• Thursday, April 04, 2013 10:10 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)
    I don't know how much longer I can live in a condo. Seriously. I'm looking at houses again.

    And there is this one house. The first time I parked in front of it, I was more than a little taken with it.

    The second time I parked a block away. I wanted to stroll up to the house more slowly, view it as a passerby would, rather than a woman in love. And I began to think about it not only as a more spacious way of living, but as a reflection of my inner life. I long for a house again the way some women long for children.

    Perhaps I peered in too closely, interpreted the house as a mirror more than I should have, but, suddenly, it was as if no other house would do.

    I rely on this feeling, this sense that something is precisely right, the way others rely on tools that are specific, like, oh, I don't know, an omelet pan when an ordinary frying pan won't do.

    By the third visit, I'd read all the information I could find at the library about affordable restoration of a frilly old Mini-Victorian, considered a little shabby, even kitschy, by some of the neighbors.

    But their houses are more, well, the word "established" comes to mind. It's the kind of neighborhood where a house may boast a few clay flower pots leading up the front steps or a hot tub off the back, but, by and large, they are basically all the same house. And in such reserved company, "my" house must prevail on her own, head held high.

    Not to say the house isn’t admired, she is, just not readily accepted as a "local."

    "Whatever that word means by now," said my librarian, handing over another book.

    "It's hard not to think about how much work owning a house will be again," I told her.

    "How can you not think of it?"

    "My husband is trying to talk me out of it BIG time," I said.

    "Of course he is. Larry is a sensible man."

    For the rest of the day, I thought about what she said.

    And I thought about how my conversations with her had begun years ago, in a low register at the counter of the library, how she would always give me a little gift of knowledge to take home along with my books.

    The friendship we developed never went beyond the walls of the Carnegie, but it was continually a lesson it how much easier it is to be yourself when you don’t feel yourself trying, how much better we get at being ourselves in certain company. I have her to thank for that.

    My earliest memory of adoring her was the day I overheard her tell a particularly ornery man who spent his afternoons in the library to stop pestering unsuspecting walk-ins with his political views. Obama was up for his first election and tempers were flaring even at the library. "I don’t care," she said in a loud whisper, "if you are a Democrat or a Republican, old age is not an excuse to be rude."

    Who knows if we would have become better friends if we were closer in age, or lived next door to each other, or if I wasn’t so preoccupied with work, with other friendships, with life?

    But it felt like an honor, a miracle-of-an-honor, to chance upon my librarian admonishing a man close to ninety, like seeing a flower open. It hardly matters when we came to trust each other.

    All that matters is that, in the end, there she is, an easy friend. So wise. So right.


    Sanelli's latest book is Among Friends. She'll be presenting her staged version of The Immigrant's Table at Nash's Organic Farm in Sequim, Washington on April 20th. For more information,
  • Sunday, March 10, 2013 2:43 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Patricia Rovzar, whose gallery has been representing Lyle Silver since 1997, recalls meeting the artist: "When he first came to me for representation he was skillfully immersed in working as a courtroom artist. He was getting out of that mode and wanted to focus on his fine art. Since I have been representing him he has gone from making pretty straightforward landscapes to those that are a lot more gestural and less refined, less confined by the landscape itself." 

    Lyle Silver does make the world seem fresh. 

    For instance, in an oil bar on board painting entitled "5th Street Alley in Winter," cobalt and turquoise blues churn atop snow while a structure beyond could be mistaken for a quilt built of colors. The painting has an intimacy-in-public feel of a Charles Burchfield, a sense that you are waking from a deep sleep to find this scene materialize before your eyes. 

    Using traditional subject matter has allowed viewers to trust Silver enough to fall completely into his abstract visions. In his most loose renderings of figures, land and cityscapes marigold yellows, persimmon reds, lavenders, bottle greens, deep browns, and coldblue pigments hover in streaks and daubs like space aliens attempting to spell out to their home planet what Earth has in store. 

