• Wednesday, August 31, 2022 8:00 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    For Phoebe & Scott, June 11, 2022

    A marriage is a waiting and an arrival, an endless joining and parting, a balance of needs and desires, of work and play. It is both the urge and the reason, the plan and its delay, the measure of everything we chance, win or lose, in the night-to-night and day-by-day.

    I once had a terrible class of eighth graders. The trouble was mostly the girls, who had started to blossom out beyond the boys, who were the usual dolts and delinquents, but still quiet and polite. The girls felt their dawning rivalry, and were merciless with each other. They drew blood any way they could. All I could do was break up the fistfights and threaten them with the cops.

    And then one chilly day, hopeless, at an utter loss, I saw it was Valentine’s Day. And I asked the kids to take out paper and pencil and describe something someone did for them, that convinced them they were loved. Anything. Some kids wrote about their parents, sisters and brothers. Some told long stories. Some kids made stuff up. When they were done, they wanted me to read them all outloud, without saying whose was whose. So I shuffled them up and did. This one girl had written “He gives me flowers without picking them.” That was it. “He gives me flowers without picking them.” How do you even do that? But there it was, and it cut deep, and got to the heart of the matter. Honoring the transitory beauty in the moment, appreciating that a cut flower will have no offspring. That all it has is this moment. Stunning, irresistible, maybe a heartbeat too early or too late.

    That is why we are here. That is the kind of creatures we are. Because someone can touch someone else in a way no one else can even see. And that everyone should be treated that well, in that secret invisible way. “That flower over there, by the fence? That one, the brightest one, is yours.”

    When it works, we stand together against the unfeeling world. Somebody’s got our back. Yet even when it works, it sometimes comes and goes. We have to 

    reconnect, we have to not forget to reconnect. Even in our momentary joys. Even when we let go a minute, we need to recall our promises, and double back, and hold on like we still mean it. And reconnect with all our heart.

    Paul Hunter

    Paul Hunter is the author and poet living in Seattle. His most recent book is a second cowboy novel set in Texas, Mr. Brick & the Boys, out from Davila Books in January. A third cowboy book is nearing completion, Untaming the Valley, set in a fictional spot in Southwestern Montana. He has several poetry collections, including Stubble Field (Silverfish Review Press), Ripening (Silverfish Review Press), and Breaking Ground (Silverfish Review Press), which received the 2005 Washington State Book Award. 

  • Wednesday, August 31, 2022 7:57 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Word by Word

    That I dream in sentences may seem a bit odd.

    Except it isn’t, really.

    How the sentences began is a story in itself, intertwined with my love of reading, prompted by whatever book I’m immersed in or, more likely, by my opinion of whatever book I’m immersed in. I hear the words. Then, slowly, they emerge. Words that want nothing more than to make my mind a truer place in which to live.

    They are not always successful.

    Nor are they new to my dream cycles. When I was a kid, Highlights was my favorite read, and mine alone, though I was supposed to share the magazines with my sisters. I didn’t share them with my sisters. In winter, I hid them under my bed. In summer, in my tree fort.

    No one ever found me in my fort and that’s what I wanted. Without interruption, I was eager to know myself in the world outside of my family, my school, my street.

    My fort was neat, airy, and when the afternoon sun hit the paper birch, the white bark illuminated every insect hovering in the air between the lowest branches and the ground. It was about this time that I started dreaming in sentences.

    My father said, “don’t let the neighbor kids climb up,” which didn’t bother me, I didn’t want the neighbor kids to climb up. But I couldn’t imagine what he meant by “dangerous.” To me, the weather-beaten boards weren’t a hazard, but safety. I thought the lopsidedness of my three walls (it was more of a lean-to) was its most endearing quality. To this day, a well-kept cottage can fill me with house-envy. But it’s not like that when I see lavish reflections of wealth. It’s as if I can feel certain tensions seeping out and then, there they are, gathering in a sleepy sentence inside of my head.

