Articles

  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 8:21 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    A river flows through the center of the ArtXchange Gallery. June Sekiguchi’s poetic exhibition, “The Pulse of Water,” features a river constructed by the artist of fiber board intricately cut on a scroll saw. As we immerse ourselves in the swirls and patterns of the river that flows down the wall and across the gallery, we can feel the spirit of the river as it moves from the purity of the mountain stream to the siena browns of the lowlands. 

    Fourteen years ago June Sekiguchi traveled on the Mekong River for two weeks, “Floating down the river in a long narrow boat slows the pace of life—I could just BE. As I meditatively floated, the riverboat captain was vigilantly reading the river—there are not many rapids, but bubbling whirlpools in constant motion indicate there is something beneath the surface. Trees, rocks, and all kinds of human-made things have been swallowed by the river. I saw the Mekong as a metaphor for our human selves. One may detect hints on the surface, but underneath is where our stories are submerged.” The Mekong river begins in Tibet, flows through South China, forms a border between Burma and Laos, as well as Laos and Thailand, then flows on through Cambodia and Vietnam where it ends in the famous Mekong delta. 

    In Sekiguchi’s installation the swirls of the river in many colors and patterns seem alive and perhaps struggling, as the dark colors and the pure clean white patterns overlap and interact. The artist also created a bamboo bridge across her river about which she states “Every year the bridge is washed away by the monsoon. Each year, the people rebuild the bridge.” Those many patterns though also refer to the threats to this precious river, the source of food for millions of people. It is rapidly being dammed for hydroelectric power, starting in China, and now further South in Laos. The entire ecosystem of the river is under threat. As we well know from our experience here, dams are devastating to migrating fish. So as we look at this celebration of the poetry of water flowing freely, we also can feel the threat to the river.
     
    Sekiguchi recently created “Akha Headdress” to honor the Akha people, a tribal hill people that span from the Yunnan province of Southern China, as well as Thailand, Laos, Burma, and China. Their traditional farming land is also threatened by governments taking their land, although eco-tourism seems to be helping them survive. In China, the Akha people grow Puer and other types of sought-after tea (as well as coffee) and have been integrated into the world economy.
     
    Other works in the “Pulse of Water” include mandalas, bells, and kites, all created on scroll cut wood. The scroll saw moves up and down with a spiral blade, and Sekiguchi frequently works with 1/8 inch thick low grade fiber board that has no grain, allowing her to create intricate designs.
     
    Also at ArtXchange is an exhibition by Lauren Iida, “100 Aspects of the Moon.” Iida creates delicate images with hand cut paper, watercolor, and sumi ink that suggest a fragment of a story. Lauren Iida’s grandparents were detained during World War II at Tule Lake. As a Japanese American, this personal history has profoundly affected her art and her view of the world.
     
    Japanese woodblock artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) “100 Aspects of the Moon” inspired the current series. In his case, the themes are taken from Indian and Chinese legends, famous musicians, poets, and heroes of classic novels and plays. Iida chooses to represent personal events for her family as well as to depict scenes from the life of her friends in Cambodia. The moon in each image in both series represents the connections among people no matter who or where they are. Iida suggests a meditative moment in each work, whether it be those waiting for a family member who is detained or a young man standing alone in a field.

    Iida has been based in Cambodia since 2008. Deeply engaged with social projects she sponsors the nonprofit The Antipodes Collective which creates illustrated books in both Khmer and English for Cambodian children. Open Studio Kampot takes place in her house which she has opened up to youth artists, including many with disabilities. Her story suggests her deep feeling for those who struggle to survive, but she doesn’t just feel concern, she collaborates with people who might seem to have no way forward to help them create viable lives.

    Lauren Iida and June Sekiguchi make a perfect pairing of exhibitions that give us insights into an area of the world that shares the same ecological concerns as Seattle, but of which we hear very little. ArtXchange Gallery plays a crucial role in Seattle in exhibiting both contemporary Asian and Asian American artists.
     
    Susan Noyes Platt
    Susan Noyes Platt writes a blog www.artandpoliticsnow.com and for local, national, and international publications.

    “The Pulse of Water” exhibit by June Sekiguchi and “100 Aspects of the Moon” exhibit by Lauren Iida are on view through November 30 at the ArtXchange Gallery located at 512 First Avenue South in Seattle, Washington. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 11 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. For information, visit www.artxcahnge.org.