    Rovzar says, she is "not calling this exhibit a retrospective because we are not going all the way back sixty years. Instead I am calling it 'A Life in Art.'" 

    The title aptly describes what Silver's life has been.

    The artist had a studio loft in downtown Seattle for 25 years where he and his wife Lois, also a painter, hosted weekly drawing sessions for artists. They lived there and were fully immersed in the art community. When that building came down he and Lois moved into a big house where they were able to have both of their studios – yet, they continued hosting life drawing sessions in the basement of Art Not Terminal Gallery for another thirteen years, a location just around the corner from their former loft space.

    Of all the married Seattle-artist couples, Lyle and Lois Silver's works appear the most similar. Rovzar believes it is partly because of having studios in the same house. "His wife is an integral part of his process," says Rovzar, "and he with her. They are each others' critics. They work separately but together in their studio spaces and so are able to draw on each other for artistic nutrition. It's kind of an interesting balance - they both work with oil bar and they both have developed different techniques in terms of how they use oil bar. And every once in awhile they influence each other to the point that you're wondering, "Is that Lois Silver or Lyle Silver’?"

    Silver got into using oil bars during his courtroom drawing days - a profession that his wife still partakes of. "We got into oil bars because they are pretty easy to pick up," says the artist; "If you had to go to the courtroom they were pretty handy."

    The exhibit offers 25 or so sketches, drawings and paintings that represent a wide scope of the artist's oeuvre, including the large landscapes depicting rural areas in Washington state. When asked about the locations, Silver said, "I've gone all over. Skagit Valley, Cle Elum, and the Willamette Valley. You know, anywhere is okay." On Gage Academy of Fine Art's website Silver is quoted as saying, "Getting into the mountains from the city is always awe inspiring; I never get tired of it."

    These landscapes are often seen from the point of view of the driver or passenger of a car; the road is out ahead or a guard rail peeks from a composition's corner. They also show visual echoes of one of Silver's influences, landscape painter Wolf Kahn.

    It is fantastic when an artist lives long enough to loosen all the way up. Sometimes this looseness results from a physical challenge such as Edgar Degas' blindness or Auguste Renoir's paintbrush tied to his arthritic hand. Yet, for some artists this freedom is due to mental release, like in the case of Lyle Silver. 

    Says Rovzar, "I think what happens [with age] is that you care less about selling the artwork as opposed to creating it. You come full circle. I think that in Lyle's heart of hearts the looser was always the better. I think he was always that way. But I think he felt that in order to make a living at this and become a commercial success he had to paint what he thought people would embrace and he didn't think that people would embrace the looseness of his larger pieces. He found out that was untrue in the end."

    When asked if he had any advice for young artists, Silver replied, "Be focused. If you want to be an artist you need to focus. Keep working. Keep associating with other artists. And keep looking, keep looking."

    Young artists, take heed. 

    Saylor Jones

    Saylor Jones is a Northwest illustrator and writer. To view her work, visit

    "Lyle Silver: 60 Years in Art" is on view January 3 through February 5 at Patricia Rovzar Gallery, located at 1225 Second Avenue in Seattle, Washington. The opening reception is Thursday, January 3, from 6 to 8 P.M. For more information visit
  • Sunday, March 10, 2013 2:33 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    New Year's. It's always a Big Deal. For a few days, it's all anyone can talk about. Next, it will be all about little red hearts. It all comes around so quickly.

    February means something else, to me anyway. First, I have a deep affection for those sugary pastel hearts set out in crystal bowls all around the city. I pinch one at a time, of course, but in my mind's eye I see a woman scooping the entire medley up and filling her pockets.

    Who knows why we connect with some candies and not with others. Love is really something, isn't it?

    Secondly, it makes me step back and question a few real things about love between people, like who is there for you no matter what, who isn't any longer and, for the love of Pete, why not?

