• Thursday, December 31, 2020 7:32 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Several things struck me deeply while producing this January/February issue of Art Access. Remembering all the challenges faced these past nine months, filled me with deep gratitude to be able to continue to do what I love—make this publication. For nearly three decades, it has been wonderful to work with artists, poets, writers, gallery owners, curators, museum staff, businesses, and publishing houses. All the encouragement, participation, and financial support have made this publication possible. Thank you dearly.   

    Kirkland Arts Center’s listing from Lauren Lyddon reflects this moment in time perfectly:

    “Art is many things to many people: an emotional outlet, an intellectual exercise, a political statement, a meditation, a cry for help, or an inquiry into the nature of being. This year we have been witnesses to history; we have had to adapt to survive. Artists have seen exhibitions and classes canceled, but still art abides.”

    Finally, the image of beloveds, jeweler Steph Farber of LeRoy Jewelers and The Art Stop Gallery owner Phyllis Harrison, warms my heart. How wonderful that this husband and wife team continues to work together in their shared jewelery showroom and art storefront in Tacoma, Washington.

    Blessed are we that art and love abides. Wishing you health, creativity, and happiness.

    Debbi Lester

    Art Access Publisher

  • Thursday, December 31, 2020 7:17 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Artists have lauded and sought out the beauty of Skagit Valley for generations. There is something about the color that is transformed by the sun shining through fog and in-between the hills that provides a stunning palette for artists and viewers alike. As I sit in Edison it is currently dark, but I can still see the outline of the hills as they are wrapped in the evening fog. Since I have just come from the studios of Andrew Vallee and Kris Ekstrand, my eyes and ears are drawn to the landscape. I can hear a snow goose landing in the slough nearby and the shapes of the landscape have a painterly quality. It is likely that I am looking at the same scene that Kris can see from her studio window, or that I am sitting near where Andrew may have salvaged a Douglas Fir for his sculptures.

    Andrew Vallee and Kris Ekstrand’s studios are a stone throw away from each other, so it is only fitting that they are featured in an exhibition together in January at Smith & Vallee Gallery in Edison, Washington. Andrew creates beautiful wood sculptures that are inspired by objects from the natural environment—sea urchins, feathers, owls, and more. Each object is carefully examined and then its image is transformed into a salvaged wood carving. A favorite is “On the Edison Slough” which includes a small bird carved out of maple that is resting on a base, or cradle as Andrew says, made out of 2,300-year-old Douglas Fir. The veins of the wood are easily discernable, but they are juxtaposed with the ripples carved into the surface. The resulting effect is the appearance of the small animal hovering over moving water, which is somehow appropriate since the Douglas Fir itself was salvaged from mud and brackish water where it rested for thousands of years.

    Vallee starts with an object and then creates elements of its image in wood. All appear to have aspects of both hyper-realism and abstraction. In a short walk from Vallee’s studio, guests can also see Kris Ekstrand’s painting and print studio. The artist’s hand is ever present in Ekstrand’s work. The shapes of the landscape outside the studio are echoed in her paintings and prints, but it was her use of color and gesture that caught my attention immediately. One painting in particular, “Berry Fields in Winter”, is an excellent example of color, composition, and texture. The horizon line is in the top third of the painting and a thin line of yellow paint articulates the flat fields of Skagit Valley. The bottom of the painting is a flurry of green, yellow, pink, and orange brushstrokes overlaying a body of water. The title of the painting leads me to think about all the berry bushes, now empty of berries, that fill the fields. During the winter, the rainwater collects on the fields and creates a mirrored effect which only amplifies the natural beauty surrounding it. The viewer can imagine Ekstrand’s hand and brush moving the paint across the surface of the canvas with every visible brushstroke.

    Ekstrand’s landscapes look like a welcome landing field for one of Vallee’s owls, which makes the two artists an excellent duo for an exhibition. The color and life are a welcome view in the often-dreary month of January. Smith & Vallee Gallery continues to celebrate the environment of the Skagit Valley in February with the opening of their annual invitational of artworks featuring birds. Dubbed “The Bird Show” by locals, the idea of hosting events in Edison around the arrive of hundreds of birds to the area is about 10 years old. Vallee recalls talking about hosting a festival for bird watchers with his friend Jim Kowalski. This conversation led to a festival that lasted about 5 years and the infamous “Chicken Parade” that occurs in Edison every year. While the festival no longer takes place, the annual exhibition lives on and is an opportunity for bird enthusiasts to gather at the gallery every February.