    I’m not saying every gigantic house is chaos waiting to happen. I’m just saying that’s how I internalize them. Listening to my parents’ marriage implode within the sturdy split-level my father built, my fort became, not all at once but as their fights intensified, a requirement for the rest of my life. I felt more at home in my fort than anywhere else. I think I’ve been searching for that same feeling ever since.

    A few of my homes have come close. Sometimes I feel as if my true place is still out there.

    I write terribly in the dark and most mornings I have no memory of the sentences. But when I re-read the scribble, I see how the words want to matter just as much as I do, they want to try. They bomb just as often. But they try.

    This morning, the exclamation points ran off the pad. It looks as though I was upset. 

    And I remember with absolute clarity why I was so upset: Earlier, I ate red meat for the first time since I was seventeen. I didn’t know I was eating it. It was in the sauce. I was fine. My stomach didn’t even seem to notice. My mind, however—clearly more sensitive to the thought of beef than my stomach—rebelled, leaving exclamation points in its wake.

    “In my tree fort I began to see how my life would always be about small losses, small wins.” Half an hour ago, this sentence surfaced during the nap I tried to take. The words made their way in, they made mistakes (for instance: I don’t like the word “wins”), they made me listen. To everything.

    Even the memory of that fort makes me smile. I manage to forget the world’s harms and come back to my nest in the woods, and that’s the closest thing to happiness I know.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Mary Lou Sanelli, author, speaker, and master dance teacher, is the author of Every Little Thing, a collection of essays nominated for a 2022 Washington State Book Award. Her novel, The Star Struck Dance Studio of Yucca Springs, was released in 2020 and her first children’s book, Bella Likes To Try, is to be published in the fall of 2022. For more information, visit

  • Monday, July 04, 2022 11:57 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    oh daughter of mine

    there will come

    a day when you

    must make

    that fateful journey

    away from home

    after the night of broken glass

    your parents will vanish

    the world will shatter

    and you must flee

    go then

    to find the iris

    of a dragon’s eye

    you’ll find

    a garden

    under the churn

    of blue water

    where the stars

    of a lost constellation

    lie in slumber

    mountains of clouds

    black columns

    of shimmering stone

    hover around

    the scales 

    of this sleeping giant

    you will feel

    the movement

    of waves in air

    and water

    quietly bob along

    until you find

    the oldest star

    let it carry you

    to the farthest shore

    where the light

    is never extinguished

    and birds sing

    in the tallest trees

    Alan Chong Lau

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

    John Levy is a poet and photographer. His most recent book of poetry, “Silence Like Another Name,” was published by Otata’s Bookshelf. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

    Alan Chong Lau and John Levy have published three volumes of a poetry and photography collaboration that can be found by searching online for “eye2word.”

  • Monday, July 04, 2022 11:39 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    This summer and into the fall, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art is putting on a retrospective of works by the celebrated Northwest visionary, George Tsutakawa (1910-1997). Maybe “Northwest visionary” doesn’t quite do the artist justice: Tsutakawa attained international stature in his time, rivaling that of his friends Mark Tobey and Morris Graves. With over seventy artworks on hand—paintings, drawings, sculptures, hand-crafted furniture—as well as a gorgeous exhibition catalogue, the retrospective is a real occasion.

    People often asked George Tsutakawa if he was Japanese or American, and he liked to answer “both.” His commitment to both, his ability to unify them, is part of what makes the artist loom large in the post-WWII arts scene. Born in Seattle in 1910, Tsutakawa was sent to Japan in early childhood, receiving a rich education in traditional Japanese arts and culture. His well-off family charted out his educational future, but Tsutakawa rejected it, particularly its militarist aspect. Disowned, Tsutakawa came back to Seattle. At University of Washington, he studied art and philosophy while working in fish canneries and produce stands to support himself. 

    The horrors of WWII and a climate of racial hatred caused many Japanese Americans living in the U.S. to distance themselves from their Japanese heritage, and this was true of Tsutakawa. He poured himself into European and American culture and embraced modernism in all its forms. But a cultural shift was going around him. Local painters like Morris Graves and Mark Tobey, writers like Gary Snyder, musicians like John Cage (then teaching at Cornish), had all been moving in an opposite direction: they disdained many aspects of “Western” culture and found artistic and spiritual inspiration in Zen and other “Eastern’’ practices. Tsutakawa was well-suited to flourish in those cultural cross-currents. 

