• Tuesday, January 03, 2023 11:32 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Before Bainbridge Island had a bridge to the Kitsap peninsula, it established its first non-profit arts organization. Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, as it came to be called, is still going strong. This mainstay of the island’s arts scene celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, and it greets the milestone with a real splash: a showing of artwork by visionary ceramic sculptor Patti Warashina. 

    The term “visionary” gets tossed around casually, but surely it applies to Warashina: in 2020 she received the Smithsonian’s Visionary Artist award. The occasion honored the Seattle artist for her five decades of ground-breaking work in ceramics, and for being “a defining figure in the West Coast Funk Art movement.”

    Warashina’s influences include Rene Margritte, Hieronymous Bosch, and Louise Nevelson; she credits “the era of the Beatles” as another influence. What do those artists have in common and share with Warashina? The pursuit of a personal and often dream-like expression that frequently critiqued the broader culture or ignored its strictures entirely. 

    As a Japanese-American raised in Spokane during WWII, and as a single mother navigating the male-minated art world in the 1960s and ’70s, Warashina saw much to resent and to resist. Yet a humorous, whimsical, absurdist take on reality characterizes her work. It is as if she takes too much delight in clay and paint to strike an overtly angry tone in the work itself. This dynamic shifted after the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the rise of hateful bigotry in its wake. Warashina’s outrage is undisguised in polemical pieces like “Democracy on the Run.”  

    Now in her eighties, the Seattle artist remains productive, engaged, and relevant. Consider her “Gossipmongers” tableau: figures in a circle gossip via tin-can telephones (you know, where the cans are connected by a piece of string). But at the figure’s feet those same cans have been elongated to become sticks of dynamite, each with its string snipped short to form a fuse. Warashina is telling us about social media without telling us about social media. 

    In addition to tableaux, BAC has plenty of smaller ceramic pieces on display: tiny birds, a fantastical cat or two, painted plates, and cups that overflow with ridiculousness and obscure purpose. Two-dimensional works — lithographic prints and drypoint monoprints — round out the show. 

    With an internationally-renowned artistin the house, Bainbridge Arts & Crafts is stepping it up in its 75th year rather than resting on past laurels. Come out to celebrate, and learn more about Bainbridge Arts & Crafts’s rich history and its plans for a bright future.

    Tom McDonald

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

    Patti Warashina’s art is on view at Bainbridge Arts & Crafts, located at 151 Winslow Way East on Bainbridge Island, Washington, Monday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. and Sunday from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. For information, visit

  • Tuesday, January 03, 2023 11:08 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    How can we describe Ginny Ruffner’s work, life, and creativity in words? The “Flowering Tornado” seems an apt description of this prolific and experimental artist. It is also the title of her first pop-up book, “Creativity: The Flowering Tornado,” and the title of an essay by curator Tina Oldknow.

    Ruffner is a flurry of creativity and imagination, never afraid to expand the bounds of materials or processes. In this context, a tornado is not used as a negative action. On the contrary, it blends, mixes, and breathes collaboration and curiosity. What is so extraordinary about this exhibition, “Ginny Ruffner: What If?,” at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, is that it functions as a think-tank for Ruffner’s work. It is not organized chronologically, like many traditional retrospectives, but instead co-curators Greg Robinson and Amy Sawyer bring work from every decade of Ruffner’s career to the gallery as a visual garden for the viewer’s exploration. From lampworked glass, to paintings, to large-scale aluminum sculptures, the exhibition highlights two foundational elements of Ruffner’s career: curiosity and creativity.

    Ginny Ruffner, who celebrated her 70th birthday last summer, is never afraid to push the boundaries of her chosen mediums in unexpected ways. She often dismantles and reuses materials from older work to make new ones, which creates a constant revolution in her artwork as one piece flows into another. Even lampworking provides her the opportunity to make “mistakes” and go in a different direction. The earliest work in the exhibition is a prime example of the artist’s interest in expanding her artistic horizons. “Morning Parallel Universe” from 1984 is lampworked glass and mixed media, and is an early attempt for Ruffner to utilize paint on her glass artworks. In this instance, the viewer can distinctly see the marks of the applied paint materials. The juxtaposition of these early strokes of paint on glass with examples of Ruffner’s interest in realism through oil on canvas paintings is a fascinating visual exercise.

