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

    A salmon peers from the circular opening of a bark net, graceful, silver-eyed shapes of four more on the cedar disc beneath. Carved by a First Nations artist, the piece represents an ancient culture of conservation—an effort not to exhaust the vital resources of the land and sea. Temoseng Chazz Elliott’s carving forms a counterpoint in this cross-border art exhibition, much of which interrogates the contemporary culture of consumption.

    “Archipelago—Contemporary Art of the Salish Sea: Southern Gulf Islands Artists,” is the second half of a project by the San Juan Islands Museum of Art (SJIMA) working with British Columbia’s ArtSpring and Salt Spring Arts galleries. SJIMA exhibited six San Juan Island artists this summer and now is showing six artists from Canada’s Southern Gulf Islands, questioning the influence of environment on the art of a region. The current show is beautiful, even profound, although whether a common environment evokes a common artistic response remains unanswered.

    Elliott, a Tsawout artist, expresses intimacy with a territory inhabited by his ancestors for millenia. Made with traditional materials and techniques, his elegant, pristine carvings are deeply rooted in the environment. In contrast, Sam Montalbetti, born and raised on Salt Spring Island, creates work that has little to do with the Salish Sea. Concerned with the extinction of analog color photography, he turns his focus from the outside world to paint with light directly on sensitized paper, printing, cutting, layering, re-shooting to build brilliantly-colored abstractions: playful visual jazz. For another series, he tosses water into a night sky to capture motes of dust, tiny orbs suggesting galaxies infinitely larger and smaller than the visible world. This is the environment to which he responds, creating new possibilities from old technology.

    John Macdonald’s large-scale paintings are drawn from personal interests and experience; though painterly and abstracted, they maintain an illustrative narrative. In front of a flame-colored truck, a hanging tire quotes Rauschenberg; road signs signal “Caution” and a choice of left or right: there is politics, and a world on fire. Tagged by numbers, deer in maple move through slanting shafts of color, their wildness belied by the artificial system in which they are caught. A figure lost in a snowy forest is painted on salvaged scrap wood, the far-left roof-tar black; high on the right, a single light bulb; on the left, an eagle shape of twigs mounted on scrap metal, the head a cast of white. This is Macdonald’s most personal painting, referencing a palpable loss.

    The three women artists use sewing, stitching, weaving in their art. Perhaps a result of long meditative hours of handwork, here we find a complete response to environment of the Salish Sea in both overt and hidden manifestations.

    Joanna Rogers stitches leaves, shells, plastic bread ties, small empty bottles, beach glass onto felt forms taken from the shape of Joan of Arc’s armor. Although given European sources, in this show, adorned with Salt Spring Island artifacts, her work seems to refer to First Nations culture: Haida warrior armor; button blankets; dance capes: native resources exploited by colonization; nature supplanted by plastic. Her most ambitious work is an elegant series of naturally-dyed scarfs into which a line from a poem is woven in Morse code. Entirely of texture, each coded message, she explains, is a last cry from a dying species—a lament for remembrance: subtlety decoded only with close attention.

    Jane Kidd’s exquisite tapestries also require close attention, though her concern for the environment is overt. A shawl-like garment hangs folded-over: on top, a fish-kill below streaks of rain; obscured beneath, industrial smokestacks spew clouds of pollution. Four tapestries draped as garments maintain a human form, each worked in gorgeous color and pattern, each a site of environmental disaster: tar sand; pit mine; deforestation; desertification. Two small gowns, dyed with rust, represent our children’s inheritance: lichen-like patterns like the regeneration of organic life from barren rock or fallout from environmental apocalypse: hope or decay? These are tapestries as masterworks.

    The highlight of the exhibition is an installation by Anna Gustafson: Three birch-bark dories filled with jugs of single-use plastic wrapped in white linen are suspended in the front glassed-in exhibition space. In a small alcove, a seine net suspends another catch of enshrouded plastic over a baby grand piano. What is our cultural legacy? Gustafson’s installation is a direct reply to Elliott’s concern: soulless empty vessels replace depleted salmon runs. On the walls, messages are written in salt-encrusted twine threaded with steel wire like white neon: “Salt. Whale. Oil.”