    The retrospective concentrates on his work from the 1950s forward. One of the earliest pieces on view is “Beach Pattern No. 11” (1950). Tsutakawa’s reverence for water is already present in the work. While the watercolor reveals traces of his later style, what leaps out more strongly is the influence of Cubism and Expressionism. 

    Encouraged by Mark Tobey, Tsutakawa began to revive his connection to the Japanese aesthetics he’d once renounced. You can see this evolution in works from the 1960s and beyond. One highlight of the show is “Cracked Lake” from 1974. The large painting in sumi and gansai (Japanese watercolor) plays a game of making ink and paper look like clay. It’s the clay of a dried-up lake-bed that Tsutakawa represents, but this image echoes the ceramic style most prized in Japan during Tsutakawa’s childhood: Hagi ware. Rawness and simplicity characterizes the style, as does the unpredictable web of cracks in the glaze. 

    What is also striking about “Cracked Lake” is what’s absent from it: water and life. Other paintings from the same period teem with living creatures. It’s as if “Cracked Lake” invites a meditation on impermanence.

    As fine as the paintings may be, Tsutakawa made his greatest marks with wood and bronze sculptures. One major inspiration for Tsutakawa’s new directions in sculpture came from reading the 1952 travelog, “Beyond the High Himalayas.” Its author, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas described obos, stacked rock formations erected by pilgrims traversing mountain passes, each traveler adding their own stone or flat boulder to the monument. Whatever import the artist found here, obos entranced him enough that they began turning up in his paintings (“Flying Obos”). In ‘57 he set out to explore these humble forms in a series of wooden sculptures. For these works Tsutakawa chose teak, a wood that is native to India and Southern Asia. This show includes several pieces from the series, some in wood, some in bronze. 

    Tsutakawa made his breakthrough bronze fountain sculpture in 1960; “Fountain of Wisdom” was based on the obos concept. The piece was commissioned for the entrance to the Seattle Public Library—the artist’s first major public art commission (two more commissions came before the first was even unveiled). This exhibition includes select proposal drawings and models (maquettes) depicting several of his towering fountains; the exhibition catalog includes several photographs of the actual works installed at sites all over the world. 

    The obsession with the obos didn’t end there for Tsutakawa, however. At the age of 67 he climbed to the 15,000-foot level in the Himalayas to see obos with his own eyes. This story comes up in the exhibition catalog, and it speaks volumes about Tsutakawa’s life. 

    Maybe it is that larger-than-life quality that inspired Bainbridge Island Museum to install a tribute to the artist in the museum’s two-story window gallery. For this effort, the curatorial and installation teams collaborated with artist June Sekiguchi and artist/engineer Charles Faddis. It’s a fitting gesture for a towering figure like Tsutakawa. 

    Tom McDonald

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

    “George Tsutakawa: Language the Nature” is on view at Bainbridge Island Museum of Art, located at 550 Winslow Way on Bainbridge Island, Washington, and open daily from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. For more information, visit

  • Monday, July 04, 2022 11:10 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    “There is another world, but 

    Before visiting Loper and Veltkamp’s exhibitions, the guest first passes through a series of installations that are worth mentioning. Ko Kirk Yamahira’s suspended installation hangs above the viewer while they also experience Tricia Stackle’s Color Spectrum Collection; sculptures that are designed specifically for human interaction. The objects were arranged in a circle and their undulating forms invite people to sit, lie down, climb, and otherwise experience them. Stackle is based in Mount Vernon, Washington, a city about 60 miles north of the museum, and this is part of an ongoing relationship between the artist and BAM. From their first art interaction in the museum, visitors are aware of their role and presence in and around the work. it is in this one.” The words of Surrealist poet Paul Éluard reverberate from the gallery walls of the Bellevue Arts Museum (BAM). Even though the quote is included in Patte Loper’s exhibition, it is possible that the general viewer can utilize questions raised by the phrase for multiple art exhibitions and artistic expressions. Empathy, creativity, perspective, and communication are all attributes that aid the inquisitive viewer, and all these characteristics come into play with the artworks currently in the museum. From Loper’s scientific labyrinth drawings to Joey Veltkamp’s vibrant reminders rooted in nostalgia, the exhibitions provoke the viewer to consider their role in the natural world, relationships with neighbors (human and natural), and humankind’s position in this world.