    And I thought my fingers would fly over the keyboard with some sweet little story about romantic love, a.k.a. my Larry. But, no.

    Instead, another man fills my thoughts. . .

    I visit my father annually on Long Island Sound, but he hasn’t returned to Seattle since Larry and I married, referring to Puget Sound as "God's country," and that is just about the highest compliment my father can extend.

    On the morning of our wedding, the clouds we'd hoped would burn off only swelled, the day becoming more and more May-like, restless, sprinkly, spring. The kind of weather that can make pulling off a wedding on a shoestring budget feel even more overwhelming. I was fidgety, worried that the clouds would turn into a downpour or, even worse, drizzle all day.

    My father took one look at me staring up at the sky, and a longer look at who Larry and I were together, both of us a little frayed and scruffy to someone from the more formal East Coast school of wedding appropriateness. And when his eyes spanned the little wood-floored room we'd rented for our reception, a schoolhouse in the tiny town of Dungeness on the Olympic Peninsula, he spied the keg of beer in the corner.

    He looked at me as if he might want to say something, but he never did. He just crossed the room, stepped outside, closed the door behind him, got into his rental car, and disappeared.

    If it hadn't been my wedding day, I might have found it disconcerting, even scary. Instead, I could feel the sides of my cheeks expand into an even wider smile.

    An hour later he was back, his arms around a case of liquor, plenty more where that came from, until vodka, gin, scotch, and brandy bottles, plus every mixer imaginable, were perfectly aligned next to the cake. "You think an Italian can have a wedding without the real stuff?," he asked.

    But it wasn't a question. And he winked after he said it, and that was unquestionably the greater gift. I will remember the satisfied look his face until the day I die.

    As a second present, bless him, he gave us enough money to, in his words, "get started," wisely neither too much as to make Larry uncomfortable, nor too little to make me so, because an Italian father's generosity is legendary and I'd grown up with it, my legend, my superstar, my Valentine, my dad.

    February. It's all about love.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Sanelli's latest book is "Among Friends". She works as a writer and speaker. For more information about her work, visit
  • Saturday, October 06, 2012 1:54 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)
    I write this because of someone I witnessed earlier today. Or maybe all the other long-forgotten incidents flashed through my mind because of her, I don't know. Either way, I just have to get it down.

    I've been teaching a series of dance workshops, from Seattle to Poulsbo to Port Angeles to Olympia, and many towns in between. This morning, one mother insisted on watching her daughter take my class. I don't allow this and promptly said so. "I just thought I could help my daughter remember what she learns today," is what she said, indignantly, on her way out the door.

    If help of this nature is supposed to make kids apply themselves more, I can say from experience it doesn't work.

    When I owned a dance studio and wanted, more than anything else, to teach young students how to trust their own perfect minds and bodies, I had to put my foot down: "Parents are allowed to watch only the first class of the month." read the sign on my door.

    Because some of the mothers? You would not believe (only now there is a reality show, so you would). No self control. Absolutely none. Their own insecurities rose right up, landing on their child's self-esteem. I could see how they really did struggle with it, knowing they were over the top, but it rarely stopped them for long.

    It got so I could spot these parents on registration day. Visually, they were more and more like a warning, a manifestation, what unrealized and/or unattempted goals and dreams can become. How people can age, then age some more, without ever accomplishing something of their own to be proud of. Maybe they woke up one morning and found they were no longer able to focus on their career and couldn't adjust to the reality. Or maybe they never attempted a creative one and feel cheated somehow. I knew these outbursts were hungers that, on another level, weren't directed at their kids so much as at life at large. Pent up, they had no where else to pop but in my studio. I think this is what's really going on.

    I also think these women would stop interfering if they were able to get past seeing their kids as a chance they had been given. No kid wants to be their parent's way of reaching for more, of gaining something else.

    It seems I've described the worst case dance-parent. There were others, lots of others, who were encouraging, supportive, positive. But my signboard couldn't be selective or the meanies would have come down on me, I was pretty sure of that.