    In the past, she says, salt and whale oil were key to our economy; may our dependence on oil become as obsolete. This is our hope.

    Elizabeth Bryant

    Elizabeth Bryant is an art writer and English/ESL tutor.

    “Archipelago—Contemporary Art of the Salish Sea” is on view Friday through Monday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. until December 4 at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art, located at 540 Spring Street in Friday Harbor, Washington. Visit for more information.

  • Wednesday, November 01, 2023 10:50 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Wednesday, August 30, 2023 12:31 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    A year ago, the Aurora Loop Gallery in Port Townsend was just an idea in the mind of artists Mary O’Shaughnessy and Charlie Van Gilder. The couple jumped in with confidence, having owned a successful gallery in Chicago before moving west in 2014. Their new gallery opened this past January, and now jumps into higher gear with its most ambitious show yet. It’s called “Process,” and is guest-curated by sculptor David Eisenhour. He has assembled an all-star line-up of artists, some with national and international reputations, all of whom call the Puget Sound region home. 

    What stands out is the exhibit’s diversity. Its profusion of form leaps out at a glance: small, quiet monotypes; dramatic abstract acrylics; elegant constructions made with bits of bark; sprawling wire and fabric sculptures; architectural renderings; post-Pop hyperreal paintings; and pairs of ink-stained shoes (we’ll come back to those). 

    The “Process” show achieves a thematic balance even with its mad-cap variety; intriguing correspondences between pieces and between artists emerge as you take in the work. (How each piece connects to the “Process” framework isn’t always evident—I’m still processing, I guess.)

    Works by Aaron McKnight (sculptures) and Wendy Orville (monotype prints) have little in common physically, but a reverence for natural beauty unites them. McKnight meditates on the miniscule—seeds and leaf stems are sometimes the only construction materials he needs. For this show his design elements are birch tree lenticels (the “breathing holes” on a tree). Orville is drawn to the other end of the scale, capturing wide vistas in her monotypes, such as with her sweeping “Big Sky.” Though created by manually wiping ink from a plate and pressing the plate to paper, her monotypes seem to have a camera’s exactitude. Casual viewers assume they are photographs. McKnight and Orville transcend the human element in their work; their spacious and contemplative creations feel good to breathe in.

    But now consider two artists mostly focused on the man-made: painter Karen Hackenberg and sculptor Karen Rudd. Their works address the precarity of the natural rather than its splendor. Hackenberg finds ironic ways to make sharp critiques of our throwaway culture. “Baby Squid” presents as a vintage specimen chart—so wholesome, such old-school charm—but its depictions are of spent shotgun shells. These non-biodegradable plastic “wads” get left behind by waterfowl hunters–and we are left to imagine their impact on a fragile habitat.   

    Karen Rudd contributes “Footprint,” pairs of shoes from a larger project staged last year, “Anthropocene.” That show featured realistic life-sized cedar stumps Rudd made out of sheets of cardboard. (Process that.)

    The lumber industry workers and laborers of all kinds fascinate Rudd, who thoroughly researches their histories. She recreates their work clothing and their shoes using kraft paper from the Port Townsend paper mill. She stitches her own research materials—historic texts and photographs—onto the shoes. “Walking in someone else’s shoes” is one association we can make here, and “Carbon footprint” is another. For Rudd as for Hackenberg, the larger purpose is to confront our own exploitative behaviors, and to facethe “demon of extinction” (to borrow a phrase from Eisenhour). 