    Patte Loper and Joey Veltkamp’s exhibits are both in the third-floor galleries of the museum. The interpretive text details that Loper’s exhibit began as a study in how the foundational theories of early museum collections and scientific explorations appeared  to support a destructive relationship with the natural world, as opposed to promoting humankinds’ interconnectedness to that world. Later, the COVID-19 pandemic continued to push the artist to consider perspectives that were not human at all. What does a world look like if humans are not at the center? Further exploration in a cemetery led the artist to review our connectivity with the natural and spiritual world, and how all these elements relate and communicate to each other. 

    Loper examines these relationships in a series of drawings called “Tapestry Maps.” The interpretive museum texts connect these drawings to Hieronymus Bosch’s artwork, “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” which some scholars have interpreted as scenes of Heaven, Earth, and Hell. However, one interesting comparison is between Loper’s “Tapestry Maps” and the “Creation” scene by Bosch, which is visible when the triptych is closed. Visually, both works are devoid of color and reference a globe. Bosch’s “Creation” is perfect; empty of humans and occupied by thriving plant life. In contrast, Loper’s maps outline the movement of reality as our existence progresses from heaven to earth to hell, a result of the living and conscious creatures becoming more disconnected. In addition to these incredibly detailed drawings, Loper includes an installation and sculpture. The work is conceptual, and the subject matter is challenging, so it is helpful that the artist also includes a station for viewer participation and reflection.

    Across the hallway, the viewer is immediately drawn to the playful and colorful work of Joey Veltkamp. Titled “SPIRIT!,” the exhibition includes many of the artist’s quilts, several drawings, banners, an exterior installation, and one rug. While the objects are numerous, the subject matter and mood is remarkably consistent. Veltkamp is interested in what makes his home unique: the food, people, beauty, and history of the Pacific Northwest. 

    The exhibition is not lacking in Veltkamp’s whimsical sense of humor as he highlights some of the stranger elements of the Northwest. Twilight, Twin Peaks, serial killers, and Subarus are all mentioned in the colorful quilts on display. 

    Veltkamp’s exhibition is rooted in his lived experience as a queer folk artist living in the Pacific Northwest, and the show is filled with very personal references from his life and childhood. His dreams, hopes, and fears are all on display. Two quilts are presented on physical beds in a gallery, and above the beds hang beads and crystals on wire that are suspended from the ceiling. The materials catch the eye as they glisten and refract colorful light on the walls and people around them. The artist encourages guests to “walk around and feel the full experience of queerness: the joy, the sorry, the loss, the gifts, the experience.” The exhibition is an invitation to see the world with Veltkamp as your guide.

    The exhibitions could not be more visually different, but it seems that some of the core messages and questions are related. How do we connect with ourselves? How can we be better neighbors? How can we work together to make this world a better place? Take a trip to Bellevue Arts Museum and maybe consider these questions yourself with the artists as your guide.  

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    “Laboratory for Other Worlds” by Patte Loper and “SPIRIT!” by Joey Veltkamp exhibits are on view through October 23 from Wednesday through Sunday 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. at Bellevue Arts Museum, located at 510 Bellevue Way NE in Bellevue Washington. For more information, visit

  • Monday, July 04, 2022 10:58 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Hats off to BONFIRE Gallery for another cutting-edge exhibit with two of the most outrageous artists in Seattle. Deborah Faye Lawrence and Nancy Kiefer both push the boundaries of what is acceptable, but in strikingly different ways. The title, “Still Hung Up,” refers to a phrase that used to refer to passionate affairs gone wrong. But now it means the artists’ obsession with creativity.  

