• Wednesday, September 04, 2019 3:24 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    It’s common to hear Skagitonians refer to their home as “Magic Skagit.” For decades, well-known Northwest artists have been visiting or moving to the area in order to capture its light and landscape. Morris Graves, Guy Anderson, Philip McCracken, Richard Gilkey, and the infamous Fishtown group are just a few significant artists who chose to live in Skagit Valley. But another town in the valley is now making its mark on the Pacific Northwest art scene. You may have heard of the amazing food in Edison, Washington, but have you heard anything about the thriving art scene in this tiny town? As a lifelong Skagitonian myself, I have many fond memories of traveling to this small town to get cookies at the Breadfarm, but over the last few years I have been mostly drawn to the amazing art community. In order to get an insight to this unique place, I spoke to Margy Lavelle and Andrew Vallee, the directors and founders of i.e. gallery and Smith & Vallee Gallery respectively. 

    Margy Lavelle isn’t new to the Northwest art scene. She managed Mia Gallery in Seattle for five years in the 1980s and 1990s. As an artist herself, Margy often came up to Skagit Valley for inspiration. In our interview, she said:  “I used to drive up here with my kids on the weekend. I love the light, and I love the space. After the kids finished college and got settled…I moved up here to paint.” We also talked about Dana and Toni Ann Rust, who ran the Edison Eye Gallery in Edison and were significant patrons of the arts in Skagit Valley. The Edison Eye building had been sitting empty, and Margy started asking Toni Ann if she could curate art shows in the space. Eventually, Toni Ann gave in and Margy started the gallery with David Kane, another artist, in 2015. Now, Margy is the sole proprietor and the beautifully curated shows clearly exhibit her vision. 

    Margy has a clear vision for her gallery, and that is evident in the September and October shows. In September, i.e. gallery welcomes Drie Chapek. Chapek is an abstract painter who uses broad brushstrokes, thick paint, and a natural, yet colorful, palette. Margy reported that Chapek’s new work is more angular, contrary to her usually billowy paintings, and the colors more subdued. Juliana Heyne will fill the gallery in October with landscape paintings from her travels. Her pieces often include an element of collage, making them also textured in their own way. Both artists certainly contain “the hand” that Margy mentioned that she looks for when selecting artists for the gallery. 

    Right down the street, visitors can stop by another art gallery. Interestingly, Dana Rust and the Edison Eye also brought Andrew Vallee to Edison. After showing his artwork at the gallery, Rust kept inviting Valley back. One evening in 2006, he was walking down the street with his future wife and they saw that a historic schoolhouse was for sale. They put an offer on it the next day and Smith & Vallee Gallery was born. But the Smith & Vallee brand consists of more than an art gallery. Andrew Vallee and Wesley Smith also make furniture and cabinetry and have been in business since 1997.  Regardless of whether they are making cabinetry or selling artworks, the result is consistent. When asked about his vision for the gallery, Vallee responded that “Smith & Vallee has the highest standards with the artists we represent and the way we show their artwork, while fostering a friendly environment where everyone is welcome to enjoy the experience.” And that is clear the moment you walk in the door. 

    Smith & Vallee Gallery shows often consist of two artists. The September show features Andree Vallee and Patty Haller. It is interesting to note that both Vallee and Haller live in Skagit Valley. Vallee is showing his sculptures and Haller paints large-scale oil paintings of nature scenes. Texture is again a theme for the gallery’s October exhibition which includes Julia “Joules” Martin and Brian O’Neill. Martin paints landscapes in acrylic and is a newer artist to Smith & Vallee Gallery. O’Neill is a ceramicist, and both artists live in Whatcom County. 

    When I asked Vallee and Lavelle why they think people are drawn to Edison, their answers were relatively simple and consistent. Vallee believes it is because Edison is authentic. Everything is made locally, whether that food, wool sweaters, or art. Lavelle told me that the people in the area naturally live a “creative life.”  I encourage everyone reading to visit this town and stop in the restaurants, shops, and especially the art galleries. Beyond the two described in this article, a new gallery, Hadrian Art Gallery, opened recently and focuses on nature-inspired objects for everyday life. Come see for yourself what makes this place unique and why Skagitonians, myself included, refer to our valley as Magic Skagit.