    A short distance from “Morning Parallel Universe” is “Self Portrait with Lampworking Dictionary.” Created only 6 years later, this sculpture not only illustrates Ruffner’s impressive mastery of both lampworking and paint but is also a rich foundation for her narrative mastery. Ruffner chooses to represent herself as a swan in this self-portrait. Swans are a common subject for lampworking, including at booths in malls and other venues that produce small sculptures of swans, wishing wells, unicorns, etc. According to BIMA Chief Curator Greg Robinson, Ruffner did not permit her students to create swans for this reason and her choice to portray herself as a swan has layers of depth. Female artists face many obstacles, especially in male-dominated mediums such as glass. By using the swan, perhaps Ruffner is considering her own position within the glass community and her identity as an artist. In addition to the swan, she includes many examples of her visual language in the artwork. Wings, feathers, fruit, and a mirror all appear in the artwork and are again referenced in others in the exhibition. This language and use of whimsical narrative can be traced back to Ruffner’s earliest work, and makes her sculpture instantly recognizable.

    While Ruffner is perhaps best known for her glass artwork, her painting and work in Augmented Reality (AR) are significant aspects of the exhibition. The paintings provide additional context for Ruffner’s interest in narrative elements and visual code. Her ventures in AR reiterate her dedication to providing a story for her audiences and commitment to curiosity. The retrospective book outlines this area of her work in greater detail, and is worth reading for this additional context. Visitors can also experience the AR first-hand through an app, which is a welcome element for the show.

    Ginny Ruffner has been a fixture in the Seattle art scene for decades, and her influence on scores of glass artists is evident throughout her teaching career that carries far outside of the Pacific Northwest.

    The exhibition and accompanying book provide visitors with a glimpse into the life and career of this important artist, while also paying her the respect earned through decades of creative output, teaching, and exhibitions. Visitors will be pleased to see the wide range of work included in the show; carefully selected and placed by the curators which must have been a challenging task when choosing from hundreds of options. In the end, the show provides artwork favorites, a few surprises, and endless possibilities for adventure, collaboration, and curiosity. Ruffner keeps creating work and we are fortunate to have a front row seat in Seattle to her ever-expanding artistic repertoire.

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    “Ginny Ruffner: What If?” is on view daily from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. through February 28 at Bainbridge Island Museum of Art located at 550 Winslow Way on Bainbridge Island, Washington. For more information, visit

  • Tuesday, January 03, 2023 10:28 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    In March 1898, Woodland Park visitors would have seen a surprising sight: Sámi reindeer herders and their reindeer. They came from what was then called Lapland, in Scandinavia, on a contract to teach reindeer herding to Alaskan natives! The expedition had the dramatic title of the “Lapland-Yukon Relief Expedition.”

    The expedition was the idea of Sheldon Jackson, General Agent for Education in Alaska. He spread the myth that Alaskan Natives were starving, for an earlier expedition. In 1898, it was supposedly the Gold Miners who were starving, both ploys to raise money. But his agenda was actually part of the late 19th century efforts to “civilize” and assimilate Native peoples-in this case the Alaskan natives, who had not been touched by boarding school policies in the lower 48 states.

    Initially the expedition included 87 Lapps (now called Sámi), some Finns and Swedes and 530 reindeer. The Sámi were touted as “model” Indigenous people as they travelled across the sea and across the country. By the time they reached Seattle many of the reindeer died of starvation because their diet of lichen was not available.

    A group photo by Anders  Beer

    Wilse in the introductory gallery of “Mygration,” documents about twenty herders (it isn’t clear if that was all that survived), along with their families, including very young children. The herders stand out in their distinctive crown-like hats and clothing made of reindeer hide.

    Sámi artist Tomas Colbengtson transfers and transforms these historic Sámi photos onto small ceramic works that are displayed under the photographs. Colbengtson is South Sámi and grew up in a tiny village in central Sweden. Another ceramic work depicts the reindeer, and a rendering of a figure perhaps based on a ritual drum (one of which you can also see elsewhere at the Nordic Museum).