    Nancy Kiefer has a long career of creating insanely confrontational, close up images of women. They are sassy, angry, beautiful, naughty, and recently tragic in her mothers of the disappeared from her “Fierce Woman” series.  These are not easy to look at, the colors are harsh, highly saturated and discordant. Kiefer’s use of black line is aggressive. But what immediately almost overwhelms us is the power of all of these women, whether they undulate like a flame as in “Eye Rise,” offer protection with a flip of a long nailed hand in “Gorgon (Protector),” or hold a terrifying witch mask in “Puppet.” 

    Kiefer is a storyteller as well as a painter, and we see stories in these faces. She exposes the grotesque in our public world with these private women. Kiefer boldly strips away the outside and gives us only the inside and it is, of course, also her own intense emotional experiences that inform these works. 

    Deborah Faye Lawrence disrupts us with collaged images that create unexpected juxtapositions paired with an intense choice of words and references. She frequently uses tin TV trays as the ground for her complex collages. Like Kiefer, her women are strong and naughty. In “Hen Party,” four rooster headed acrobats perch on others only partially seen. They triumphantly hold at bay an intense onslaught of pointed streamers from every direction, each with a different barbed expletive for women. 

    In “Fluid Self-Portrait,” another collage on a tray, a 1950s woman with pearls and heavy glasses balances spherical wooden tops on two fingers of each hand. Her body is an unstable stack of plates balanced on another top, in a landscape of tops. The whole suggests an impossible situation even as the woman beams a huge cheerful smile. The message is clear.

    Lawrence has been making powerful collage for decades. She addresses specific political events, feminism, and personal history, as she undermines cliches and takes on causes. Her sardonic humor  wakes us up.    

    BONFIRE explodes with feminist energy with “Still Hung Up.” These intense artworks show us how to resist the multiple abuses of women’ rights world-wide. Here in our country, of course, we have the imminent loss of the right to an abortion. 

    These artists tell us we are already angry and outrageous, now we need to act on it!

    Susan Noyes Platt

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

    “Still Hung Up” is on view July 20 through August 20, Thursday through Saturday 12 to 5 P.M., at BONFIRE Gallery, located at 603 South Main Street in Seattle, Washington. Opening Reception: Wednesday, July 20, 6-8P.M. First Thursday Reception: August 4, 6-8 P.M. For more information, visit


  • Tuesday, May 03, 2022 2:52 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    At the entrance of “Our Blue Planet,” Ken Workman, the direct descendant of Chief Seattle, welcomes us from the shores of the Duwamish River, the historic homeland of his people, now a superfund site.

    That pairing of history, water, and the present condition of the planet is one theme of “Our Blue Planet.” We next see above our heads, a long banner by Carolina Caycedo that documents the changes in a river as it goes from clean (blue) to polluted (mud colored). Nearby in Caycedo’s video, we learn from the people living on the Paranà River in Brazil, about their traditional ways, the impact of a huge dam on their lives, and their brave resistance.

    This landmark exhibition has ten themes and almost one hundred art works, all drawn from the museum’s own collections and local loans. Three curators collaborated on its organization, mostly remotely, during the pandemic. Pamela McClusky, Curator of African and Oceanic Art; Barbara Brotherton, Curator of Native American Art; and Natalia Di Pietrantonio, newly appointed as Assistant Curator of South Asian Art, created themes that refer to water as necessary to life, as pleasure, as law, as mythic, and as desecrated. They encompass celebration, poetry, ritual, and catastrophe. The exhibition is truly global spanning every continent.

    At the outset, the revival of Indigenous Canoe Journeys is honored with regalia by Danielle Morsette for the ceremonial greetings during stops on the way to the host tribe. These elegant garments are part of the theme “Rivers and Canoes that Sustain Life” which also includes striking videos of actual journeys by Tracey Rector.