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    These galleries are in Edison, Washington. i.e. gallery, located at 5800 Cains Court, is open Friday through Monday from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. For information, visit Smith & Vallee Gallery, located at 5742 Gilkey Avenue, is open daily 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. For information, visit  Hadrian Gallery, located at 5717 Gilkey Avenue, is open daily 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. 

  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 3:23 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Mostly in the open Charlie’s work

    went on rain and shine along hillsides

    the lay of the land back and forth

    only headed in for maintenance repairs

    where Evaleen would likely visit him


    in the barn bring her sewing sandwiches

    sit by him chat if he felt like or be still

    mend socks half a day while he figured

    how to adjust the chain drive then

    time the whirling combine head


    where the manual was none too clear

    and on the phone the dealer only said

    bring it in if Bud’s not too jammed

    at a hundred an hour he’ll maybe have a look

    but remember we close right at six


    so clearly stuck with fixing it himself

    Charlie would open up to her eventually

    explain how he thought the stupid thing

    was meant to work and what he thought

    should be adjusted round and round


    till something in them both would yawn

    at the lateness of the hour share a laugh

    that finally let in light enough

    to fix the cranky thing or blow a fuse

    and let the sudden darkness rescue them

    Paul Hunter

    This and twenty-some others grew out of a long poem about shy country people finding love, a piece called “Luminaries” that first appeared in his third farming book called “Come the Harvest” (Silverfish Review Press, 2008). 


  • Thursday, August 01, 2019 5:27 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Thursday, August 01, 2019 5:20 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    In January 2019, Cascadia Art Museum opened “Portraits and Self-Portraits by Northwest Artists,” an exhibition that includes paintings, prints, drawings, and photographs by both modern and contemporary Northwest artists. Curated by David Martin, the exhibition seeks to demonstrate the variety of approaches to portraiture by Northwest artists over the past one hundred years. While many exhibitions at Cascadia Art Museum primarily contain artworks created in the first half of the twentieth century, Martin decided to include artwork by three contemporary artists in this exhibition: Gary Faigin, William Elston, and Aleah Chapin in order to facilitate a visual dialogue between the past and the present. 

    Viewers are sure to be delighted to see well-known artists represented in the exhibition. Artists such as Edward S. Curtis (1868-1952), Thomas T. Wilson (1931-2015), Andrew Hofmeister (1913-2007), and Walter Isaacs (1886-1964) all have artworks in the exhibition. There is even a charcoal drawing of Mark Tobey by Dorothy Dolph Jensen (1895-1977) titled “Caricature of Mark Tobey” included in the show. Jensen was a student of Tobey at Cornish in the 1920s. Text by Jensen is posted next to her drawing in which she recounts some of her interactions with Tobey. According to Jensen, Tobey was hard on his female students and would often storm out of class after declaring, “There’s no such thing as perspective!” In one instance, after he left class Jensen quickly drew his face. Tobey returned quickly, looked at her drawing and declared: “I like it.” Her drawing is an intimate one of the famed Northwest artist. His hair is wildly sticking up in every direction, brow furrowed, and every piece of stubble on his chin is distinct. Jensen drew him quickly and emotionally, though it is difficult to determine which emotion won over in the end: anger or admiration. 

    Perhaps one of the most nationally celebrated artists in the exhibition is Imogene Cunningham (1883-1976). She is represented in almost every major museum in the United States and is considered an important pioneer in the field of photography. She was a member of Group f/64, a California-based group of photographers interested in meticulously composed and focused images Cunningham worked with or knew every major photographer working during this time,including Alfred Stieglitz, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Edward S. Curtis, and Dorothea Lange. This exhibition includes two of her photographs and they are portraits of Curt Ducasse and John Butler. Interestingly, another portrait of John Butler is included in the exhibition by artist Roi Partridge (1888-1984), who was Cunningham’s husband from 1915 to 1934. This situation allows the visitor the unique opportunity to compare how Partridge and Cunningham differ in their representation of the sitter.