    "Your child may be learning a few dance steps here, but you are keeping your child from taking a huge leap forward if you comment from the sidelines. What does your child want from class? The opposite of everything you want, just like when you shop for clothes together."

    This is the sign I should have hung. Never mind the objections. Why didn't I? What we'd do over if only we could, right?

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Sanelli's works as a writer and speaker. Her latest book is Among Friends.
  • Saturday, October 06, 2012 1:50 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Friday, October 05, 2012 4:56 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)
    In tandem with Seattle Art Museum's "Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou" exhibit, Greg Kucera Gallery is featuring "Ladies' Choice," a show wherein every female gallery artist has chosen a female artist from outside the gallery to exhibit alongside them. 

    Ross Palmer Beecher chose Marita Dingus, Loretta Bennett chose Qunnie Peltway, Claudia Fitch chose Sheila Klein, Victoria Haven chose Dawn Cerny, Susan Skilling chose Claire Cowie, Katy Stone chose Leona Christie while Lynne Woods Turner chose work by Leonie Guyer, Deborah Butterfield chose Mary Ann Kelly.

    There seems to be a spirit of patronage and admiration between women artists that didn't exist even a few decades ago when there were still such few slots for females in the art world.

    "I remember not even that long ago," says photographer Alice Wheeler who is represented by Kucera, "Guerrilla Girls came to Seattle and there were less than 10% women artists being represented by major art galleries. Greg Kucera has always been very forward, he has almost always had like about a fifty-fifty ratio between men and women artists in his galley. When I first started hanging art almost all of the people I showed with were guys. Previous to Greg Kucera people often said that they were including me because they needed a woman in their show. So at least now I’m known for my work instead of my gender."

    Wheeler, recognized for her images of what she calls "street stuff," is submitting a large photograph of an all-pink woman she saw and shot in Pioneer Square named Princess Bubble Gum. Her artist of choice is photographer Kelly O., who The Stranger newspaper describes as their "staff photographer, music writer, Drunk of the Week columnist, and more!" 

    Kucera artist Deborah Butterfield enthused about her choice of Montana artist Mary Ann Kelly via telephone after driving 10 hours from Bozeman, Montana to the Walla Walla Foundry where she is preparing for a show at LA Louver Gallery. 

    "We've known Mary Ann for 37 years and have been together through lives and deaths and births and forest fires," says Butterfield; "I think what draws me to her work. . . you know, we live in Montana in the mountains and so for us nature really is what we deal with every day. . .things like shoveling snow and dealing with large predators. . .we really do address that every day and I think the gestural quality in both of our works kind of addresses the human scale within that huge context. The gesture for me is what I can pick up and stuff into a horse (laughs) and the gesture for Mary Ann is really more within her arms reach. I feel that we're struggling, excited, and responsive to both the structure of nature and then the gesture within that structure. I think her use of color is so strong; the works are lyrical and they’re sensual. She hasn’t had much exposure out of Montana."

    Gallery artist Sherry Markovitz chose one of Allison Manch's embroidered works on cloth. 

    "I like Allison's attitude and use of materials," writes Markovitz; "I like her choice of subject matter and how she weaves her history into her work. . .her imagery has evolved. She has been embroidering images of the Southwest and text from songs."

    Markovitz is represented by "Warm Up," a large gouache on cotton. She uses images of both traditional western dolls, dolls that represent folk traditions, and dolls with profound expressions which she animates. Her most recent paintings are of traditional Mexican paper mache dolls in various acrobatic postures. 

    "I feel," writes Markovitz, "that as long as women are oppressed in some way around the world there is a need to highlight women's work. It can only be empowering." 

    Kucera Gallery artist Margie Livingston chose work by Seattle's witty Debra Baxter. 

    "Debra's work hits me with a sense of longing that feels fresh," says Livingston; "I also like the way she works with an extensive range of materials without feeling gimmicky. From paint to powder puffs and everything in between including quartz, alabaster, words, video, mirrors, and cypress knees." 