    The gallery is excellent about keeping their website up to date with available artworks. They are also very meticulous about COVID safety and social distancing guidelines. If you are able to visit the gallery in person, expect to see expressive paintings and prints that almost appear to vibrate with intensity on the picture plane. Vallee’s sculptures range in size from a few inches to a five-foot tall wooden feather resting on top of a book. I looked up at the feather to admire the smooth, sanded surface and then knelt to marvel at the pages of the book that seem to all be articulated with expert precision. Looking at these artworks certainly lifted my spirits, and I hope the same for you.

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    Smith & Vallee Gallery is located at 5742 Gilkey Avenue in Edison, Washington. It is open Friday through Sunday from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. and by appointment Monday through Thursday. For further information, please call (360) 766-6230, email, or visit the gallery website at

  • Wednesday, December 30, 2020 2:46 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Monday, November 02, 2020 1:00 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    We have experienced seven months of COVID-19, wildfires, social unrest, protests. the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, murder wasps, and, most recently, the 2020 election. To overcome these challenges, I turned to writing postcards to voters and letters to friends. Writing calmed me, channeled my anxiousness, helped me feel useful, and gave me hope. The one postcard campaign I participated in had over 375,000 volunteers writing a total of 15 million postcards! Wow—if anything, we definitely helped keep the U.S. Post Office afloat! 

    My major COVID-19 project—preparing the Art Access archives—surprised me as to how many magazines I’d made this past 28 years. You are reading the 250th Art Access magazine! I’m excited to let you know, so far, one set of Art Access archives is to be housed at the Seattle Public Library and another at the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art. 

    The galleries, studios, and museums have been super resilient and creative. The majority have reopened. And those that have not, have retooled. For example, the Henry Art Gallery expanded its contemporary art programming while its building remains closed. Check out the new slate of virtual and small-scale-in-person programs at and look for its upcoming first city-wide public exhibition, “Set in Motion,” featuring artworks installed on 20 buses from December through February.

    The organization, Skagit Artists, has created Art Supplies for Kids (ASK) program to help out local art educators as they provide art instruction. For information, visit and to donate, visit 100% of donations go to Skagit teachers for art supplies or art instruction.

    I wish you all good physical and mental health. Be safe. Be well. Be Creative!

    Somehow we’ll get through this together!

    Debbi Lester

    Art Access Publisher

  • Sunday, November 01, 2020 10:18 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    On August 20, 1920 the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified and gave women the right to vote. After a lengthy, nearly seventy year fight, the suffrage movement finally received what the women at the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention set out to accomplish. While there has been much progress towards gender equality in the past century there is still a lot of work to be done. Holly Ballard Martz’s exhibition, “Dirty Laundry & Domestic Bliss,” raises important questions about women’s rights, the patriarchy, and the role of women in society. Using mixed media artworks, Martz references or utilizes many common household objects to address these questions and provoke the viewer to think about a particular issue in a different way. 


    Upon entering the gallery it is impossible not to notice the long table with sculptures that appear to be pieces of meat. The artist painstakingly applied over 40,000 sequins to the sculptures to give them a fleshy and shiny surface. As the viewer peruses the sculptures it becomes obvious that while some look like cuts of meat, others do not. There are several sculptures with obvious depictions of the vulva and vagina on the surface. Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party” might come to mind as an art historical reference for this imagery. Chicago’s installation evoked religious reverence for the series of tables to inform the viewer that they are about to enter a sacred space. Each plate included the name of a significant woman in world history and was set upon an intricate tablecloth.


    In contrast, Martz’s installation may appear cold, even crude, with all these cuts out in the open on a bare, wooden table. The comparison is an obvious one, but Martz is careful to draw a line between them. In this case, the cuts of meat actually reference a dressmakers ham. These pillows are used as a mold for pieces of a garment that need to better fit the curves of the body, such as a waistline or sleeve. But the pillows that Martz constructed are useless as dressmakers hams because they have sequins and are really more of a decorative object. In a statement on the gallery website that artists asserts that the female body is also often reduced to cuts of meat that are laid out for decoration and the enjoyment of others. The imagery of women reduced to parts as entertainment or objects of the patriarchal gaze set up an even more somber installation directly behind the table.  