    A delightful inclusion in this exhibition is Anne Kutka McCosh (1902-1994). The painting, “Rainy Evening, Bus Corner, Self-Portrait,” is an oil on canvas created in 1931. At the time, McCosh was living in New York. The painting depicts McCosh in the center of the picture plane dressed in a blue work suit with a cream shawl over her head to protect her from the rain. The scene is dark and muted, but McCosh stands out as the largest and brightest figure in the composition. She holds an umbrella but doesn’t use it. Two people are huddled under an awning to protect themselves from the rain and warm up on a damp evening. McCosh looks up at the sky, maybe to try to determine if the rain will continue. McCosh has painted herself as a confident and professional New Yorker who is unaccompanied on her way home from work. This surely gives the viewer insight into how McCosh viewed herself, and it is an inspiring point of view.

    This exhibition is packed full of portraits and self-portraits in a variety of styles and media. The museum also offers several programs to accompany the exhibition, including Coffee with the Curator which allows visitors to hear a lecture from David Martin. Cascadia Art Museum also offers music in the Museum and participates in the Blue Star Museum Program. Another wonderful opportunity to view the exhibition is during the Edmonds Art Walk on the third Thursday of every month from 5-8 P.M. when the museum is free. You can always count on this museum to include artworks by well-known Northwest artists in addition to several you may not recognize. “Portraits and Self-Portraits by Northwest Artists” does just that, and hopefully the viewer enjoys seeing both old favorites and discovering new ones.

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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


    “Portraits and Self-Portraits by Northwest Artists; 1910-2018” is on view Wednesday through Sunday from 11 A.M. to 6P.M. through September 29 at the Cascadia Art Museum, located at 1990 Sunset Avenue South in Edmonds, Washington. For more information, visit

  • Thursday, August 01, 2019 4:42 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    A dazzling exhibition of contemporary Indigenous art awaits you at the newest art space in town, ARTS at King Street Station. The Seattle Office of Arts and Culture launched their new 7500 square foot exhibition space with an exhibition of 200 indigenous artists from 100 tribes. This exhibition curated by Asia Tail (Cherokee), Tracy Rector (Choctaw/Seminole), and Sapreet Kahlon, accepted all indigenous submissions: children and elders, professional artists and beginners, all media from traditional cedar, bead work and dolls to digital and audio. We see sculpture, painting, photography, printmaking, text, cartoons, games, performance, skateboard, drums, maps. There are iPads with music, poetry and stories recited from speakers, and both hilarious and serious videos.

    Installing such a diverse show challenged the curators and staff of ARTS as they organized hundreds of art works succeeded in creating a spectacular result. To enjoy the exhibit simply embrace its mind-expanding diversity, then immerse yourself in one wall at a time, each a compact exhibit. Gaps between the walls allow a view through to another part of the exhibition. The entire space is activated by sculpture and installations, many encourage interaction.

    At the opening Timothy White Eagle (White Mountain Apache) performed “Songs for the Standing Still People” within a space hung with jingles and chains. He called us to action against the “vast forces” that “will ravage us if we do not act” though a story of rocks that came together and changed the world. We can create our own music in the space and thus join his call to action.

    A giant deck of cards by Roldy Aguero Ablao (CHamoru) greets us at the entrance, along with a seemingly random accumulation of objects hanging over the front desk by Catherine Cross Uehara (Uchinanchu/Hapa/Okinaway American), “between you & me & the Ancestors…” includes photographs of her ancestors, a wedding dress kimono, memorabilia, and much more. 