    The theme “Rains that Flood and Hypnotize” naturally includes a compelling photograph of a monsoon in India by Raghubir Singh of four women huddled together. In contrast, Amrita Das vividly depicts the overwhelming destruction of the 2004 Tsunami in Sri Lanka in the linear patterns of the indigenous Mithila Style.

    One of my favorite themes was “Future Waters through the eyes of Women and Children.” The seemingly science fiction landscape of Dallol in Northern Ethiopia, one of the hottest and driest places on Earth, is the setting for the work of Ethiopian artist Aïda Muluneh, who reenacts the almost impossible process of getting water there. Tuan Andrew Nguyen’s video “The Boat People” imagines a future world in which children collect the detritus of what we have left behind and create rituals with them.

    One of the strengths of Seattle Art Museum is Australian indigenous art, and as we hear daily about climate disasters there, the work by those artists takes on all the more significance. They appear throughout the exhibition culminating in the gallery “Where Water is Law in Northern Australia” with newly created works incised on found aluminum next to the more traditional bark paintings.

    Reinstalling works from other galleries in new contexts is another surprise of the exhibition as we greet “The Mask of Ḱumugwe’(Chief of the Sea)” from the Kwakwaka’waka who presides over “Sea Creatures Who are Honored and Endangered.” Not far away is a promised gift, a dramatic bronze turtle. It is an homage to a ritual tradition as well as a reference to efforts today to preserve these turtles and other marine creatures through collaborations between scientists and Indigenous elders.

    We see with new eyes in the reinstallation of Marita Dingus’s stark statement about the slave trade and Claire Partington’s surprising porcelain ensemble that goes way beyond decorative arts in “Tragic Memories of Global Trade.”

    “Mythic Vision from Water’s Creation to Regulation” includes Raqib Shaw’s colorful fantasy of underwater life “Garden of Earthly Delights V” as well as references to the dangers and mysteries of the sea from ancient China to the present.

    Finally “Desecration of our Troubled Waters,” speaks to our deeply troubled planet. “Desecration #2” by John Feodorov brings together the sacred and the profane in his depiction of pipelines spilling pollution into the ground of an Indigenous reservation, painted on a sacred white carpet.

    Be sure to download the QR codes to listen to the artists own dramatic commentaries. I was particularly mesmerized by the video from the Torres Straits (an archipelago of 300 islands north of Australia), and La Toya Ruby Frazier, who spoke eloquently about her project on the pollution of water in Flint, Michigan.

    This not to-be-missed exhibition immerses, enchants, warns, and finally, hopes to inspire us to action. A video at the end “Water Protectors,” asks artists, activists, leaders, and scientists, to answer the question “What can people do to honor and protect water?” We must all ask ourselves that question. 

    Susan Noyes Platt

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

    “Our Blue Planet: Global Visions of Water” is on view until May 30, Wednesday through Sunday 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. at Seattle Art Museum, located at 1300 First Avenue in Seattle, Washington. Visit for more information.


  • Tuesday, May 03, 2022 2:14 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    You enter most museum exhibits a minute or two after you step through the museum’s front door. For the “Wood” exhibit at the Jefferson Museum of Art & History in Port Townsend, it’s different: this show starts with the front doors—they are part of the exhibit.

    The museum is rebuilding the structure’s original cedar doors after 130 years of service. A video in the lobby documents the crafting of the new construction. The experience puts you immediately in the right frame of mind to appreciate the world of “Wood.” The rebuild also hints at the broader changes underway at the museum, as its leadership reimagines the way it frames and presents local history.

    “Wood” offers a cross-section of the region’s woodworking talents. It showcases furniture, sculpture, and tools, along with pieces that are more difficult to classify. With its focus on five artisans, the exhibition is balanced and admirably diversified. One of the featured artists is just starting out on her path, while some are in their mature master phase. Some of the artisans are well known and well shown in the region, while others keep a lower profile. 

    The range of the work on display is similarly diverse. Several pieces are all about function and utility—a rocking chair, a sheet music stand, a milking stool—while some works are fine art objects. All of them achieve beauty, and visitors may struggle with the standard museum admonition, “Do not touch.” But on that point, the curators have set out blocks of various woods for visitors to pick up, smell, and otherwise inspect, with descriptions of each wood’s characteristics from a woodworker’s perspective. These are especially worthwhile if the only wood you can reliably identify is particle board. 