    Debra has described her use of crystals as "a way to transform vulnerability into power and also to embrace vulnerability as a type of power."

    When did Livingston first see Baxter’s work?

    "In 2003, Debra was sewing powder puffs together to make clouds. I don't remember where it was, but at over three feet long they were stunning, memorable, funny, sad, and feminine," says Livingston.

    Currently, Livingston is "finishing up several objects made out of paint that blur the line between painting and sculpture. These include a block of paint that weighs over 50 pounds, a grid of 90 color tests, a log of paint that was cut into an 8-foot post, and a folded painting. You’ll be able to see some of them at Greg Kucera in October, in the Bellevue Arts Museum Biennial, and in Miami Beach for the December art fairs." 

    Deborah Butterfield sums up the sentimentof the show: "There's strength, you know, in being female. I mean, having babies and stuff - it's scary. It's life and death and I think that comes through in our work." 

    Saylor Jones

    Saylor Jones is a Seattle writer and illustrator. Her floral watercolors are exhibited at Mioposto Restaurant from October 3 to December 3. To view her work, visit

    "Ladies' Choice" is on view November 15 through December 29 at the Greg Kucera Gallery, located at 212 Third Avenue South in Seattle, Washington. The opening reception is on November 15, from 6 to 8 P.M. and the First Thursday reception is on December 6, from 6 to 8 P.M. For more information visit

    "Ladies' Choice," is shown in conjunction with "Elles: SAM" exhibit at Seattle Art Museum. Visit Seattle Art Museum's website for list of all the exhibits and events.
  • Monday, April 09, 2012 12:07 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    "The way I see it," Keith says, "if you have a wedding to plan, you shouldn't have to do any other work for months!"

    I've seen Keith in action. He's a professional choreographer. I'm pretty sure he'll compose his wedding much like he would a dance. He's not going to measure the stage, he's not going spend big on costuming, he's not going to mark the lines of sight with stage tape. He's going to choose the most amazing music and believe!

    "And you know how Mike is." (Mike is Keith's partner of twenty years.) I nod.

    Mike is a lot like my husband. Can't remember a thing. My three ways of asking him to do something are voice, triple emails, followed by threats.

    "I can't leave any of the details up to Mike other than he better find a pair of acceptable earrings. Preferably, two 14 karet balls." Keith winks.

    Again I nod, a little more eagerly this time because I, too, married a fourth-generation WASP. Always the writer, I think of our coupling like so: I am the exclamation point, Larry is the comma. Unless a tragedy occurs, then, for whatever reason, we switch. But normally, you should not expect too much emotion from a comma. (Oh, the words I've used over the years to distinguish between us. Does the whole world, gay or straight, fall in love with their opposite?)

    Keith and Mike are off to their home state of New York to wed.

    Keith and Mike, two men that are part of something much larger than themselves, making history through acceptance, moving on, refusing to conceal their love. Maybe it's because I've watched them work it out for so many years that their marriage feels more like the great BIG check mark for our country that it is.

    "Why does it even feel so important to say the two silly words: I do?" Keith asks. "Because if you've been together long as we have, everyone knows it’s more like I do NOT. Especially when it comes to yard work." We clink glasses.

    When Keith is finished telling me all about the wedding, I hold his two hands safely in my own and kiss him on the cheek. He kisses me back and gives me another wink. "Bella." Every time he calls me this, I fill with the most satisfying sense of well-being and I'm grateful this kind of intimacy is easy between us, part of our whole splendid package.

    After two decades together, Keith and Mike still hold hands.

    Even at the grocery.

    Keith and Mike. They don't have a lot of money. Love is the thing they have, and they have plenty.

    Everyone else, in fact, should be so lucky.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Mary Lou Sanelli’s latest book is Among Friends. Check out Sanelli's website for upcoming spring appearances by the author.

