• Saturday, August 01, 2020 1:26 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    In January 2020, the Whatcom Museum announced that they are participating in an exciting new partnership with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. This five-year collaboration allows the Whatcom Museum, one of five museums in the West selected for the partnership, to borrow artworks from one of the largest collections of American art in the world. Not only does this relationship bring artworks to communities that were previously not available to them, but it also gives educators and curators the opportunity to facilitate dialogues between artworks from different regions, time periods, and styles in exhibitions. The first exhibition is titled “Conversations Between Collections: The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Whatcom Museum” and it includes three artworks from the Smithsonian: Fritz Scholder’s “Indian and Contemporary Chair” from 1970, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s “State Names” from 2000, and Jasper Francis Cropsey’s painting from 1854, “The Coast of Genoa.” These loans are on display with artworks and objects from the Museum’s permanent collection in two galleries through January 3, 2021.

    The exhibition poses the question, “What is American art, and what does it look like?” When discussing the importance of the loans, Curator of Art Amy Chaloupka states, “Presenting these special masterworks in dialogue with work by American artists form our collection allows the Whatcom Museum to tell a truly expansive and complex story about what American art can look like.” The portion of the exhibition in the larger Lightcatcher gallery features landscapes from the museum’s collection alongside Cropsey’s “The Coast of Genoa.” Cropsey was a member of the Hudson River School, a group of artists who worked in the Hudson River Valley and are known for their majestic depictions of the American landscape in the midst of the industrial revolution. Cropsey’s Italian scene stands in contrast to another painting in the gallery, “Western View” by Richard Gilkey. Gilkey was a member of the Northwest School, a group of artists working in Western Washington that were brought to national attention thanks to a 1953 article in Life magazine. The painting is an excellent example of Gilkey’s style: a grey sky allows filtered, Skagit Valley light to shine down onto a windswept field. I would encourage everyone to watch Chaloupka’s virtual tour of the exhibition so that you can see a close-up of the painting, which provides a close-up of thickly applied paint, which was Gilkey’s signature technique. The virtual tour also includes two additional highlights: Victoria Adams’ “High Falls” and Paul Horiuchi’s “Rocks and Shadows.” 

    On the second floor of the Lightcatcher building guests can view the exhibition “People of the Sea and Cedar” which includes the other two artworks on loan from the Smithsonian, both by Indigenous artists. This exhibition is ongoing and features art and artifacts from the museum’s collection that illustrate the historic and contemporary perspectives of Northwest Coast people. Fritz Scholder and Jaune Quick-to-See Smith’s paintings are on display alongside bentwood boxes, carvings, woven blankets, and Lummi language interactives. 

    Both artists use expressive brushstrokes and bold colors to convey their central messages about identity, history, and leading narratives. For example, in Quick-to-See Smith’s painting the viewer immediately recognizes that it is a map of the United States. But at closer look they may observe that not every state name is present and that the state borders are blurred under long drips of paint. According to Chaloupka, the artist only included state names that are from Indigenous sources. But while the painting certainly comments on colonization, it also reminds the viewer of the resiliency and survival of Indigenous people. 

    The “Conversations Between Collections: The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Whatcom Museum” exhibition is a unique opportunity to compare and reflect on the relationship between regional and national artworks while seeing them in person. Since visitors can not do that at this time, the Whatcom Museum offers two virtual tours by the art curator so that they can see the photographs of the exhibition and close-up images of some of the artworks that are included. In addition, the museum has a digital version of their Story Dome. Since the exhibition is about a sense of place, guests are invited to share a story, poem, or song about their sense of place based on prompts provided by the museum. Since everyone’s routines have been disrupted, it may be consoling to reflect on our favorite places or how we connect to our current landscape. In the end, I encourage you to check out the museum’s website for additional information and resources connected to the exhibition while we all wait to see these masterpieces in person once again.  