    In the second gallery, there is a dramatic shift in scale: Stina Folkebrant’s life size paintings of reindeer in subtle shades of gray surround us. Although she works in acrylic,the artist was inspired by Chinese ink painting. Folkebrant emphasizes the relationships of animals and humans and here, indeed, we feel that we are wandering in a field of reindeer. Each large painting presents one of the eight seasons of the Sámi.

    Hanging in the center of the gallery are transparent plexiglass panels as well as a panel with a mirror in the center, all suspended from the ceiling and in constant motion. Here Colbengtson transferred Sámi photographs onto plexiglass (one panel is Dr. Shelton Jackson). Herders seem to move among the life size reindeer in the paintings as the panels move. We are also reflected in the mirror in the center and become part of the movement.

    The artists state that they are evoking the Sámi concept of circular time and herd mentality “Reindeer are herd animals and being together offers protection from danger. The whole herd becomes a single organism with a thousand eyes that can detect danger; if one turns around, the others follow. People are also herd animals; they want a sense of belonging.”

    The story of the Sámi and the reindeer in Alaska follows many twists and turns.  After decades of various powerplays (such as a Gold Rush family taking over reindeer herding and profiting from reindeer products), eventually, the Alaska Natives were given the herds to own, and they let them go to join their caribou cousins. In other words instead of assimilation to white man’s ways, they assimilated the reindeer to their own habitat.

    Some Sámi stayed in Alaska and inter-married with the Indigenous people. They are still very much part of Alaska today as evidenced in a recent exhibit in Juneau.

    “Mygration” is a celebration of reindeer and the traditional relationship of Sámi as herders to these animals. As the moving plexiglass images of the Sámi intersect with the reindeer the installation perfectly conveys the magic of nomadic herders of reindeer.

    Susan Noyes Platt

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

    “Mygration” is on view Tuesday through Sunday from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. until March 5 at the National Nordic Museum, located at 2655 Market Street in Seattle, Washington. For information, visit

  • Tuesday, January 03, 2023 9:59 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Cue the David Bowie song one more time: “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!” 

    The much-loved Roby King Gallery on Bainbridge Island is no longer with us, or at least not in the form we’re used to. Owners Andrea Roby-King and Wes King, who established the gallery in 1990, have turned over the keys to a new owner, and have turned the page on this chapter of their lives. 

    Wes and Andrea have time now to reflect back on earlier chapters, like the day they met at the University of Illinois circa 1972, and how that day blossomed into a lasting partnership in love, in art-making, and in business. Or they’ll look back on that chapter with the plot-twist, where they moved to Seattle, created a pottery line, and began selling their wares up and down the West Coast. And then found an island to move to. Or was that a whole separate book? Can’t remember. 

    What we are sure to remember is Wes and Andrea’s warm and wise presence on the scene, the excellence of the artists they represented and nurtured, and their gracious ways with their customers. They engaged with the broader community, supported worthwhile causes. You wanted to be at Roby King on a First Friday Art Walk, with Wes and Andrea scurrying about in their convivial element. You’d chat with the artists, talk with random friends and neighbors taking in the new work; you’d sit beside a stranger on the big red couch by the window and learn their opinions about art, and on other matters great and small. 

    The gallery space itself is now guided by Jude Grenney, an experienced gallerist based in Park City, Utah. She owns the JGO Gallery there, and now she owns the JGO Galleries on Bainbridge Island too. It’s been a graceful, well-planned you’ll find some continuity—same as with any new chapter. 

    Grenney has some stories of her own, of course. The more recent ones involve working in Park City galleries during the ‘90s, and opening a gallery of her own in 2002. The gallery moved to a larger setting in 2018, an event space with wine-tastings, parties, and live music. Live music is one of Grenney’s passions, along with skiing. Good thing the Puget Sound region has a lot to offer in those regards.  

    January is the time for welcoming in the new. Come say hello to Jude and her team on First Friday, and help get a new chapter off to a great start.