  • Thursday, October 06, 2011 2:50 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Thursday, October 06, 2011 1:25 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    “A lot of the work in this show is very loosely a reaction to the whole BP oil spill. It brought up feelings of helplessness and ‘what’s going to happen’? So many ambivalent feelings undefined not necessarily stuff I haven’t thought about before, but it just kind of brought those feelings and concerns to the surface,” says John Feodorov.

    We laugh at his unintentional pun.

    A painting 72 by 72 inch entitled “Emergence #3” depicts three heads rising from pipes and fish that in turn emerge from a black slick of oil. The heads have their mouths open much like that guy in Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” These folks could well be BP executives making up excuses as to why their Deepwater Horizon off shore drilling rig failed. 

    When I ask about his wide use of mediums he replies, “It just depends on the best media for the idea. Sometimes I do video. I also do music so it really kind of depends on the best format. Right now what I’m thinking and doing seems to come out better as paintings.”

    In a large acrylic and photo collage on unstretched canvas entitled “The Way Things Are,” getting ideas across appears more important than getting all fussy with paint. This honest quality adds urgency, as if a consciousness is trying to warn us about ourselves pronto. The painting could be saying with images that every living thing across this land is only a target for ego-driven, greedy brains undefined a truth many of us keep our selves too ‘busy’ to do much about. 

    Part Native American, Feodorov grew up in a California suburb and spent summers at his grandparent’s homestead in the Navajo Nation of New Mexico. What a mind-bender to have traveled between two such disparate worlds that our country, even after a few hundred years, has yet to mingle. 

    Feodorov was featured in the famous “Art21: Art for the Twenty-First Century” series on PBS in the Spirituality episode. Although his art in the documentary comments directly on Native traditions, the artist resists being pigeonholed.

    “I don’t really think of it as Native American work. . .it’s certainly part of me and part of who I am and my experience and my world view. I am coming to that world view not so much as an adherent of those traditional values because the cat’s kind of out of the bag in terms of assimilation and all that. I was raised in the suburbs of California not on the reservation so my sense of the world is pretty much shaped by Gilligan’s Island.”

    We compare our favorite Gilligan’s Island episodes. Mine is the one where radiated vegetable seeds wash up in the lagoon and are planted and eaten to extreme effect, whereas Feodorov’s favorite is when Gilligan as Hamlet sings “To be or not to be” to Carmen’s Habenera. 

    Feodorov would dig a television show that deals with Shakespeare, an artist who created his own mythology. 

    “A lot of my work for so many years,” says Feodorov, “has been about what sort of mythology the contemporary world requires if there is going to be any mythology at all? I mean do we just count on the same old nostalgic kind of classical examples? And in many ways I am not proposing a mythology so much as showing how trying to do that just kind of fails. I don’t know the answer to my own question and so everything I do is sort of pre-determined to fail (laughs).”

    Speaking of the new paintings and lithographs in the exhibit, curator Jean Benhke says, “I respond to [John’s] inventive process, using what is at hand, both in terms of material and iconography, finding origins in his own personal history. John’s work makes no apologies and in a refreshing way gets in the face of the viewer and asks real questions about ‘the way things are’.”

    With so many people out of work, doesn’t right now seem like the ideal time for a multi-medium revolution?

    Saylor Jones

    Saylor Jones is an illustrator and writer living in the Northwest. 

    “The Way Things Are” is on view October 7 through November 19 at Anchor Art Space which is located at 216 Commerical Avenue in Anacortes, Washington. A Reception for the Artist is being held on Friday, October 7, from 6 to 9 P.M. Feodorov is presenting an an Artist’s Talk on Saturday, November 5, call for details. The gallery is open Thursday through Sunday from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M. and by appointment. For more information please call (206) 919-3893, email, or visit the website

    View Feodorov’s artwork at his website:

    Listen to his music:!/johnfeodorov

    Watch the Art21 episode he is in:

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