    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    “Conversations Between Collections: The Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Whatcom Museum” is on view through January 3 at the Lightcatcher Building of the Whatcom Museum, located at 250 Flora Street in Bellingham, Washington. The museum is due to open during the Phase 3 of the Governor’s Safe Start Plan. For more information, visit

  • Saturday, August 01, 2020 1:08 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    We could all use a little guardian right now. Someone (or something) that exists without our acknowledgment that would protect and guide us through these uncertain times. Or maybe we need something in the form of a spiritual message from beyond, our ancestors  telling us to stay grounded because survival is both mandatory and attainable. Being hit with the double whammy of a pandemic and a social uprising is overwhelming but it doesn’t mean this is the death of resilience. What it does mean is that we need to be more resourceful at coping.

    Art is a healing and tangible source of comfort. It can be spiritual, religious, or magical and sometimes it’s a combination of all three. If you feel like you need a personal journey of reflection and healing, I strongly recommend you visit George Rodriguez’s show, “Urban Guardian,” at Foster/White gallery.

    A native of El Paso, Texas, Rodriguez celebrates his personal cultural background while pulling inspiration from many others. The “Urban Guardian” collection includes clay statues, vases, masks, headless bodies (or bodiless heads), that seamlessly combine Latino folklore, Greek mythology, and Italian architecture. An earlier example of this blending is from his “Lunar Vessel” group (not in this show) of clay animal-head vases that seem to be inspired by the Chinese zodiac with a Latino twist.

    The brilliance of Rodriguez’s work is in the humor that lives just below the surface. But before you notice that, you have to combat a strange nagging feeling that there is something a little off or a bit dark about these guardians. Looking at some of headless statues that stand a little under two feet tall might give you the feeling that if you glanced away, they would quickly scramble or scuttle to follow you home. Or find a million ways to change places with your shadow.  

    There are more heads in the collection than there are bodies, which creates a choose-your-own-adventure feeling, giving you the freedom to combine the parts in any way. What if the sphinx-inspired body was adorned with the head of the a woman who had bright red lips and a bonnet of flowers? Or what would it mean if you gave the skull head to the body of the monk/priest figure? Are you playing god? Would you be upsetting the spirits or would you get to be the trickster for once? 

    The storybook narrative continues in his piece “Seven Indulgences,” the largest in the show, standing about five feet tall. The ceramic vase is a 360° exploration that packs a tiny surprise. The faces that surround the top of the vase are gargoyles with stoic expressions and fangs. However, one gargoyle is very different. Peppered with wrinkles that collect around his eyes, along with some facial hair, there is no doubt that this is the face of a human. He’s not necessarily old, but he’s definitely someone who has seen a few things. The question is, how did he become part of this vase? What did he do to earn his place among the gargoyles? For that matter, how does anyone become art? 

    The dueling show stoppers of “Urban Guardian” are the rat and pigeon statues. Standing proudly, these two ceramic guardians have such a presence that when I first saw them, I found myself saying out loud, “Oh! Hello there!”

    Rats and pigeons reoccur a lot in Rodriguez’s work, probably because they are the epitome of literal urban guardians. They populate every city environment, stirring and lurking through the streets. Rats, living below ground, are the protectors of the cities that they secretly run, while pigeons are the gatekeepers and defenders of the sky and parks. 

    Since Rodriguez makes these two usually discredited creatures the center of his show, it makes me wonder if he wants us to have a different understanding of these animals. What if we thought of them not as disgusting or diseased vermin, but as the preservers and gatekeepers of the surroundings we call home? 

    One thing that’s not open to interpretation in George Rodriguez’s work is his attention to the details that go into each piece. Details so compelling that you can’t help but make up stories as you look at them. I wonder if the badge on the pigeon’s shoulder was awarded for its bravery. Or what has that head called “Ghost” seen that inspired the shocked expression on its face? Rodriguez knows, and he’s not saying. But that slight smirk behind all their eyes also invites you to calm your curiosity and let the spirit of his work guide you to a better place.