    In the exhibition text Martz notes that October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. It is impossible to ignore the bright pink wall at the end of the gallery with the cursive script, “Love Hurts”, written out with 6,000 9mm spent shell casings. The artwork is a series of contradictions. The beautiful script and color pink remind the viewer of a Valentine or sweet note between lovers. But there is obviously a much more sinister message. On the gallery website the artist cites a statistic from a survey by the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Violence Prevention which states that almost twenty people are physically abused by their intimate partner every minute in the United States. She states a further study from the American Journal of Public Health that notes the risk of homicide increases by 500% if a gun is present during a domestic violence situation. “Love Hurts” represents the very present danger that many women and men face in their lives. Sometimes this threat is hidden from friends and family, but Martz’s bright pink wall and gold script is impossible to avoid. 


    There are many other objects in the show that connect to work that historically has been done by women. There is a large blue ironing board with a series of gold halos around its “head” in reference to the artwork title: “Lady Madonna.”  Martz’s well-known hangers also appear in this exhibition. They are also beautifully adorned with beaded flowers and reference the traditional work of women in the home. But these hangers aren’t useful as they are installed by the artist. Martz installed them upside down so that they are in the shape of undergarments and the female reproductive system. Every object and material in this exhibition has a purpose and supports the guiding question: Is this really domestic bliss? 


    This exhibition and the questions it raise continue to be extremely relevant. With the election right upon us many people are discussing the points that Martz addresses through her meticulous artworks. But the issue of domestic work and duties that women often perform have also been magnified during the COVID-19 pandemic. The combination of professional work, teaching children who are now learning from home, and housework is causing many women to question their role in society. We are seeing record numbers of women leaving their professional careers as the pressures of home and family weigh down on them. It seems that the issue of dirty laundry and domestic bliss are just as relevant today as they were decades ago.


    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    “Dirty Laundry & Domestic Bliss” is on view through November 15 at ZINC Contemporary, located at 119 Prefontaine Place South in Seattle, Washington. The gallery is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. For more information, visit

  • Sunday, November 01, 2020 10:14 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Saturday, October 31, 2020 12:58 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Artists collectives are truly a great boon to our art scene, especially when grass roots collectives reach out to support each other.

    Such is happening in November when the long established artist-run space Shift Gallery is reaching out with an online benefit sale to support the much more recently established Central District black cultural center Wa Na Wari. 

    Wa Na Wari describes itself as a “center for Black art, stories and connection in Seattle’s Central District. This Central District home owned by a black family for five generations, continues to be a legacy of kinship and community building.” As you enter the house we read that it encourages the community to be part of the process of “preservation, reclamation and celebration.” 

    Wa Na Wari plays a crucial role in Seattle. As the home of founder Inye Wokoma’s grandmother, it has a long history with his extended family. Wokoma’s innovative multi media creations based on film and photography offer us his personal family history as well as that of the Central District where he has lived all his life. 

    He decided to save his grandmother’s home at 911 - 24th Avenue from the ravages of gentrification (he lives in another home owned by his family next door). With a team of three other people, Elisheba Johnson, Jill Freidberg, and Rachel Kessler, Wa Na Wari (meaning “our home” in the Kalabari language of Southern Nigeria), presents black artists in many media. It holds workshops, films,  readings, lectures, fashion shows, and art exhibitions. It also collects oral histories from residents and former residents of the Central District. You can listen to them on an old fashioned telephone. 

    The curator Elisheba Johnson brilliantly presents visual art exhibits that create a synergistic energy suited to the spirit of the house. Every exhibit is sophisticated and provocative combining artists from the Northwest with those living elsewhere, youthful emerging artists and established professionals.  

    Looking at the current exhibition, the four artists intersect both emotionally and spiritually with each other, with us and with the house. Each room/gallery is small and devoted to one artist, making it possible to dive in deep and really experience their work. 

    As we enter the former living room dining room area, now called Wilson Hall, the large gallery shows the work of Zahyr Lauren, also known as The Artist L.Haz. His woven cotton blankets based on a meditative process speaks through sacred geometry and symbols to suggest “Black pride, power, and regality, alongside pain and grief.” We feel their almost magical presence as we move through the space. Particularly overwhelming is the work, appropriately hung over the fireplace, with the title “The Door of No Return.” 

    In the first gallery upstairs, Gallery Kyle, the video “Human Design” by the amazing Ilana Harris-Babou requires several viewings to fully appreciate her sincerity paired with parody. Her work explores the absurdities of consumer culture, in this case looking at what she calls “the white washing” of culture from Africa. She takes us on a tour of various sites in Senegal, her own country of origin, as she presents the steps to understanding the real sources of the art work in upscale design stores. Her final visit is to the place from which slaves were shipped now, a museum, “Maison des Esclaves.” This piece is a great choice for Wa Na Wari. Other works by the artist parody cooking shows, make over advice, and other themes. She is humorous and biting at the same time. 