    Tom McDonald

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

    JGO Galleries, located at 176 Winslow Way East on Bainbridge Island, is open Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 5 P.M. Visit

  • Wednesday, November 02, 2022 11:12 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Perry and Carlson in Mount Vernon, Washington has quickly established itself as a must-do in the city’s downtown. Owners Trina Perry and Christian Carlson had long dreamed of a space to foster creativity and explore their own artistic endeavors, and they found the perfect location for their storefront in the historic 1924 Brunet Building. Christian, an artist and architect, and Trina, an artist and retail designer, were the perfect people to renovate the treasured historic location and bring it new life. The resulting storefront is not only a carefully curated shop with goods from around the world but is also beloved for its thoughtful art exhibitions which feature artists from all geographic regions. Exhibitions range from installations to sculpture to printmaking, but the next two exhibitions highlight a beloved genre in the Pacific Northwest: landscape paintings by Dodi Fredericks and Christian Carlson. 

    In November, Perry and Carlson Gallery shows landscape and abstract watercolors by Dodi Fredericks in an exhibit titled, “Mind’s Eye.” Her interest in art started early; she was an art major in school and worked in a pottery studio in Virginia for nearly a decade before moving to the Pacific Northwest. While attending the University of Washington, Fredericks attended a landscape architecture class which launched her 30-year career as a landscape architect. It may come as no surprise that this interest in the landscape carries through in her watercolors today. 

    Interestingly, Fredericks connects her early career as a potter to the paintings she creates today. When asked about the connection, the artist said watercolors and glazing have similar characteristics and that she felt drawn to watercolor because of her previous experience. Both materials are fluid and allow for creative accidents, a process attractive to her. This balance of control and freedom is key to her paintings, just as it was to her pottery. The artist recalls the complexities of pottery; the glaze, fire, temperature, material components, and more. Watercolor is almost like a dance with a push and pull between the control of the artist and the ability to allow the materials to flow freely.

    Both the November and December exhibits at Perry and Carlson Gallery feature landscape painting and both artists reiterate the importance of connecting with the natural environment to truly understand the atmosphere around them. The light in the Pacific Northwest is transformed as it filters through the mist and air, creating a quality of light that continues to draw artists and creatives to the region. For Fredericks, a connection to the landscape is crucial to her work as she seeks to create a serene atmosphere. Trips to Eastern Washington with its expansive qualities and to Norway with the water-filled fjords encouraged the artist to think about space, time, and how it feels to be in these locations. Christian Carlson, an artist, architect, and co-owner of Perry and Carlson, is also showing his paintings at the gallery in December. Entitled “At Sea Level,” his paintings are reflections of his experience observing the land while out at sea in his kayak. Originally painting in the style of abstract expressionists, Carlson turned his attention more to the natural world after moving to the Skagit Valley. Now his work is influenced by the impression of the landscape, rather than his exact observations of the world. While the images made by Carlson are not exact locations, all his works capture the essence of his subjects with incredible perception and feeling. The works have multiple layers of paint all working together to create gradations of color and incredible depth in a 2-dimensional surface. All of the paintings consistently have a strong horizon line, perhaps to give the viewer a sense of their place in the work, but subtle vertical lines emerge at close viewing. These lines, cracks, or scratches give the impression that maybe something is amiss in the painted world before us. In the end, each visitor will determine their own feeling or impression during the viewing experience. 

    During the colder months of November and December the shows at Perry and Carlson Gallery provides a welcome escape from the dark winter views. When the fields turn brown, and the trees lose their leaves, Fredericks and Carlson’s blues and greens appear even brighter. Only the filtered light through the mist connects the frozen landscape to the painted ones. From fluid and expansive vistas by Fredericks to Carlson’s imagined landscape impressions, visitors to downtown Mount Vernon will experience landscape painting in a new and personal way.

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    Perry and Carlson, located at 504 South 1st Street in Mount Vernon, Washington, is open Wednesday through Monday from 11 A.M. to 6 P.M. They are closed on Tuesdays. For more information, visit

  • Wednesday, November 02, 2022 10:43 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Gallery Onyx, the phenomenal showcase for artists of African descent in Seattle, has just opened a second venue in the chic Arte Noir space at 23rd and Union in Seattle, Washington! 