    All good artists tuck a little piece of themselves somewhere in their work. Rodriguez’s soft spot seems to be the eyes. Whether it’s the eyes of the devil that seem to track you from across the room or the stare of the wee man that appears fixated on a spot in front of him, their frozen but oddly animated faces all seem to express the quality of someone who is lost in thought or was recently interrupted in the middle of a sentence. And if you listen close enough you might be able to hear the words resting on their lips.

    Rose McAleese

    Rose McAleese is a writer, poet, and screenwriter born in Seattle. Currently living in Los Angeles because she figured what that city needed was one more writer.

    “Urban Guardians” is on view August 6 through August 22 at the Foster/White Gallery, located at 220 Third Avenue South in Seattle, Washington. The gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. For more information, visit

  • Saturday, August 01, 2020 1:02 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    After Henri Matisse’s 1954 gouache cut-outs, Snail

    When a painter is dying, he’s not necessarily incapable of creating. Long before Matisse’s snail, Picasso and others were using found materials such as newspapers and cigarette packages and incorporating these things into their painting. Real objects adorning an imaginary space. Like artists are wont to do, Matisse studied the minute, snails in this case, in their ability to spiral or to grow linear at will. While he was on his deathbed, he considered the oft-dubious relationship we have with the external world, and how it can be a great comfort to shell up. So, he asked for paper and scissors, and he began the snail’s composition. Onto a white mat, he framed the area in asymmetrical strips of orange paper, then he cut out eleven shapes of sundry colors and arranged them. How not unlike we are to Matisse’s elder self, a snail. Constantly configuring ourselves in our arrangement to our environment, until one day we find the fit, that instance when we can be as content as block of light-lilac, purple, forest green, lemon-orange, navy blue, olive green, rust orange, and black—in each color where we can be who we are, content in that imprecise relationship to ourselves, our bodies.

    Janée J. Baugher

    Janée J. Baugher is the author of the poetry collections “Coördinates of Yes” and “The Body’s Physics,” as well as the guidebook, “The Ekphrastic Writer: Creating Art-Influenced Poetry, Fiction and Nonfiction” (McFarland, 2020). For more information, visit

  • Saturday, August 01, 2020 12:56 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    stone and lichen

    we are brother and sister

    this rock and i

    as wind, rain and sun

    push and pull

    over the surface

    i appear on the skin

    vermillion, gold, ochre and blue

    the textured colors

    of earth’s palette

    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 in 2019. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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

  • Saturday, May 02, 2020 9:45 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Spirits are lifted witnessing creatives helping to make beautiful new ways of being during this challenging COVID-19 pandemic shutdown.

    Hats off to Lauren Gallow and Gabriel Stomberg for hosting “By the Hour” a virtual live First Thursday broadcast featuring art, gallery tours, and interviews with curators, gallery owners, and artists. Check it out at

    Who knew that Patricia Rovzar had graffiti skills?! She brightened her shuttered gallery with her “Art Matters” message. How would we be getting by during the stay home order without art, books, music, and movies? A big shout out to Alliance for Pioneer Square, business owners, and the artists that partnered to create the Storefront Mural Project. These uplifting images bring joy, beauty, and hope.

    BONFIRE Gallery is now a production site for face masks by artist Jack Taylor.

    Artist Trust ( and Whidbey Island Arts Council ( have in-depth COVID-19 resource pages.

    Many Seattle art dealers created a “How to Re-Open Galleries” type letter which you can find at They are asking you to share it with Governor Inslee. If art venues are allowed to re-open, please call before visiting to confirm hours and safety protocols.

    Cascadia Art Museum, Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (#BIMAfromHome), Frye Art Museum (#FryeFromHome), Schack Art Center, Winslow Art Center, and many galleries have re-tooled to provide virtual exhibits, artist talks, and/or classes using online programs (Zoom, Facebook, etc). 

