing smiles. I imagined that along with those smiles would be tête-à-têtes cozy and intimate, so many things to talk about.

    Some of my friends keep telling me that it’s getting too expensive to live in the city, that they need to down-size and move to god-knows-where, so I’ve decided I don’t want to burden them with any more “stuff.”

    And though I would never label a vintage long-stemmed aperitif glass as “stuff,” I know there is a personal fine line between treasure and tchotchke.

    Besides I need the entire set now that I do believe I have developed into someone who will serve aperitif at her small, but stunning get-together.

    Even if this is Belltown, circa 2019, basically an Amazon campus, which must hold the record for the fewest vintage long-stemmed aperitif glasses.

    But I’m okay with that. I have become.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Mary Lou Sanelli, writer, speaker, and dance teacher, lives in Seattle. Her forthcoming novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio (of Yucca Springs)” is to be published in September, 2019 (Chatwin Books). For more information about her and her work, visit

  • Thursday, January 03, 2019 1:45 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Hats off to the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, one of our outstanding regional art museums. Its current feature exhibition of the work of Alfredo Arreguín glows on the walls in the midst of our dark winter days.


    Alfredo Arreguín populates his wonderland of jungles and seascapes with animals, fish, insects, and birds. Then he embeds in this dense matrix of colors and shapes the faces of well known political activists, writers, poets, friends, and occasionally, himself. The faces deeply disguised within the vast details of the paintings, point to Arreguín’s belief in the harmony of nature, the balance of life, and the crucial place that we have within it, rather than outside it. His work has never been more timely or important. 


    Arreguín’s several themes, nature, Madonnas, and portraiture overlap and intersect. In every detail of these intricate works, he contradicts the angry rhetoric of racists creating arbitrary divisions in our beautiful world.


    Leaping salmon and whales remind us that the survival of the Southern Resident pod of orcas is hanging in the balance. As the whales dwindle in response to environmental degradation, and the salmon fail to complete their migration upstream because of dams, Arreguín’s paintings celebrate natural processes and inspire us to protect our Salish Sea. 


    Arreguín’s life story is unusual. He was born in Morelia, Michoacán Mexico, as an illegitimate child, and passed from one relative to another. On a few occasions, he had the opportunity to be immersed in the jungle, experiences that made a deep and permanent impression on him. He also had enough educational opportunities to learn art as he moved from Morelia to Mexico City. But by extraordinary serendipity he was invited to live in Seattle by a family he met when they were lost as tourists in Chapultepec park. As a result, he came to the U.S. in January 1956, and gained citizenship with their sponsorship. After serving in the army in Korea (where he introduced himself to Asian art), he attended the University of Washington, earning two degrees, then found his way as an artist by the mid 1970s in the style that he still practices.  


    He began to appear in major exhibitions almost immediately. The National Museum of American Art acquired his work in the early 1990s. “Life Patterns” includes works from Bainbridge Island Museum of Art’s permanent collection, promised gifts, and loans from private collections and the artist himself, for a total of almost fifty works for this 50 year retrospective.  


    Arreguín began honoring Frida Kahlo many years before she became a pop icon. They share a love of folk art, peasant expressions, nature, music, and the sensuality of life. Arreguín transmits folk art patterns and their motifs in one layer of his dense jungle tapestries, but more than that Frida as well as Arreguín embraced the spiritual significance of ordinary people’s beliefs in Mexico, beliefs that survive transformed to this day. 


    Likewise Arreguín’s love of literature and language pervades his paintings, sometimes literally in his homages to his Seattle friends Raymond Carver and Tess Gallagher, other times more subtly as in his homage to Pablo Neruda. Also look for his portraits of indigenous environmentalists, well known activists, and revolutionaries.