    The only gallery in Seattle with two venues, Gallery Onyx started with only seven artists in a small space in Belltown in 2015. Now it includes over 400 artists in its collective. You can currently see 33 artists in their ongoing “Members Exhibit” at Gallery Onyx Pacific Place. Gallery Onyx Midtown Square is showing 46 artists in the exhibition “Truth B Told II” selected from their portfolio of the same name. The new space is larger than the original gallery with movable walls that create a dynamic presence. 

    When you enter Gallery Onyx, it is obvious that it follows a unique path: rather than a homogenous look, with just one or two artists, it juxtaposes dozens of artists of all styles and media, from abstract to realistic, from expressionist, to surreal, from mosaics to digital prints. Earnest Thomas, President and Co Founder of Gallery Onyx focuses on inclusiveness, rather than a marketable style from an artist. He encourages young artists, bashful artists, artists who have never show their work before. Gallery Onyx mission is to “educate, inspire, cultivate, and showcase the artwork of artists of African descent from our Pacific Northwest communities.” 

    This mission is meeting with great success. As you read the biographies of the artists in the Gallery Onyx portfolio “Truth B Told II,” that includes 276 artworks by 74 artists, formal art training does not dominate the narrative. The Onyx artists came to art while pursuing full time jobs, professional careers, and/or military service. Some took up art after a medical condition prevented them from working. Some began to draw as two year olds, but never went to art school, others took it up as elders. The range of experiences that these artists bring to their work inspires us, telling us that creativity can blossom no matter what stage or age in life. 

    Both of the Onyx galleries are welcoming, comfortable places where artists can interact with customers and each other. The movable walls can easily be reconfigured. Thomas, like Vivian Phillips, Arte Noir Executive Director, deeply believes in the power of community. Earnest Thomas seeks to “uplift the soul to soul communication that art brings.” Arte Noir’s vision is to create “space, stability, opportunity, and training to serve the needs of the Black creative community with a permanent location at Midtown Square.”

    Arte Noir’s boutique sales gallery features artist-designed products by some of the same artists, as well as those shown in the spectacular murals in Midtown Center’s courtyard and on the outside walls of Midtown Center. 

    Highlighting a few works in “Truth B Told II” is difficult! “Hello My Friend,” by Vincent Keele, is a portrait of Earnest Thomas that depicts the interior of Thomas’s house with his painting in the background. Next to it in the gallery is that same painting “Planar Views I and II,” two adjacent canvases with the same structure of rectangles and squares, but on the right the open frames in single colors intersect to suggest an unsolvable puzzle, while on the left opaque planes, with many of the same colors, create a different dynamic entirely. 

    The portrait of John Lewis “Our Hero” in acrylic and ceramic by Brenda Ezell pays intimate homage to a great leader suggesting his intense life of commitment to Civil Rights. 

    Michael Madden’s “Street Corner” includes collage, oil paint, and drawing, as well as embedded photographs. Its multiple complex levels suggests the experience in Seattle these days, from proud histories to desperation. 

    “Amboseli” by Jackie Nichols, with beads, leather, and metal sewn into the surface honors a Masai warrior that she met in the Amboseli National Park in East Africa. It is one of several works with an African theme. 

    Bryan Stewart’s “Presence,” a tall narrow half portrait of a black man looks down on us with serene dignity.

    The new Gallery Onyx Midtown Square paired with the Gallery Onyx at Pacific Place allows these artists to reach a wide audience. Throughout the entire Midtown Complex with its extensive art program, we can experience the flowering of contemporary artists of color in the Central District and the versatility of artists of African descent. 

    Susan Noyes Platt

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

    Gallery Onyx, located at Pacific Place, 600 Pine Street, in Seattle, Washington, is open from Friday through Sunday, from 12 to 6 P.M.

    Gallery Onyx Midtown Square, located inside Arte Noir, 2301 E. Union, St Suite H, in Seattle, Washington, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M.

  • Wednesday, November 02, 2022 10:24 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Wednesday, August 31, 2022 8:41 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    The intricate and fanciful sculptures of Calvin Ma are on view at Foster/White Gallery in Seattle, in a show that runs the month of September. New pieces from the San Francisco-based sculptor Calvin Ma are extensions of the “Blend In” series that has absorbed him in recent years. This on-going project centers on bird-human figures in varied settings and poses; these figures are provocative, though not all viewers will be provoked in the same way, as Ma himself has observed with some amusement.