    The environment matters to Seattle-based sculptors Marita Dingus and June Sekiguchi, but people and communities are their primary focus. Both are public artists, both mothers, both involve ancestry, identity, and cross-cultural exchange ideas in their work. And yet in terms of process and output their creations differ. The found-object figure sculptures by Dingus delight in spontaneity and zany juxtaposition; by using repurposed materials she connects to African art traditions, where the practice has been embraced for centuries. Sekiguchi’s pieces are engineered and mathematical, celebrations of geometry and repetition. For this show Sekiguchi explores organic forms, perhaps a nod to the Olympic Peninsula setting. “Knothole, Reimagined 2” riffs on the wonder of nurse logs, with hand-carved fungal shapes sprouting to life on the edge of what remains of an ancient old-growth giant. 

    One last pairing: two artists who work two-dimensionally, and who happen to be at opposite ends of their careers. Albert Fisher first made waves in the 1960s as a disciple of Leo Kenney, and he remains active to this day. He is showing two abstract acrylics from the early 2000s: “Process: Fusion” brings to mind scenes in the film Oppenheimer that visualize subatomic physics. “Process: Finding” shows a circle in the center of the picture, a callback to Kenney-style geometric abstraction, elemental and pure. These are powerful and mysterious canvases.

    Compared to many of the artists on the roster, Tacoma-based Blake Carter is a relative new-comer. We are fortunate to have more chances to experience his work. The human figure is Carter’s obsession: he crowds hundreds of figures into a single small piece, thousands of them into larger works. For all the repetition, each figure is individuated, hand-drawn with a loose efficiency. From across the room, the figures don’t register as such but as patterns; the piece as a whole draws you in with its energetic rhythms and rewards close-up attention with its nuance. The overall effect is hypnotic.

    Tom McDonald

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

    “Process” is on view through October 1 at the Aurora Loop Gallery, located at 971 Aurora Loop in Port Townsend, Washington. The gallery is open Thursday to Sunday from 12-5 p.m. Visit for more information.

  • Tuesday, August 29, 2023 11:39 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    As summer draws to a close and the days get shorter, both the natural colors and art exhibitions change in the Skagit Valley. This seems an appropriate time to discuss a tour of the valley through its art galleries and venues, many of which feature artists local to the region. These stops include the perennial favorites in Edison (i.e., and Smith & Vallee Gallery) along with new friends in Mount Vernon at Leonard Brothers Fine Art, and a delightful stop at the Bitters Co. barn curated by owners/sisters Amy and Katie Carson. In the end, visitors see excellent art from regional artists while also taking in the bountiful beauty of the valley.

    It makes sense to start our day in Edison with visits to i.e. and Smith & Vallee Gallery. In September, i.e. features a memorial exhibition for John Schaefer and sculptures by Michael Clough. In October, the gallery features a solo show of work by Marc Wenet. Schaefer’s color field paintings are intense; strokes of red, black, and gray fill the picture plane and light emanates from his circular forms. The works are meditative, just like Michael Clough’s carved rocks that accompany Schaefer’s paintings in the exhibition. The artist’s hand is evident in all these works. Viewers can see the movement of the oil in Schaefer’s work while Clough hand carves the rocks, which makes the work extremely personal. 

    In October, i.e. highlights the work of Marc Wenet, a Seattle-based artist who creates assemblages from found materials and who recently began adding his mark on the materials by applying colored pencil and gouache. His sculptures often have humorous elements as the artist brings a humanistic quality to the combination of various found objects. Almost like figures standing in line, Wenet’s objects bring years of history together through the gathered materials.

    While the exhibitions at i.e. explore materials and our intimate connection to those objects, the exhibitions at Smith & Vallee Gallery turn to representations of the natural world. Their September exhibition brings together Kim Obbink’s detailed colored pencil drawings of animals, flowers, and other gathered items, with Annie Burke’s ceramic sculptures. 

    The gallery typically pairs two artists together in their shows, but October brings a solo exhibition of work by Andrew Vallee. Vallee began his career as a furniture and cabinet maker and has used those woodworking skills in his sculpture practice. Recent travels back and forth across the Pacific Ocean from Edison to Hawaii have inspired the artist to venture into two-dimensional work. The  resulting paintings and mixed media artworks are gestural and colorful interpretations of the artist’s travel experiences.