  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 7:51 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    On August 14, Ed Bereal woke to find a National Guardsman outside of his studio pointing a gun at him. It was 1965 in Los Angeles and the artist was living in the midst of the Watts Rebellion. Curator Amy Chaloupka titled this section of her essay describing the event as “An Awakening”. From that moment, Bereal’s artworks intensified and became even more pointed and critical. Building on his training and life experiences, his artworks continue to tackle corruption, corporate greed, commercialism, racism, and gun violence. By using characters prevalent in popular culture, from George W. Bush to the Joker, Bereal draws the viewer in by using startling imagery mixed with recognizable figures. The images are often astonishing, and will no doubt hurtle the viewer towards introspection and discussion. Layers of intricate drawings are sometimes superimposed with rough, found materials. In the end, Bereal constructs a poignant criticism and reflection of the challenging aspects of American history.

    “Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace” is the artist’s first solo museum retrospective. It is incredible that Bereal had never had a significant solo museum exhibition before this point. His work has been exhibited widely internationally at important art institutions like the Getty Museum and Centre Pompidou.

    This exhibit includes Bereal’s artworks from the last sixty years in all areas of his career, including collages, sketches,  photojournalism, sculptures, and videos of his theater work. It also includes the never-before-seen installation, “Exxon: The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” a forty-foot long piece with five “horsemen” created from assembled materials and projected light. The exhibition is impressive for several reasons. The scope and breadth of the artworks exhibited is the first of its kind. In addition, curator Amy Chaloupka expertly organized the exhibition so that a visitor who is new to Bereal’s work can move through his artistic career and many of the artworks have extended labels with more information. The museum does have a word of caution for visitors before they enter the exhibition, and the message states that the content may be emotionally charged for some visitors and that some artworks contain adult content.

    The exhibition is organized into several sections that represent the phases and evolution of his artistic career. At the entrance, the viewer encounters “Political Cartoons” which filled with logos, familiar faces from politics and popular culture, and sarcasm. It is in this section that Bereal’s use of dark humor and his talent for illustration really shine. There is a wall filled end to end with sketches from the 1980s through the present. Bereal studied at the Chouinard Art Institute in their advertising design program and the institute was known for training Disney illustrators, so it is not a surprise that Bereal’s drawing skills are excellent.

    After seeing the political cartoons and large-scale installations, the viewer is brought back twenty years Bereal’s early career when he was experimenting with drawing and assemblage artworks. This portion includes information about his involvement in the infamous War Babies exhibition Huysman Gallery in 1961, examples of his unique use of materials, symbols, and ephemera from the period.

    Significantly, it was also during these formative years that Bereal lived through the Watts Rebellion. The impact of that event is evident in his work. “America: A Mercy Killing” is a mixed-media kinetic sculpture that he made while writing a screenplay and the artwork was originally intended to be a model for the set.

    He continued his interest in performance while teaching at University of California, Riverside and University of California, Irvine. In 1968 he organized a group of twelve student actors into a group called Bodacious Buggerrilla to bring critical perspectives to their communities. For the following decades, Bereal continued to bring performance to the masses and later took his skills overseas as a photojournalist in the 1980s and 1990s. He continued to teach while on assignment outside the United States and sought to demonstrate how people could use photography and film as forms of activism.

    It was very wise to put a warning at the entrance to this exhibition. The images are powerful, at times disturbing, and often evoke an immediate response. As a caucasian, millennial woman, I came to this exhibit with ideas and experiences informed by my life and the world around me. I can’t imagine experiencing what Ed Bereal experienced. A t the end of the exhibition, there is a table with several chairs for people to reflect and discuss their thoughts on the show. Notebooks titled “I leave wanting to…”, “I am still thinking about…”, and “I want to have a conversation about…” are sitting on the table. My recommendation? Take the time to observe the details, maybe chuckle at some of the sarcasm, deliberate about the challenging images, and witness the strange in this show. I also recommend reading the essays in the corresponding catalog. The authors expertly provide context for the artworks and respectfully share Bereal’s story. The curator also gives gallery tours and Bereal has participated in several events at the museum.

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

    “Ed Bereal: Wanted for Disturbing the Peace” is on view through January 5 at the Whatcom Museum located at 250 Flora Street in Bellingham, Washington. Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 5 P.M. For more information,
    visit www.whatcommuseum.org
     

  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 7:44 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)



        today
        i am dancing
        for my mother
        who carried me
        on her shoulders
        and made the earth
        sacred







    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
    John Levy is a poet and photographer. His most recent book of poetry, “On Its Edge, Tilted,” published by oata in 2018 and some of his previous books of poetry have been published by First Intensity Press and The Elizabeth Press. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

    Alan Chong Lau and John Levy have just published their third volume of poetry and photograph collaboration with the online literary magazine,
    otata. To view more of their work, visit www.otatablog.wordpress.com.  