    On the opposite wall is a film of the famous Vi Hilbert, (Upper Skagit) who singlehandedly saved the Lushootseed language from extinction, encourages a community audience to “lift the sky” together. In her telling: “The Creator has left the sky too low. We are going to have to do something about it, and how can we do that when we do not have a common language?…We can all learn one word, that is all we need. That word is yəhaw̓—that means to proceed, to go forward, to do it.”

    We are invited to go forward into the exhibit in order to create community.  

    We immediately encounter the compelling painting of Itzá by Nico Inzerella (Mexican American, Indigenous) in the complex mixed media of wheat paste on birch panel, gold leaf, copper leaf, oil, latex and acrylic. Pay attention to media in this exhibit, it is almost always unusual.  

    At the same time, traditional photography includes striking results such as Selena Kearney’s (Chehalis) photograph of a young woman proudly dressed for a PowWow, Adam Sings in the Timber’s (Apsáalooke) photographs of women in regalia re-asserting indigenous presence in various locations in Seattle and the eerie images of scanned tintypes by Kali Spitzer (Kaska Dena). 

    Spend the time to explore the various subtle works hanging on walls, but don’t miss the entire corner devoted to stunning cedar hats, baskets, skirts, and capes. 

    Not far away another type of weaving hovers over us. A twelve foot high “Big Foot” hovers over us as it “Lifts the Sky.” HollyAnna “CougarTracks” de Coteau Littlebull (Yakama/Nez Perce/Cayuse/Cree) upcycled 15,190 pieces of plastic to weave this giant. She explained that it represents the wasted past in its orange/red hued back and the future in its green/ blue front.

    Be sure to look in the stairwell for a mixed media homage to weaving by Sara Siestreem (Hanis Coos/Confederated Tribes of Coos/Lower Umpqua/Siuslaw) “Eagle Machine dancing<<<<<the beautiful” combines a cotton wood bark skirt with her photographs and mixed media references to indigenous history.  

    Nearby is Priscilla Dobler’s (Mayan) “El renacimiento de la Sociedad: The rebirth of society,” a traditional Mayan embroidery unravels into a contemporary geometric enclosure; above it hangs Jacob Johns’s (Hopi) “Water is Life” banner that speaks of freeing the Snake River, a reference to our threatened salmon and orcas because of the many dams on the Snake.

    Susan Noyes Platt

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

    yəhaw̓is on view through August 4 at ARTS at King Street Station located at 303 S. Jackson Street, Top Floor, in Seattle, Washington from Tuesday through Saturday, 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. and First Thursdays, 10 A.M. to 8 P.M. 

    For information, visit Films and other exhibit all over town check

  • Thursday, August 01, 2019 4:40 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Once Evaleen feeding chickens

    all around her in the yard tossed

    the diamond out of her wedding ring

    so quit wearing the eyeless thing

    even to wash dishes weed the garden

    stuff their Thanksgiving turkey

    which had to bother Charlie

    it wasn’t the money it was

    what-all the shiny thing meant

    as near eternal as they’d likely get

    so for several years killing a hen

    for dinner once or twice a week

    out behind the barn he’d cut

    the craw from the gizzard

    dig the gravel there spread it out

    on a piece of white paper he kept

    folded around his reading specs

    down the front of his overalls

    till one night that sparkler bright as ever

    turned up there it was inside a life

    since the evening she’d lost it where

    once the hens were in for the night

    he’d looked hard with a flashlight

    for hours on his hands and knees

    knew if it was there he’d a found it but

    said you know how quick a hen can be

    once a thing catches her eye

    Paul Hunter

    These and twenty-some others grew out of a long poem about shy country people finding love, a piece called “Luminaries” that first appeared in his third farming book called “Come the Harvest” (Silverfish Review Press, 2008). 