    Skagit Valley is home to many historic barns, and a visit to Bitters Co. provides a unique opportunity to go inside one of these iconic red barns. Bitters Co. is a design and development company that specializes in houseware, including glassware, bakeware, and other furnishings created by craftspeople in various countries around the world. The barn is open for shopping by appointment, and the Carson sisters sell their wares as wholesale. They also host events and art exhibits in this idyllic location. 

    From September 16 to October 14, the Bitters Co. barn welcomes the work of Joe Max Emminger to celebrate the harvest season. Emminger is a self-taught painter who paints the world around him constantly, nearly every day according to the artist. The works in the exhibition are acrylic on paper and painted objects that the artist gathers from around his home. Emminger’s paintings are colorful, and his characters are instantly recognizable to those familiar with his work. While his scenes are often quite whimsical and humorous, the viewer can’t help but think that a more sinister message is underneath. In this exhibition, the artist focuses on the theme of “harvest,” and the characters gather as they accumulate bounty from throughout the paintings.

    Downtown Mount Vernon is home to a new gallery: Leonard Brothers Fine Art. Visitors to the picturesque downtown area can add this as a stop for their art-viewing pleasure, along with Perry and Carlson Gallery. The new gallery features a newly remodeled interior complete with crisp walls and optimal lighting for artwork. The gallery opened in May 2023, and curator/artist David Kane has taken the opportunity to highlight  artists in both solo and group exhibits. Sculpture and two-dimensional work by Peter Belknap occupy the gallery through September, and the gallery hosts the art of beloved Edison artist, chef, and shop owner David Blakesley in October. Art lovers rarely have this great opportunity to appreciate a gallery full of Blakesley’s art, so this is a unique treat.

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    Galleries in Edison, Washington:

    i.e., located at 5800 Cains Court, is open Friday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit for information.

    Smith & Vallee Gallery, located at 5742 Gilkey Avenue, is open Thursday through Monday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Visit for information. 

    Galleries in Mount Vernon, Washington:

    Bitters Co., located at 14034 Calhoun Road, is open Thursday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit for information. 

    Leonard Brothers Fine Art, located at 511 South 1st Street, is open Friday through Sunday, from 12 to 6 p.m. Visit for information.

    Perry and Carlson Gallery, located at 504 South 1st Street, is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visit for information. 

  • Tuesday, August 29, 2023 11:05 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    For decades David Martin has been researching Northwest modern art, curating exhibit, and publishing various books. His focus is on mid-20th century Northwest photography and printmaking by artists marginalized because of gender, race, and sexual preference. 

    But now, as director of the Cascadia Art Museum, Martin has a platform for showing some of the results of that research. The current exhibit “Native American Modern, Shared Expressions in Northwest Art” gives a subtle and fascinating view of intersections and shared ideas between Native and non-Native artists working mainly in the 1930s and 1940s. During this time, the government art projects were acknowledging Native artists and supporting them, an abrupt turnaround from decades of suppression and efforts to “civilize” Native Americans with brutal boarding schools and cultural bans. 

    One of the leaders in this re-evaluation of Native cultures was Erna Gunther. Gunther studied with Franz Boas, and went on to lead the Anthropology department at the University of Washington. She also became the first director, in 1930, of the Washington State Museum, now the Burke. In the third room of the exhibition are some video clips from a television series she created in 1965-1966. It was called “Western Washington Indians Then and Now.” In it, she explains Native dancing, music, singing, clothing, all with great respect and knowledge. Professor Gunther was a major catalyst for many of the artists in the exhibition both Native and non-Native.

    The star artist is Julius “Land Elk” Twohy (1902-1986). The first room of this three-part exhibition is devoted to his work. Julius Twohy created a 72-foot mural “The Flight of the Thunderbird,” as a WPA commission in the Cushman Hospital (Tacoma Indian Hospital). The exhibition includes photographs that document the artist painting the mural, a study, and a detailed explanation. Unfortunately the mural was first painted over and then destroyed when the building was torn down in 2003. Much of Twohy’s work was lost as a result of arson in his studio, but the exhibition brings together a group of WPA lithographs from the Henry Art Gallery and private collections, as well as a few paintings and studies. 