    In a second room, Gallery Birdie, Andrea Coleman’s digital artworks combine old photographs and abstraction. The haunting family photographs emerge from layers of browns and blues and yellows. In “Finding a Seat at the Kitchen Table,” 2017, we see the old photograph capturing an ordinary moment with family that resonates with many layers of references, even as we simply appreciate the artist’s aesthetic subtlety.

    Finally, the work of Zachary James Watkins “Listen to Clarence” combines archival footage of the Civil Rights March on Selma, brilliantly edited to encompass all the different perspectives on the march, including the participants, young children, the police, and white nationalists holding confederate flags. 

    The video is paired with a recording of Watkins sound/video piece “Listen to Clarence” which includes an interview with Dr. Clarence B. Jones, Martin Luther King’s speech writer, describing the “I have a dream” speech, along with Watkins’ haunting sonic work “Peace Be Til” a commission with the Kronos Quartet. 

    Together these works all provide a spiritual and emotional journey through time and space, through history and the present.

    The Shift Gallery is also a special space that makes a perfect partner to Wa Na Wari. The Shift Gallery artists explained their sense of community, collaboration, mutual support, and collective spirit. They share all the responsibilities of running the gallery on a volunteer basis, from producing a professional publication to installing exhibitions. 

    Shift Gallery’s support of Wa Na Wari is through an online benefit sale at from November 12 through December 19. Twenty artists have contributed a work worth $200 or less. All the sale proceeds go to Wa Na Wari. 

    Susan Noyes Platt

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

    Wa Na Wari, located at 911 - 24th Avenue in Seattle, Washington, is open Fridays from 2 to 8 P.M. and Saturdays and Sundays from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. For more information, visit

    Shift Gallery, located at 312 South Washington Street in Seattle, Washington,  is open Friday through Saturday from 12 to 5 P.M., and by appointment. For more information, visit

  • Saturday, October 31, 2020 12:17 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Forty years in the making, “Manzanar: Their Footsteps Remain,” is photographer Brian Goodman’s exhibition and accompanying book of the same name. Featured at Northwind Arts Center this November, Manzanar is, “a photo essay about the remnants of the incarceration of our neighbors,” says Executive Director Michael D’Alessandro. The images of Manzanar transport us from the lush, salty shores of our Olympic Peninsula experience, to the parched, cracked earth of the Owens Valley in California, and to a time of xenophobia and fear. 

    In 1942, our neighbors in Quilcene, Bainbridge Island, Seattle, and elsewhere—120,000 adults and children of Japanese ancestry—were forced to leave their homes and take only what they could carry by bus. Their destination: hastily erected camps dotting the mountain west’s most remote landscapes. Manzanar was one of those camps, and Goodman’s photography lays this story bare. 

    “As a child of ten, I remember soldiers with rifles, barbed wire fences, and observation towers with lights in 1943 and 1944,” said Michael Adams, who recalls visiting Manzanar with his father, Ansel Adams. Adams, like Goodman, was called to document Manzanar through photography and his images were influential to Goodman’s work.  

    Photography is often about the arresting of time, and Goodman uses his camera to full advantage. Each black and white image begs the question, “Was this 75 years ago, or is this now?” In his work it is both. By toying with our perceptions of time and the surreal atrocities of recent history, Goodman uses the contrast of light moving across a broken object, a shadow arcing across a flat plane, and allows time to slow to a stop and stare us in the face. 

    Goodman remarked, “when I captured the first images at Manzanar over 40 years ago, I had no idea what I was photographing. Over the years, as I learned more about this place in our country’s history, it kept calling me back. I believe it is an important story that many people have no knowledge of, and it relates directly to some of the issues we are dealing with as a society today. My hope is that this exhibit will make viewers pause and realize how delicate and precious our freedoms are and how easily they can be taken from us.”

    A close friend of Goodman’s commented that he was torn when he viewed the images. On one hand, they are striking photographs with exquisite attention to composition. At the same time they are intimate examinations of racist actions taken against an entire community of people, most of whom were native born American citizens. 11,070 people lived at Manzanar over three and a half years. For anyone with a sense of justice, it is hard to reconcile the dueling emotions of appreciating beauty and understanding truth. 