    Before the stay order ends, consider using this time to re-tool, improve, and/or learn new internet programs and build a website. All premium online profiles for artists, galleries, and museums on are now free. 

    Finally, Korum Bischoff from Bainbridge Island Museum of Art made me cry when he said, “We just want you (Art Access) to 

    stick around!…We’re committed to this arts

    community.” Dear reader and magazine participants, your support makes Art Access and art communities thrive. Thank you!

    Be safe. Be well. Be kind. Be creative!

    Debbi Lester

    Art Access Publisher

  • Saturday, May 02, 2020 9:20 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Dear Governor Inslee,

    In your emergency proclamation of March 16th, when you closed business such as bars and recreational facilities while prohibiting gatherings of 50+ people, you also included art museums and art galleries. Other non-essential businesses were closed a week later. We are writing to ask that you do not categorize art galleries with art museums or regular retail as you develop your plan to allow small businesses to re-open.

    We believe that commercial art galleries are in the lowest risk category for re-opening. Our daily traffic flow is very low compared to shops or bookstores. Like museums, the public is not allowed to touch the art so the only surface contact would be doorknobs and restrooms, which are easily sanitized. Art galleries can support social distancing far more easily as we have open floor plans, allowing plenty of space for the few visitors we may have at any moment. We could also allow one party through at a time. Masks could be required and, of course, there would not be openings or gatherings until permitted.

    To ensure the safety and health of our employees and patrons, we propose that galleries will:

    • Keep minimal staffing of the physical gallery spaces to minimize exposure, and ensure appropriate separation of workspaces.

    • Allow visitors in groups of two or fewer, per gallery space, following mandates and guidance issued State and City officials.

    • Establish a guest per square foot ratio based on the size of exhibition spaces.

    • Post signage asking that guests self-regulate by asking them to stay away if they present elevated temperatures, coughing, or other COVID symptoms.

    • Increase daily cleaning regimens, and ensure frequent sanitization of high-touch surfaces such as countertops, pens, door handles, and shared office equipment. Our commercial gallery businesses are low-touch by nature. Clients are discouraged from touching artworks.

    • Request that visitors wear masks when visiting, and require the use of hand sanitizer (provided by business) upon entry and exit.

    • Enforce six-foot social distancing of people. Artworks are viewable by clients with gallerists outside of the six-foot radius.

    • Provide low-touch delivery or pick-up of artworks. Galleries will clean and sanitize artwork and packaging.

    • Cancel all community gatherings and opening events until State and City governments lift bans on social gatherings.

      Art galleries are already struggling to stay open, particularly in Seattle where the cost of rent is prohibitive. We have seen a huge decline in commercial galleries in Seattle over the last 5 years. This leads not only to a great loss of culture for the general public but also diminished support for all our local artists. Each gallery not only employs its own staff but is also sending support money to all our artists through its sales.

      We appreciate your consideration for the state of the arts here in Washington and your efforts to help us hang on to that richness that still remains.

      With Appreciation,

    Click here for downloadable version of letter.

  • Saturday, May 02, 2020 4:52 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    “Not Done Yet” is an apt title for an exhibition featuring an artist like Anne Hirondelle. As renowned Seattle gallerist Francine Seders describes in the exhibition catalogue, Hirondelle is an artist who continued to evolve even when some may have thought her work was perfected. It is challenging to imagine changing your artistic style so drastically, especially when the artworks are so popular. In the early 2000s Hirondelle took a risk, but it is not accurate to say that she completely changed direction. Her goals evolved and shifted, but she was not done yet examining and dissecting her forms. “Not Done Yet” is a continuation of the series of discoveries that Hirondelle made in her career and continues to make to this day.  