    Ma’s craftsmanship is on display, his mastery of color and form, but it’s not just a question of technique: the work attains a psychological richness with its enigmatic imagery. The precision of the craft enhances the aura of intimacy or vulnerability that Ma’s work brings about. Ma keeps things light-hearted with his geekery, and with his vivid celebrations of color, shape, and pattern. 

    The foremost feature in the “Blend In” series is the merger of bird and human form. Where does one stop and the other begin? Is one a mask for the other? Are the two beings companions, or in opposition? 

    Avian/humanoid fusion is of course ancient material, and deeply archetypal. We think of falcon-headed Horus in ancient Egypt, or the winged figures in Greek mythology. But Ma seems less interested in historical echoes than in contemporary fixations: his inspirations are comic book superheroes (with their wing-like capes draped about them) and the action-figures of his boyhood—the

    Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a particularly strong formative influence on Ma. 

    This is an artist whose geek game is a strong. An early boost to Ma’s career came in 2014 when his work appeared in the “Geek-Art” anthology published by Chronicle Books. Ma still gives a bulbous look to the leg joints of his “Blend In” figures—you’d think the joints are articulated in standard action-figure style. But these limbs are in no way pliable or posable (not that I touched the artwork to find out!). 

    When Ma deploys a bulbous form where the legs don’t bend, we can suppose it simply looks and feels right to him; as a child he escaped with his action figures into flights of imagination, and went on to dream of working for the Mattel or Hasbro toy companies. Ma underscores that these early activities were highly tactile experiences; this may explain another characteristic of his work, that each facet of each pattern in his designs is finely textured and (often) complexly colored. Look closely. The amount of carving and incising and brushing that go into any one piece is astounding to consider. 

    The theme of disguise has always been present in Ma’s work, just as it is in the Ninja Turtles and the superheroes of his boyhood. What Ma wants to disguise or defend against is his social anxieties, the awkward shyness he’s struggled with since childhood, and which he feels hindered by to this day. “Being shy, timid, and a bit socially awkward is something that will always be a part of me,” Ma stated in 2020. “The goal is to come to terms with it and grow from it.” He draws a connection between the stiffness he feels within himself during social encounters and the stiffness of his ceramic figures—they are inarticulate. 

    As for the avian element, birds appear to be more than just a convenient vessel for Ma’s investigations but a personal passion. Diverse breeds have migrated into the “Blend In” series—owls, ravens, even tropical birds. They add visual variety to the menagerie, prompting Ma to explore delightful new shapes and color schemes. Ma remains faithful to natural coloration and yet he’s inventive in his arrangement of those colors; when it comes to orchestrating color harmonies within each piece, he’s a maestro.

    Depictions of habitat are an important dimension in Ma’s world, and a relatively recent one. In earlier projects like “Homebodies,” his figures stood alone, isolated from surroundings. More recently his figures appear within a larger composition, the bounds of which are defined by an array of smaller ceramic pieces—sometimes dozens of them. These nature elements sit below or above, behind or around the figure, as in a diorama. We see the abstracted branches a bird might perch on or nest in (“Between the Lines”) or spacious displays of protective leaves or nourishing flowers (as in “Leave No Trace” and “New Growth”). Each leaf, branch, and blossom is hand-built and individuated. Ma presents more than a character, but a setting and a scene, a drama of sorts. The story taking place is yours to imagine; for Ma they likely are to do with a stressful social engagement. By strewing flowers and leaves and other presences in this way, Ma opens out both spatially and emotionally; as visuals, the habitat arrangements express spontaneity, fluidity, and openness, in contrast to the tightness that defines and confines the figure. These scenes breathe and achieve balance. With these qualities activated it seems that Ma is making progress along an arduous path.