    We begin with the pairing of Annalise Rubida, an emerging talent, and her mentor Steve Habersetzer, a traditional master craftsman. Both are affiliated with the Port Townsend School of Woodworking (PTSW). Both have a mind for the practical—their contributions are pieces of furniture, and tools or objects meant to do work. Rubida’s Windsor rocking chair is an impressive and ambitious piece. But her more modest creations are charming as well, such as her pair of hand-carved brooms (a long-handled push broom, and a whisk-broom). Tool users tend to be toolmakers—you get the sense that Rubida would never clean up wood shavings and sawdust with a Shop-Vac. 

    Habersetzer brings decades of experience with wood—he worked as a logger at one point, a ship-builder at another. He is something of a purist these days: he uses only hand-tools, and he works with locally sourced and sustainably harvested wood. Most of Habersetzer’s work in the show—such as the buckets made of cedar staves—embody simplicity and practicality. These values he now passes on to the next generation of craftspeople coming through PTSW.  

    Like Rubida and Habersetzer, Seth Rolland is a furniture-maker, but in his creations we see more emphasis on imagination and decoration. Scandinavian design aesthetics influence some of his work, and he likes to bring in materials such as stone and glass into his explorations of organic form. Several pieces by Rolland are entirely sculptural, such as “Ghost Tree,” with its display of wood bending. Note that he crafted “Ghost Tree” from a single piece of wood. 

    Next comes Brian Perry of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe, a prominent wood carver. Some of his creations are in Seattle’s Burke Museum and in various public spaces on tribal land. He often works at large scale: story poles, totem poles, wall facades, canoes. “Wood” features Perry at a more intimate scale, including his powerful “Salish Weavers Spirit,” a carving that honors the art and craft of weaving. In Coastal Salish tradition, women do the weaving, men do the wood-carving. The women use non-representational design elements in their textiles; the men depict animal and human figures in their carvings. Perry’s “Salish Weavers Spirit” includes a geometric motif drawn from the weaving vocabulary, and its shape suggests the whorls that weavers use for the spinning process. One take on Perry’s carving (perhaps a naive take) is that it sees beyond divisions between art practices, between genders, between the human and the spiritual.

    The exhibition continues into and concludes below the main level in a room that was once the women’s jail. In this captivating context we find turned-wood objects by Helga Winter. The irony is that Winter is the freest of the five artisans in “Wood”—her elegantly imperfect and asymmetric vessels are free from functional considerations, and are unconstrained by age-old tradition. Even the wood she favors—Pacific madrone—reflects her free-spirit: the hardwood is notoriously unpredictable in response to cutting. It is prone to warping and even cracking, but Winter embraces that waywardness. She often decorates her surfaces with color and abstract design—sometimes using busy marks and dotted patterns, other times using thin washes of solid color that keep the wood grain visible while glowing with a presence of their own.

    Rounding things out, “Wood” includes photographer Jeremy Johnson’s large format black-and-white portraits of the show’s five artists, and a display of the hand tools used by 19th century home-builder A. Horace Tucker. Tucker constructed some of Port Townsend’s most iconic homes, including the Pink House, Captain Fowler’s House, and the 1868 Rothschild House. His work literally looms large over the town, and may even have something to do with the vitality of the woodworking scene that “Wood” celebrates.  

    Tom McDonald

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

    Jefferson Museum of Art & History (540 Water Street in Port Townsend, Washington) is open Thursday to Sunday from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M. “Wood”is on view through May. Visit for information.