  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 7:34 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


        with nothing to hide
        i bunch up
        my turtleneck
        and spill
        out of my shell

        the hair
        on my head
        coiffed into
        a soft frizzy
        exclamation point
        of what i’m
        all about







    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
    John Levy is a poet and photographer. His most recent book of poetry, “On Its Edge, Tilted,” published by oata in 2018 and some of his previous books of poetry have been published by First Intensity Press and The Elizabeth Press. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

    Alan Chong Lau and John Levy have just published their third volume of poetry and photograph collaboration with the online literary magazine, otata. To view more of their work, visit www.otatablog.wordpress.com.  
  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 4:39 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    Lyft Share, Yes Please


    Some of my worst days lately have been the ones that I thought driving across town was a good idea.


    So, I’ve decided to sell my car.


    And here’s why. Now that we have the Lyft share option, I can no longer justify owning a car in the city.


    Now, I’m not preaching the gospel of not owning a car; if I believed that, I’d have sold mine years ago. 


    One friend says that since I’m from New York, I’m more cut out for public transit. “But I’m from Seattle,” he said.


    “But Seattle is the most forward-thinking city about transportation,” I said.


    I don’t remember much else about that conversation, just that the real differences between us were highlighted in the collection of odd shaped mirrors above the bar at Tavolata where they’ve been brought to light before. Last time he said that my apartment reminds him of a bento box.  


    Granted, I live in Belltown, where parking is more of an issue. But the fact that I can ride to just about anywhere I need to go in the city for under five dollars if I’m willing to share feels like a gift.


    It is a gift. “Thank you!” I cried the first time I tapped the share option, as though I’d just unwrapped one.


    Many of my Lyft drivers have been surprisingly enlightening. My last was from Afghanistan. He wanted to know all about Velocity, the dance studio he was taking me to, because he loves to dance but under the Taliban he was not allowed to. He had a regal presence with brown hair and eyes and a white dress shirt. I wore workout sweats. But the rider we picked up was so covered with dog hair and what looked like dog slobber that this put a lid on my feeling frumpy-American.


    He was nice though.


    Our driver said he was grateful to be in this country. “I wish Americans had just helped us more, not invaded.” I found his comment refreshing. I no longer want to hear what journalists think Afghans think. I want to understand from Afghans what they think.


    Once he cleared that up, we talked about other things. Like the last mass shooting, though, sadly, I don’t even remember which one. He said—I’m paraphrasing, but only slightly—“he had so many rounds, that crazy shooter! He shot and shot! I really don’t think our forefathers had an AK-47 in mind when they thought about the right to bear arms. I don’t think they ever meant that.


    What really got me was the way he said, “our” forefathers. I mean every time our government pisses me off lately, I’m more than happy to call myself an Italian again.


    Not every ride is as interesting. One driver picked me up at the Fauntleroy Ferry and for the entire drive I was on the receiving end of a nonsensical monologue. Before driving off, he thanked me for the great conversation. “Is that what that was?” I said. And slammed the door.


    Yet, all of these people make me get up from my desk and look out the window at the street beneath my fifth floor window. And I think, that driver, in his grey Toyota Prius, who is he? 


    Mary Lou Sanelli


    Mary Lou Sanelli, author, speaker, and dance teacher, lives in Seattle. Her forthcoming novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio (of Yucca Springs)” is to be published in September,  (Chatwin Books). Please join her at Village Books, in Bellingham, 7 P.M.; at Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, Saturday, October 12, 6 P.M.; at Watermark Book Company on Thursday, October 17, 6 P.M., on Bainbridge Island at Eagle Harbor Book Company on Sunday, October 20, 3 P.M.;  or at the Rose Theatre in Port Townsend, Sunday, October 27, 1 P.M. For more information, visit www.marylousanelli.com.


  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 4:38 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    this girl

    from a vermeer painting

    sits on a bus 

    engrossed in words

    everything around her moves

    but she sits still


    in time

    the silence

    will tell 

    its own story






    Alan Chong Lau

    Alan Chong Lau is a poet and painter exhibiting his art locally at ArtXChange Gallery in Seattle, Washington. 


    Alan Chong Lau and John Levy have just published their third volume of poetry and photograph collaboration with the online literary magazine, otata. To view more of their work, visit www.otatablog.wordpress.com.  


  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 4:31 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)



    this crow

    taking flight


    its shadow

    a paper cut


    emblazened

    on this wall









    Alan Chong Lau

    Alan Chong Lau is a poet and painter exhibiting his art locally at ArtXChange Gallery in Seattle, Washington. 


    Alan Chong Lau and John Levy have just published their third volume of poetry and photograph collaboration with the online literary magazine, otata. To view more of their work, visit www.otatablog.wordpress.com.  