    We see the exhibit thesis clearly in Twohy’s art. In works such as “Tom Toms and Drum,” his prints combine abstract forms and modernist fragmentation with Native subjects, the drums convey sound, rhythm, and movement.Each lithograph has a different interpretation of abstract form.

    In the second room is the Klee Wyk Studio (1951-1961), comprised of Delbert McBride, his brother Albert with his life partner Richard Schneider, as well as painter Oliver Tiedemann. A type of Bloomsbury approach, they created decorative items such as tiles and bowls based on their study of Northwest Coast art and culture. Martin distinguishes their work as inspired by Native motifs, rather than appropriating them, as here again one sees the intermixing of modernism with, for example, Haida designs. 

    Also in the second room are carpets by Bruce Inverarity (artist/leader of the WPA in Washington State), with abstracted motifs inspired by Native designs. Inverarity is also represented by a few eccentric paintings. 

    The third room features a selection from Worth Griffin’s series of sixty portraits of Native leaders. Griffin paints in the traditional realist, academic style, but respectfully includes detailed observations and emotional insight into these proud people at a time when they were under enormous stress.

    Also in this room is African American/ Indigenous artist Milt Simons who  creates abstracted Native related imagery in an expressionist style.

    David Martin’s theme is that these artists knew one another through Erna Gunther and the government-funded art programs. As Indigenous artists absorbed modernism and White artists explored Native design, the exchange was respectful and complex. We can hope that the show leads to more research on this fascinating era, when the Northwest art world was small and artists of diverse backgrounds came together.

    Susan Noyes Platt

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

    “American Modern, Shared Expressions in Northwest Art,” is on view Wednesday through Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. through October 29 at Cascadia Art Museum, located at 190 Sunset Avenue in Edmonds, Washington. Visit for information.

  • Saturday, June 24, 2023 1:34 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    After 50 years as a defining presence in the Seattle arts community, Sam Davidson—owner/director of the Davidson Galleries—is retiring. We can’t let this milestone pass without raising a toast to Sam.

    When Art Access launched, we featured the Davidson Galleries on the cover of our first issue. That was over 31 years ago, but Sam already loomed large on the scene even then.

    He had started the First Thursday Pioneer Square Art Walk in the early 1980s (with nearby art dealers). And Sam was already gaining international recognition: the Davidson Galleries hosted the first exhibition of contemporary Chinese paintings in the United States.

    Similarly, in conjunction with the Goodwill Games in 1990, Sam showed contemporary Russian painters whose work had not been allowed outside their own country. Pretty good for a man who started his arts career by dashing all around the US in an old station wagon, selling antique and modern prints. (Prints were his first love, and eventually became his focus.)

    Sam’s dedication to local artists is perhaps his greatest legacy. He gave exposure to sculptures by John Grade, acrylics by cartoonist Lynda Barry, oils by Susan Bennerstrom, etchings by Art Hansen, woodcuts by Lockwood Dennis—the list goes on, with a range and variety as impressive as the depth of talent. All told, Sam and his staff presented over 800 exhibitions, and published over 100 catalogs.

    Before relaxing into retirement, Sam must contend with “18,000 pieces of paper” as he refers to the galleries’ holdings. These include works by “old masters” like Dürer, Goya, and Hiroshige; by modernists like M.C. Escher, Leonard Baskin, and Käthe Kollwitz; and by contemporary artists who prove that the printmaking tradition is vividly alive both here and afar.

    Sam Davidson knows that tradition as well as anyone in the field. He’d love to find a buyer for the business, but what he won’t find is a true replacement: Sam is an extremely limited edition, a one-off. It has been our great pleasure and honor to be in his orbit all these years, and we can only add our voice to a much larger chorus…

    “Printmaking often is challenged to find its place in the contemporary art world. It’s a medium beloved by those who know it and shrouded in misconceptions by those who don’t. Sam Davidson created a place for prints, and contemporary printmakers, that’s influence and significance mean more to artists than he will probably ever know. By dedicating his professional life to printmaking and hosting exhibitions of contemporary printmakers in a grand space, he made a bold statement as to the medium’s significance and surely educated truly countless art goers—some of whom undoubtedly went on to love, understand, and support printmaking.