  • Tuesday, May 03, 2022 1:18 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Chaos can be defined as a feeling or state of constant confusion, which has essentially been the general mood over the past few years. But do you ever feel numb to the chaos? Maybe it is a way for human beings to survive challenging times, but sometimes our initial reaction to sadness or challenges is to shut down emotionally. Maybe these times will hurt less if we feel nothing at all. These are the questions and considerations exposed in the exhibition, “In Comfort of Chaos,” at the Kirkland Arts Center. Hanako O’Leary, the juror for the show who is also an incredible artist, states in the exhibition statement that she selected artworks that evoked emotion for her. She writes, “Chaos can be numbing. Art helps us return to our feelings.” This exhibition is both a personal exercise in reflection, but also a way for the viewer to connect with the artist through a visual dialogue. Hopefully, the viewer leaves the exhibition feeling comforted in our ever-changing and tumultuous world.

    The importance of personal connections and emotion are shared amongst the organizers of the exhibition. Kirkland Arts Center gallery curator J. Gordon reiterated O’Leary’s comments about how chaos is experienced in a personal way, so the work in the exhibition needed to connect on an emotional level. Gordon is also the exhibition designer for Kirkland Arts Center, and each artwork placement is carefully considered to ensure that there is both synergy and thoughtfully considered juxtapositions. A dialogue between artworks is important, especially in exhibitions like this one where conversation and reflection is considered. 

    The exhibition includes many wall-mounted artworks, but there are several key sculptures included to ground the show. Nancy Bocek’s ceramic artwork, “Captive,” stood out. The artwork is black with reddish-brown outlines that are reminiscent of cracks. The viewer can make out a figure, or possibly two, wrapped up in arms and legs. Unlike Michelangelo’s “The Four Captives” who battle with the stone to free themselves, Bocek’s figure seems to be an internal captive. The sculpture evoked similar emotions with this writer as when they saw those by Käthe Kollwitz for the first time. The figure is fiercely embracing another or themselves in this raw example of physical connection. 

    It is worth mentioning that O’Leary selected an impressive variety of artistic styles and mediums. In addition to the sculpture, there are prints, paintings, watercolors, embroidery, performance videos, and many mixed media artworks. Naoko Morisawa’s oil stained wood and paper mosaic entitled, “Target Forever VIII: Happy Dreamer, Bonzai,” is a meticulous arrangement of textures and geometric elements. Two similarly impressive mezzotints by E. Valentine DeWald II, an artist with a decades long relationship with Kirkland Arts Center, are also included in the exhibition. Both prints by DeWald II include the face of a central figure, their wrinkled expression exudes a mix of astonishment, anguish, and pain. The exhibition also includes an incredible selection of photographs, including several by Puerto Rican artist Jo Cosme. In her artist statement for the exhibition, Cosme writes that she seeks to encourage conversation through her work about the challenges Puerto Ricans face as a result of colonialism, lack of resources and economic support, and the destruction caused by natural disasters. The photographs are compositionally complex with layers of meaning tied to the political history of Puerto Rico and the United States, and the effect of that history on the present-day situation.  

    Upon entering the exhibition, the viewer is immediately faced with a wide range of materials, perspectives, and artistic visions. The artists come from across the United States and all bring a unique reaction to the events over the past few years. This aspect of the show is an important part of the exhibition program at Kirkland Arts Center, and the exhibition is arranged to reflect the diverse voices and to make connections across the country. The artist’s own words are captured in their artist statements, available in a binder placed in the gallery. Jeanette Jones, the artist who received the Juror’s Choice award, summarized the exhibition well in her statement when she writes that the work, “tackles topics of anxiety and futility, tempered with the driest of humor.” Jones’ paintings are installed side-by-side in a corner of the gallery. The large oil on canvas artwork titled, “Stigma and the Tale of How I Lost Two Years,” is likely a painting that many visitors can relate to on some level. The two roses in the painting are losing the petals, but the vibrant green leaves of the rose bush still exude life and energy. Yes, the exhibition is about both shared and personal experiences of pain, confusion, and anxiety. But maybe it is also an exercise in growing the new, too. 

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    “In Comfort of Chaos” is on view through May 21, Wednesday through Friday from noon to 6 P.M. and Saturday from noon to 4 P.M. at Kirkland Arts Center, located at 620 Market Street in Kirkland, Washington. For more information, visit

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