  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 4:29 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 4:14 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    From three galleries away the huge self portrait photograph of Zanele Muholi dominates the view. The mesmerizing image called “Somnyama Ngonyama: Hail the Dark Lioness,” gazes at us in a side wise glance. The giant mane of hair, a headdress of sheepskin, cascades and almost buries the small face. Keeping in mind that it is the male lion that has a mane, this lioness identifies as they. Their expression is hard to decipher. While the scale of the work suggests domination, the face is self contained and private. 


    This title image by South African artist Zanele Muholi prepares us for what is to come. Every single photograph is a self portrait, with the artist gazing fixedly and inescapably, sometimes directly at us. Opposite the “Lioness,” a mural sized reclining Muholi clutches plastic pillows against a background of stacks of newspapers. They are unavailable, gazing beyond us. Reclining Venus they are not. At the end of the adjacent hall, a “Statue of Liberty” Muholi, wearing a crown of foam loops, gazes skyward.  


    As we enter the Jacob Lawrence and Gwen Knight Gallery at the Seattle Art Museum, the full force of the gazes of the self portraits strikes us from all four walls. The first wall refers to colonialism, with a huge portrait sporting a (paper) ruff (from the packing for children’s toys) as in the era of Rembrandt and the occupation of Africa. On one long wall we start with plastic pollution, then move to enslavement, and service and exploitation. A few images turn away, some are personal, as in the self portrait honoring her sister, a gentle and proud Muholi wears a crown and necklace of rubber inner tubes that confer majesty. They are defiantly inverting the violent history of rubber in Africa, where the Belgian King Leopold ruthlessly killed thousands to satisfy his thirst for that “natural” product. Rubber appears repeatedly here as a garment, necklace, or headdress. 


    The props gathered in the street, and thrift stores, drastically alter the effect, transforming the same face from royal to ironic, but never oppressed. Defiance is the common theme. In one work, the artist dons a milk stool on their head, and tangled straw around their neck as a reference to farming. In others they blend into a rocky landscape or deep forest commenting on making visible the invisible black body. As a mask in the midst of African market kitsch the artist gives us the absurdity of tourist capitalism.


    Two videos provide background, speaking of the ten year project of documenting the victims of hate crimes against LGBTQIA South Africans,as well as photographing the dignity and beauty of Trans and Lesbians in over 500 portraits. They wanted to celebrate community and create respect.


    In 2012, their studio was ransacked and the perpetrator deliberately destroyed the hard drive of current work that had not yet been published or even printed. 


    It was then that Muholi turned to self portraiture, a painful act of exposure. These portraits are identified by and subtly connected to the location where they were taken, a wide ranging geography. But the artist stood in humble hotel rooms to stage the images. 


    Each work has a title in isiZulu, and English. Muholi (that word actually means Leader) confronts us with their occupation of our white space on their own terms. We come away with a feeling of uplift, humility, and awe, for their photographic prowess as well as their courage.


    Not far away on the same floor is the Betty Bowen award winner Natalie Ball (Modoc, Klamath). Ball is descended from the famous leader of the late nineteenth century Modoc resistance, Captain Jack. That heritage of warrior defiance is obvious here. Ball’s two pieces “You Mist, again (Rattle)” and “Re Run” make up the installation “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Snake.” The title tells you a lot, interrupting the familiar nursery rhyme about the stars with a snake that can be both threatening and magical. The installation is ironically (intentionally?) juxtaposed to a well-known work by Marsden Hartley in the adjacent American Art Gallery which borrows native American designs, a widespread practice in the early twentieth century (and still). In every detail of these complex collaged sculptures, Ball explores the collision of indigenous and white cultures as well as African American, also part of her heritage (note the bullet shells embedded in one of the works). But she is also celebrating indigenous vitality and incorporating trickster humor. 



    Rattlesnake skin appears as part of both works (although significantly identified simply as rattlesnake), a skin that a snake has shed, after it regrows another, a clear reference to the survival abilities of indigenous peoples, in spite of white man’s best efforts to obliterate them. The diamond patterned quilt suggests joy, but everything is off kilter. The cut up sports jerseys, letters, and logo disrupt any possible cliché of Native or African American culture, giving us instead a proud declaration of survival in the face of extreme pressure.


    Susan Noyes Platt

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


    “Zanele Muholi: Somnayama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness” is on view through November 3 and “Natalie Ball: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Snake” is on view through November 17. Both exhibits are at the Seattle Art Museum, located at 1300 First Avenue in Seattle, Washington. Museum hours are Friday through Monday from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. and Thursday from 10 A.M. to 9 P.M. For information, visit www.seattleartmuseum.org.


   
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