  • Thursday, August 01, 2019 4:39 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    In bed with her with curlers

    the night before the big day

    eighth grade graduation

    for their oldest girl who also

    slept in the pink foamy things

    after fidgeting and sighing

    stirring half the night

    Charlie asked her to undo

    all she was holding together

    for later for the effect that

    she wanted to be perfect

    said who is the hairdo for

    anyway Evaleen said okay

    went to the bathroom and

    left the door wide so he

    could watch while she

    unwound each lock of hair

    shook and combed it out

    for the shine bounce and flair

    for him not some old PTA

    Paul Hunter

    These and twenty-some others grew out of a long poem about shy country people finding love, a piece called “Luminaries” that first appeared in his third farming book called “Come the Harvest” (Silverfish Review Press, 2008). 


  • Thursday, August 01, 2019 4:38 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    On the porch new farmer and new wife

    what with supper dishes done and dried

    settle into silence both let be

    to hear the twilit pond’s full chorus rise

    and usher in the summer prodigal

    with every living creature home at last

    every thing that wintered in the muck

    or trailed the southern flight now back

    awake to sing however loud and long

    its overture to interrupted life

    now Charlie lays a finger to her wrist

    and in the dark her blind hand catches his

    like the final bird of daylight strong

    but sure it has no business out this late

    about to settle for a quiet place to rest

    that both agree and in that subtle touch

    without another gesture trundle off

    to bed beyond the night still tuning up

    its purple bruise just fading in the west

    still breathless in the dark not cooling yet

    Paul Hunter

    These and twenty-some others grew out of a long poem about shy country people finding love, a piece called “Luminaries” that first appeared in his third farming book called “Come the Harvest” (Silverfish Review Press, 2008). 


  • Thursday, August 01, 2019 4:37 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    I’m reminded that I was not born in Seattle by just about every conversation I have with someone who was. Almost immediately I feel “East Coast.” More to the point, East Coast Italian, different in tone and temperament in ways I didn’t fully understand when I was younger.  

    After years of trying to clarify this feeling, I still find it difficult to explain why Italians communicate the way we do, especially to people unaccustomed to passionate debate as a way to, oh, I suppose the best word to use is, bond.  

    The first time I had dinner at my in-law’s table, I was afraid to open my mouth. I had no idea how to speak so softly about things I read in the newspaper. Used to waves of personal opinion rippling through even deeper waves of expressive reaction, I was shocked to sit with people, intoxicated people, who seemed to be content in the shoals of current events. 

    I long for conversations with more heat and hand waving. The dinner table in my childhood home was a competitive place. Everyone talked at once, interrupted each other, said things someone took offense to on purpose.  

    What fun! 

    The other day I walked to the aquarium because I just finished reading “The Soul of An Octopus.” I tell you this because it wasn’t the octopus I wound up studying. It was a group of Italians.

    And yes, I heard them, before I saw them. If that is what you are thinking. 

    But if there are intentional coincidences, and most days I trust there are, I believe this one occurred to remind me of a huge part of my personality I neglect now that I (try to) live by a more-Seattle code of ethics. Or what I jokingly call (but only to East Coast friends) BIDAN: Bring it down a notch.


    If the desire to be in the company of your biological tribe is one of the most overwhelming of human connections, I was reminded of where my qualities originate. Watching the group talk and touch and embrace each other freely, I had never felt more distant from the city in which I reside. I felt an urge to run up to them and say, “I am Italian, too!” 


    Thankfully I stopped myself. 


    I followed them into the undersea dome. I wanted to hug them. I wanted to hold on to this family with such a strong intensity that, when I couldn’t, I walked past them feeling deprived, devastated, deflated. 

    So I called my friend Vicki who was born in Seattle. She had no idea why I was calling, and I didn’t bother to say, but as soon as I heard her voice, I felt grounded.

    And it strikes me that talking, talking—however fast, drawn-out, cool, or impassioned—is still the best way to deal with complicated emotions when basic longings fall flat.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Mary Lou Sanelli has published seven collections of poetry, three works of non-fiction, and her forthcoming novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio (of Yucca Springs),” is to be published in September, 2019 (Chatwin Books). For more information about her and her work, visit

  • Tuesday, March 12, 2019 7:51 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    In its third biennial “Bellingham National 2019 Juried Art Exhibition and Awards,” the Whatcom Museum utilized the skills of experienced art historian and curator Bruce Guenther. The theme for this year’s exhibition is “Water’s Edge: Landscapes for Today,” which includes 71 artworks by 57 artists from around the country. As you may expect, Guenther references Bellingham’s location as inspiration for the show’s theme and title, but he also writes in his introductory text that the exhibition “was an invitation for artists to share their observations and feelings about humanity’s ever-changing relationship to nature and life at water’s edge…” Through many different artistic mediums, these artists each grapple with our connection to nature using the landscape as their method of communication. 