    Without the opportunity Sam gave me as a barely-ink-on-thesis-dry young art professional to take over the contemporary printmaking department in 2013, I would not have come to know some of my dearest friends, started my podcast, nor met my husband. I doubt I will come across another person who has influenced the course of my life more significantly than Sam Davidson. Even though I know him well enough to know that he will resist the compliment of this statement, it is not an exaggeration to say that I would not be who I am today without him. Thank you, Sam.”

    Miranda K. Metcalf, founder and co-host of the Hello, Print Friend podcast

    “I am so thankful to Sam Davidson for his longstanding and undivided dedication to historic and contemporary printmaking. I am honored and forever grateful to be among the artists he has supported in his gallery for over twenty years now. Also, as a collector myself, I am thrilled with the amazing prints he has made available to me and the other print lovers out there around the world. I cannot think of anyone who has contributed more to the world of printmaking than Sam. And to top it all off, he is such a wonderful and amazing person, with masterful vision!”

     —Michael Barnes, printmaker

    It’s been a joy showing with Sam these past 10 years. His opinion is grounded in such a vast knowledge of and passion for the entire history of printmaking. No one knows more than Sam about this medium but he’s never arrogant or condescending. He’s deeply curious—always open to new ideas, new artists, new techniques. I love his deadpan sense of humor—a genuine surprise to me when I brought my tonal monotypes to the gallery for the first time, and he said ‘But where’s the color?’ Silence...and then a slight smile….”

    Wendy Orville, printmaker

    “I’ve been married to Sam for 42 years and he is and always has been deeply committed to art, artists, art patrons, and the community. His authority and expertise in original prints is internationally and nationally recognized. He’s earned it. He’s intelligent, honest, ethical, and fair. He’s not afraid to take risks, showing work that is often difficult or controversial. He’s also handsome and a lot of fun. Bravo, Sam, and thank you for your wonderful contribution to the rest of us.”

    —Elizabeth Donnally Davidson, ceramicist

    “It has meant so much to me to be represented by Davidson Galleries for 30 years! It has been a wonderful connection and source of pride for my prints to be included among so many great artists and in context with the history of the print that Sam has promoted with his knowledge and ‘old world’ gentlemanly charm. As a gallery dealer Sam has consistently presented, preserved, and taught about a full range of wonderful art, an invaluable role. It is impressive that so many of my works are out in the world to art patrons and collectors through the efforts of Sam and the gallery staff, allowing me to feel supported in my art making throughout this time and with encouragement to continue.”

    —Karen Kunc, printmaker

    “Sam was the first gallery dealer to take a chance on me, when at the time, I was a single-mom who had the wild thought of starting an art publication. Not only has Sam continued to be a valued client for over 31 years, he has also supported me in my personal and civic life—attending my wedding and cheering me on over the years in my elected roles as city council person and now public utility district commissioner. So forever, I will have a soft spot in my heart for Sam because he believed in and cared for me.”

    —Debbi Lester, Art Access Publisher

    Tom McDonald

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

    Davidson Galleries, located at 313 Occidental Avenue South in Seattle, Washington, is open Friday through Saturday from 11 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. and Tuesday through Thursday by appointment. For more information, email info@davidsongalleries or visit

  • Saturday, June 24, 2023 1:06 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    July has become a major month for artists, galleries, and art appreciators in Seattle these past few years. Many regional art galleries share the work of their artists at the Seattle Art Fair, which is returning for its seventh year from July 27-30, and take advantage of the event and general enthusiasm for the local art scene to bring more visitors to their physical gallery space. Through July 15, J. Rinehart Gallery exhibits the work of two artists at the gallery: Anne Hirondelle and Shaun Kardinal. Both artists utilize geometric abstraction in their work, but with different results and tactics.