    Goodman and his partner, Shira, who helped develop the work and book, were originally planning to tour the exhibition across the United States. COVID-19 emerged just as the book went to print, and the show, scheduled at Northwind for May, was postponed. With life in a holding pattern since then, the next exhibition is currently slated to travel to Peninsula College in Port Angeles in early 2021. The Goodmans still plan to take the exhibition to California, as well as their message. “The most profound and moving stories have been from some of the actual survivors of the camps and hearing their memories of their time of incarceration. November 21st is the 75th anniversary of the closing of the camps and very few incarcerees remain, so it’s extremely important that we never forget what took place and we never let their stories disappear. I hope the photographs instill curiosity and a desire for the viewer to learn more about what’s behind the images.” 

    With curiosity in hand, there is no better place to turn than the voices of those who lived the experience. Densho, a non-profit based in Seattle, collects oral history interviews, photographs, newspapers, and other primary sources on the Japanese American experience from immigration through redress, with a strong focus on the World War II mass incarceration. is their extensive, online digital archive, and the most comprehensive community-based resource for learning more.

    Shelly Leavens

    Shelly Leavens is an artist, writer, curator, and the Executive Director of the Jefferson Museum of Art & History. She lives in Port Townsend, Washington with her family.

    “Mazanar: Their Footsteps Remain” is on view though November 29 at Northwind Arts Center in Port Townsend, Washington. Northwind Arts Center is open Thursday through Sunday, 12 to 5 P.M., or by appointment. The exhibit’s companion book is available for sale in the gallery. Visit for appointments and more information. 

  • Saturday, October 31, 2020 12:16 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    I Have

    Well, if Michelle Obama can admit to feeling blue, so will I.

    At first, I didn’t want to read her interview. Clearly, I thought, there are things I am not ready to hear.

    But after reading it, I realized that it’s become more than the lurking virus. It’s that living downtown has begun to take nerve. It’s a lot less intimidating to stay home and reorganize the closets.

    How slippery the edge of a neighborhood can feel.

    I envy my neighbor Amal. She is devout. She believes it’s all up to Allah. I wish I could think that so I wouldn’t have to wrestle with what I believe. She raises her hands to the sky so I raise my hands to the sky. And it does make me feel better. But that’s the thing about better. It’s more fleeting than worse. Will the neighborhood ever bounce back?


    I lose myself in work. I am devout at losing myself in work.   

    Somewhere I read that writers are preoccupied by their own competing minds, and that they can’t forget that they are preoccupied. One mind just wants to live, while the other keeps commenting on how well, or how terribly, they are going about it.

    There is so much truth to this. And while I don’t think it’s the only reason I write, I do believe that you can turn this competition into a sense of guidance for yourself.

    So while one of my minds knows that my friend Stephanie is, by now, sitting in our rooftop garden and that I could go up and bother her, the other reminds me that this is the point of her day when she likes to stare out at Elliott Bay, smoke her allotted cigarette, and be grateful that there is nothing more she can do about today.

    Fortunately, both minds know not to interrupt her alone time.

    Our rooftop has become the epitome of alone time.

    But there is great news! Kamala when I cast my ballot I am voting for Y O U.

    And get this. I just heard that my first children’s book will be published this spring. I should celebrate. I will. I promise myself that I will. Because even if I haven’t yet felt like celebrating the moment, I do need to celebrate the triumph.

    In fact, I wish that I could have reached across the Zoom cosmos this morning to give a good long triumphant hug to one of my dance students when, mid-plié, she paused to say, “You’ve written a lot of books.”

    And for a little while, after she said that, I did feel like celebrating.

    Because I have.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Mary Lou Sanelli, author, speaker, and dance teacher, lives in Belltown. Her column has been a part of Art Access since 2004. Her latest book, a novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio of Yucca Springs” was recently published (Chatwin Books). For more information about her and her work, visit

  • Thursday, August 27, 2020 11:20 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    ArtXchange Gallery has been hosting art viewing sessions of two exhibits, one by Deborah Kapoor (click here for further information) and another by Lauren Iida (click here for further information) accompanied by cello performances by Asim Kapoor, who is part of the 1st level of the Seattle Youth Orchestra. He was just asked to volunteer teach beginning cellists how to play, on behalf of SYSO during the pandemic. Asim is the son of ArtXchange Gallery artist Deborah Kapoor. You can see more about Deborah Kapoor's art in the beautifully designed catalog by Laura Brown. Click here to view the catalog.

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