    Tom McDonald

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

    Calvin Ma’s exhibit “Blend In: Between the Lines” is on view at Foster/White Gallery, located at 220 Third Avenue South in Seattle, Washington, Tuesday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M.  For information, visit

  • Wednesday, August 31, 2022 8:37 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Wednesday, August 31, 2022 8:01 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    “Art isn’t a way to be famous and rich, but it is a way to connect on a spiritual level with your paintings, people, and good friends.” This quote by Alfredo Arreguín from the DreamPath Podcast, Episode 8 perhaps best describes the acclaimed artist’s goal for his work. Arreguín’s unique combination of complex, geometric patterns with portraiture and landscape elements blend to create for the viewer either a spiritual moment or opportunity for introspection. The exhibit, “Arreguín: Painter from the New World,” brings together two key elements of the artist’s style: abstraction and formative cultural elements. Both characteristics of the artist’s aesthetic exemplify a style that is instantly recognizable in the Pacific Northwest and beyond.


    Alfredo Arreguín’s artworks are included in many key art collections around the world, including significant paintings at the Smithsonian Museum of American Art, the U.S. Department of State’s Art in Embassies program, and the Seattle Art Museum. This writer is often delighted by recognizing one of his familiar scenes from across the gallery in numerous art museums around the country. Western Washington has enjoyed several major solo exhibitions of the artist’s work, including most recently an exhibition at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. The exhibit at the Museum of Northwest Art adds an additional art historical element for the viewer to consider when experiencing Arreguín’s work: European Modernism. This formal analysis references several of the artist’s instructors from his time at the University of Washington, many of whom have work on display in the second-floor galleries. 

    One such instructor was Francis Celentano, a professor of painting at the University of Washington and key figure in the Op Art movement in the United States in the 1960s. A quote by Arreguín explains the relationship between the two artists: “I was getting good at figurative art so in his class he had a set-up with white geometric shapes. He asked me to join his class. All that light and subtlety and shapes—it was very inspiring. These were things I could do in my own compositions.” The exhibition includes several new and older paintings that highlight the artist’s stated interest in both geometric shapes and the influence of light on those forms. “Emerald Island” from 1970 is at the entrance of the exhibition, a location of prominence since it was the first of the artist’s pattern paintings. A grid defines the composition and squares are filled with gradient colors that evoke shadows amongst the confident lines. Inside the boxes are seemingly unrecognizable characters that retain the artist’s hand in their calligraphic style. As the root of Arreguín’s signature style, “Emerald Island” illustrates the juxtapositions in his work: geometry combined with organic and naturalistic elements. 

    The exhibition is loosely organized based on several themes. The first paintings lay the groundwork for a consideration of the artist’s interest in geometric abstraction and other modernist artistic movements in the 20th century. The artworks that follow are excellent examples of the other main characters in the artist’s oeuvre: the figure and nature. Arreguín includes many beloved Northwest animals, such as salmon and orca whales, in his recent work. The artist has long featured the jungle in his work, often drawing from his experience as a child growing up in Morelia. The jungle provides the artist with a lush, natural backdrop, which he then often organizes with intricate pattern designs. Some of his work appears to comment on the delicate balance of these scenes. This is best illustrated in “Kodiak II,” which features a solitary moose standing over the shrinking glaciers in Alaska. 

    Arreguín’s paintings of almost otherworldly landscapes are as recognizable as his portraits. Some include prominent historical figures like Frida Kahlo, while others feature other artists and writers that the artist knows personally. Many of his subjects endured great adversity. Whether the challenges they faced were physical, such as Kahlo, or in the fight for rights, Arreguín pays homage to their courage and determination. The gallery guide created for the exhibition is an excellent resource for visitors to learn more about the artist’s interest in portraiture, in addition to the range of cultural influences that inform and inspire the artist’s work. The guide provides a lens for understanding his imagination, memories, and vision. 

    As a compliment to Arreguín’s exhibition, the museum features “In Pursuit of Abstraction: Instructors at the University of Washington School of Art in the 1960s”. Several artists mentioned in Arreguín’s exhibition have artworks on display in the second-floor galleries and there is another informative gallery guide available that describes the various art historical “isms” in the show. 


    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    Arreguín: Painter from the New World,” guest curated by Matthew Kangas, is on view through October 9, Monday through Sunday, 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. at Museum of Northwest Art, located at 121 South First Street in La Conner, Washington. For more information, visit

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