    The exhibit is not arranged chronologically or by sub theme, so it is fascinating to think about why Guenther placed artworks next to each other. A particularly striking arrangement includes Natalie Niblack’s “Watershed” (oil on canvas), which is flanked by Naomi Shigeta’s “Sky meets Sea” (oil on panel) and Amy Ferron’s “Over our Heads” (acrylic paint and paper on wood). Niblack’s visually imposing painting depicts a large explosion in the top two-thirds of the picture plane, with a trash-filled ocean below. The flames are painted in extraordinary detail and loom over the viewer. She has also drawn a grid in the white background behind the plume of fire and smoke. Is this her attempt to create an underlying structure beneath the swirling flames? Interestingly, Shigeta and Ferron also utilize straight lines to create structure in their paintings. Shigeta writes in her statement that the painting, especially the distinct vertical lines, “reflects the challenge in keeping balance.” Ferron creates her landscapes by first cutting paper with rotary cutters and X-acto knives and then pasting the pieces together. The result is a mosaic landscape reminiscent of the geometric structures of Nature: tectonic plates, molecules, and others. 

    Connections between Nature, Art, and Science are abundant in the exhibition. There are many photographs, including two tintypes by Alexandra Opie, included in the show which have long been used by scientists to document the natural world. Lynn Skordol printed on a vintage map to create “Map 4” to illustrate how humans have changed the natural landscape over the years. Vanessa Mayoraz’s “Progressions of pernicious change” almost appears to have been taken straight from a science lab. She writes that her “work concerns itself with understanding and decoding our reality,” which beautifully demonstrates the “power of place” that Guenther writes about in his introductory text.  

    Guenther awarded three cash prizes to artists in the exhibition. The Second Place winner was Natalie Niblack. First Place went to Philip Govedare’s vibrant, oil on canvas painting titled “Artifact.” Like other artists in the exhibition, Govedare also contemplates the impact of land use and his paintings are charged with doubt and anxiety about the condition of the landscape. His use of bright red signals alarm. In contrast, the Third Place winner, Patti Bowman connects her encaustic “Wave I” to the effect of gazing at the ocean. The painting purposefully lacks structure to orient the view, which gives the affect of an endless sea or enormous wave filling the picture plane with blue water and white foam.  

    While all three award winners are based in Washington State, the exhibition drew many artists from all around the country. And even though all the artworks are 2-dimensional, the exhibition does not lack in variety of mediums or artistic styles. If you are interested in representational paintings of the landscape, you will find several. If you are looking for abstract paintings seeking to find the essence of nature, Guenther has included many with this exact aim, but they utilize different methods for seeking the “spirit of nature.” The exhibition consists of many paintings, but photographs and prints are also in abundance. There are even several fiber artworks, including Krista Kilvert’s “Altered Landscape” (dye sublimation on polyester) which moved with the air flow as I opened the door to the gallery. 

    As I was leaving the gallery, I looked up at the second story to see a canoe through a cut out in the wall. The canoe is part of the “People of the Sea and Cedar” exhibition and seeing the object beautifully connected both exhibitions through the “power of the essential element Water to life,” as Guenther writes in his text. I suggest visiting both exhibitions while you are at the Whatcom Museum. 

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

    Chloé Dye Sherpe is a curator and art educator

    based in Washington State.


    “Bellingham National 2019” is on view Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 5 P.M.  through May 19 at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Building, located at 250 Flora Street in Bellingham, Washington. For more information, visit

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