    In contrast, in August, the gallery exhibits Junko Yamamoto’s more organic and interconnected paintings. All three artists have a connection to the Northwest and interestingly play with form and space in truly unique ways. The work of each artist demonstrates the breadth of abstraction and illustrates the various ways that humans interact with each other, the natural world, and the physical structures that make up our daily lives.

    Anne Hirondelle started her artistic career as a sculptor, and her mastery of the 3-dimensional form is ever present in her drawings and paper-folded artworks. Hirondelle grew up in Washington State and received her BFA from the University of Washington. Her work has been highlighted in many solo and group exhibitions during her long and celebrated career, including a recent solo exhibition at the Jefferson Museum of Art and History in Port Townsend, Washington in 2020.

    The exhibition included artworks from various eras of the artist’s career and detailed the evolution of Hirondelle’s work to its current manifestation: folded tracing paper. The exhibition at J. Rinehart Gallery is the artist’s first at the gallery and features her recent work from 2023. Many of her early folded paper pieces previously had limited color, but the current exhibition is bursting with vibrant orange, red, and teal. The color adds another dimension to work that already feels 3-dimensional on a 2-dimensional plane. One remarkable aspect of Hirondelle’s folded paper constructions is that they are created by the hands and mind of a sculptor; what appears to be on a flat plane really is a deconstructed 3-dimensional object.

    While Hirondelle dissects the 3-dimensional form, Shaun Kardinal gives depth to a 2-dimensional landscape using embroidery to bind the scenery elements together. In doing so, Kardinal provides a geometric, structural overlay which organizes the scene for the viewer and draws attention to the flat plane of the paper. They are instantly aware of two key elements: the landscape is an illusion or replica of the original and the paper is being reinforced due to its fragile state. What does it mean to “see” an object? How can we truly understand an object or scene with multiple parts and angles on a 2-dimensional plane? Both Hirondelle and Kardinal address these questions in their work. For both, abstracting the physical is a path toward the answer.

    In keeping with the theme of abstraction, J. Rinehart Gallery features an exhibition of paintings by Junko Yamamoto in the month of August. Yamamoto’s artworks provide an in-depth view of the elements that make up our world. The artist articulates the individual buildings blocks of life and reality with layers of paint and shapes. Some forms bare a resemblance to known forms, while others provide energy through color and depth. Like Hirondelle and Kardinal, Yamamoto asks the fundamental questions about our reality. What can we know about our world and how do we connect with it?

    Yamamoto’s vibrant and painterly artworks are sure to be a welcome experience during the month of August, and visitors can also visit Deborah Butterfield’s exhibition at Greg Kucera Gallery only a block away during the same trip. This summer is sure to be a busy one for the Seattle art community with many institutions and galleries welcoming excellent exhibitions.

    Visitors can enjoy the work of two artists at J. Rinehart Gallery through July 15 and a solo exhibition of energetic paintings by Yamamoto from August 3-26. It is also worth noting that the gallery is also bringing the work of their artists to the Seattle Art Fair along with many other regional galleries. Visitors can delight in considering the various curatorial approaches to displaying art by their favorite local artists while also hopefully discovering new artists and work through the experience. For the exhibitions at J. Rinehart Gallery, summer brings an opportunity to compare and contrast the work of three artists asking big questions about our perception and experience in the world.

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    Anne Hirondelle’s “In Layers” and Shaun Kardinal’s “This is How We Learn” exhibits are on view through July 17 and Junko Yamamoto’s “Cosmic Web” exhibition from August 3-26. J. Rinehart Gallery, located at 319 3rd Avenue South in Seattle, Washington, is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. For more information, visit

  • Saturday, June 24, 2023 12:35 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    In Nathan Vass’ July exhibition at Gallery 110, a black and white image of a couple on a bicycle in Havana stands out among strangely-colored, multi-layered landscape photographs. Framed by the white corner column of a building, the woman balances on handle bars, her arms encircling his shoulders, chin visually joined to his brow. In the split-second captured on 35mm film, the couple is frozen, intimate and joyous, caught between a blurred past and future, time bifurcated by the white of the framing column. Entitled “Eternity,” the photograph captures the essence of this show titled “Present Perfect,” referencing the verb tense used for a past that is not yet gone, which still affects, still is active in, the present.