    In addition to this featured exhibition, the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art is also showing a traveling exhibition of 53 artists’ books titled “Borderland-Arkir Book Arts Group/Iceland which addresses the concept of land. It is supplemented by a selection of the Artists’ Books from the Collection of Cynthia Sears, the visionary founder of the Museum. Artists’ Books are a particular passion of Sears. She has also promised two paintings by Arreguín to the Museum from the Sears-Buxton collection, and already donated the signature Arreguín painting “Salish Sea” of 2017.


    In addition, don’t miss Kait Rhodes multimedia glass sculpture of a red polyp titled “Bloom,” and the exhibition “Heikki Seppa: Master Metalsmith,” thirty metal works, both jewelry and sculpture by a giant in the field. Finally, to celebrate the Museum’s 5th anniversary, there are selections from the intriguingly diverse works donated to the Museum’s permanent collection (which includes another painting by Arreguín.)


    So within this fairly small space, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art offers an experience for everyone, world class artists and an embrace of many media, both experimental and classical. Even in the bistro there is an exhibition—Pamela Wachtler’s paintings and monotypes “Impressions of Place.”


    It is hard to believe that the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art is only five years old. What a success it has become and what a gift to our art community. Only a short walk from the ferry, it is free of charge and open seven days a week.


    Susan Noyes Platt

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


    “Alfredo Arreguín: Life Patterns” is on view through February 3 at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art located at 550 Winslow Way on Bainbridge Island, Washington. Open daily 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. For more information, visit

  • Thursday, January 03, 2019 1:42 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Thursday, January 03, 2019 1:39 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    We have friendships for many different reasons. 

    And for many of us, this has little to do with reducing our relationships to likes and followers. We are looking for…more.

    I have terrific women friends. Wise, wonderful, and fun (for the most part).

    And I have James. His most admirable quality is that he is without pretense.“What’s on your mind, darling?,” he’ll say, flashing a smile, which I believe is the most generous way to begin a conversation, before lowering his gaze as if he’s about to hear one of life’s sacred secrets.

    Or, you know, whatever is bothering me.

    “You have to keep a bit of mystery to yourself.” We were talking about how drunk everyone is on selfies “in the same way the Russians guzzled the vodka,” he said, “and look what happened to them.”

    There are few conversations in life when, regardless of the subject matter, when it’s as if all your thoughts and emotions are aligned with all of your friend’s thoughts and emotions. Our whole conversation reminded me of the day I was waiting in line at Whole Foods and chatting with the guy behind me. We were talking fruit in season, that kind of thing, except he kept looking at his phone.

    I tried to overlook it, be cool, be current, but it always feels like being put on hold. Even now I think of him talking and scrolling at the same time, and I see a gutless way to communicate. I wanted to shout we do exist without our phones.

    Because we do. We really do. WE are the real thing. And these days it seems like most of us are missing it.

    I came right out and asked him what is so important that he has to be in on it even as he lays produce on the conveyor belt. It was one of those ridiculous things I hear myself say sometimes, knowing I’m being brash, but I say it anyway.

    And that’s when his girlfriend (wife?) jumped in, “This is just how it is now.”

    As if I knew nothing. At any rate, she reminded me that since I do have more years behind me, I’ve attained more success, too, more independence. So I can enjoy a little harmless chitchat, and, okay, a little harmless flirting, without checking in. My flesh may be softer but my attitude is firm: If I’ve learned one thing, it’s how one shared idea, opinion, or observation can lift us out of ourselves and make everything around us seem more, dare I use the word, connected.

    And, yes, I may very well be hoping for a miracle. But if you are shopping at Whole Foods you are certainly paying enough for a miracle.

    So I say thank goodness for James, who is one of the most successful business men I know, yet he still knows how to leave his phone off for however long it takes. Life may be going on at a hectic pace around the two of us, but he’d never let something as expansive and beneficial as our friendship be dwarfed by something small and addicting as a phone.

    Oh, I am thrilled to know James is free to take a walk later. He will pick the route and I will take his arm.

    And we will talk.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Mary Lou Sanelli’s Write of Way has been a part of Art Access since 2004. For more information about her and her work, visit

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