    Vass has become well-known as a writer and speaker following his bestselling 2019 book, The Lines That Make Us: Stories from Nathan’s Bus, on his experiences as Seattle’s friendliest Metro driver. Vass, like “Eternity,” is joyous in conversation, extolling the unique benefit that comes from talking to strangers, chit-chat that creates a singular moment of connection with society as a whole. Here, however, in these photographs, he is leaning into the emotional interface between his public and private self: art making as a processing of subjective reaction to external experience; photography not as a means to reproduce what something looks like, but rather what it feels like. He is leaning into memory.

    Most of the images in this show originate in what in other hands would be ersatz tourist postcards, authentications of Kilroy’s presence in a famous place. Vass transforms these into authentications of emotional experience, sometimes layering images in the camera itself (as un-advanced film) — “Dreams of Seoul” looks simultaneously down on the city and up at the clouds above, lights of the city at night burning like constellations in the long slow shot, moving lights tracing worm patterns in the winter sky, out-of-focus overlay splotching the surface like water stains — or by cross-processing the film (developing 35mm slide film in a chemical bath for color negatives) to shift color and intensify contrast, adjusting not for “objective” accuracy but for emotional truth.

    Vass took “Le Pont Neuf” in the days following the 2015 terrorist attacks that targeted multiple sites around Paris, killing 137 and injuring over 416. Cross-processed, the color is intense and bilious green, the contrast high. The warm black of the central image absorbs like a black hole: an afterimage burned into a retina. The stillness and shock permeating the city are palpable.

    A diptych, “They Are All Equal Now (Parts I & II)” likewise captures the scope of the attacks. Taken facing south and east from an observation tower at Sacré-Coeur overlooking Paris and overlaid with yellow and blue filters, the image documents the uncanny: the stillness of the city laden with the vast commonality of death.

    Death and eternity are present too in “By Your Side.” Triple images of a canal in Venice—the canal with a distant bridge overlaid with telephoto close-up of the bridge, combined with an out-of-focus shot of the same scene—create a sense of vertigo, an instability, an unmooring. There is a timelessness here, of immanent change: acute nostalgia for past, present, and uncertain future. 

    For “Receding Childhood,” Vass photographed L.A. with discontinued Velvia slide film, then cross-processed and mounted the image on wood. Blurry and distant as if viewed through the wrong end of a telescope, rounded by black from a camera too small for the film, the city is dwarfed by the vividly blue desert sky suspended over it like a vast, neon egg. 

    Photography is an art of memory, the touch of light bouncing from image to transform the surface of the film, then bouncing from image to the eye; as Susan Sontag noted, in beholding a photograph, we are touched by the past itself; as Roland Barthes noted, in looking at a photograph of a person, we are witness to their present existence, as well as their future and present deaths.These are complicated tenses: past, present, and past together. Or this is how we have reflected on photography in the past. In the present, film photography is itself becoming a relic, overwritten by the revolution present in the digital camera in every smartphone.

    Vass, graduate of the last University of Washington School of Art class trained in color darkroom processing, is acutely cognizant of working in a disappearing medium. But this is what he is leaning into in these images: into the interface between objective and subjective authenticity; into the practice of memory in a process that is becoming memory itself; into the authenticity of his own present perfect.

    Elizabeth Bryant

    Elizabeth Bryant is an art writer.

    “Present Perfect” is on view Thursday through Saturday from noon to 5 P.M. at Gallery 110, located at 110 Third Avenue South in Seattle, Washington. For more information, visit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

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

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

    In Memory of Steven Charles.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Susan Noyes Platt

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

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

2023 © Art Access 
Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software