    Hirondelle’s exhibition is divided into two galleries and traces her exploration of form. The main exhibition space includes artworks from 2002 to the present, while her earlier artworks are installed in the smaller gallery downstairs. Hirondelle began her artistic career creating functional objects and trained with Robert Sperry in the University of Washington ceramics department. But in 2002, her focus shifted from a vessel that contains to an open sculptural form. Her continuing examination of form and line is the thesis of the show, “Not Done Yet,” as Hirondellle focuses more on works on paper. These artworks create a wonderful dichotomy between the vessel as a 3-dimentional object versus a 2-dimenstional plane. 

    Anne Hirondelle was born in Vancouver, Washington and grew up in Oregon. She has a Bachlor of Arts in English, an Masters of Art in Counseling, and studied Law at the University of Washington in the early 1970s. Thankfully, Hirondelle shifted her attention to sculpture and studied ceramics at the University of Washington. She received a Visual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1988, was a finalist for the Seattle Art Museum Betty Bowen Award in 2004, and was acknowledge as a Creating a Living Legacy Artist by the Joan Mitchell Foundation in 2014. She has exhibited her work in countless galleries and many prominent museums in the Northwest, and her artworks are a staple in the homes of many art collectors in the region and beyond. 

    Since the museum is currently closed due to COVID-19, a written description of the exhibition has to suffice until the public can once again visit. A bright yellow wall greets visitors and educates about Ann Hirondelle’s life as an artist. There is also a quote by Hirondelle which sums up her artistic explorations beautifully: “I think one of the challenges of being a really good artist is not more and more, but less and less; really stretching what you know and what you can do. That is where you find your own self: in the limitations, not the additions.”

    The exhibit includes a large installation, “Staccatos,” of 18 black stoneware sculptures and it’s one of the first artworks on view. The main gallery consists of wall-mounted sculptures, drawings, and many artworks on pedestals. The room is striking, and it seems to glow as the brightly painted sculptures are highlighted against white walls. Hirondelle’s round forms are soft yet crisp, both organic and exact. Teal, royal blue, orange, purple, and red are visual pops that create a real visual delight. But there are many black and white vessels and drawings as well. In one view, the visitor can see a two-dimensional drawing of a circular form that is then deconstructed and expanded into the sculpture on the pedestal below. 

    There is a series of three installations that include nine objects each. The sculptures are reminiscent of a larger installation from 2012, “Sixteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird.” These sculptures are an excellent example of Hirondelle’s examination of the circular form and there is a long artistic lineage in the search to capture the complete view of an object. Hirondelle’s sculptures appear to be the same object just rotated over and over again until the viewer can see on one visual picture frame the complete object. Similar to Cézanne, she is seeking to create a complex view of a three-dimensional object. 

    A smaller gallery contains earlier works by Hirondelle when she was creating functional objects, as well as a few pieces of archival material. The vessels are displayed side-by-side and range from small teacups to large pitchers. All have one key similarity: graceful use of line. Hirondelle created these objects to be functional, but the origins of her later work is evident. It is incredible to see so many artworks by one artist in a single exhibition, and even more enlightening to see how their work evolved over the decades. The message is truly inspiring: Hirondelle isn’t done yet, and we must all keep moving forward because there is more to discover. 


    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    The Jefferson Museum of Art & History, located at 540 Water Street in Port Townsend, Washington, plans to extend the exhibition through the summer once it is safe to reopen. Until then, visit www.jchsmuseum.orgfor more information and to find out about online programming. 

  • Saturday, May 02, 2020 4:25 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Meggan Joy grew up in Puyallup in the 1990s, the daughter of a truck driver and a homemaker. Today, she lives, gardens, and creates complex digital collage work in Seattle. Her solo show, “Battle Cry,” runs at J. Rinehart Gallery from June 13th through July 25th and features new imagery that teems with flowers, birds, insects, and more.

    These aren’t just exquisite pictures. Rich with allegory and art history references, the work testifies to the resilience of women and nature’s plenitude. The few non-living objects in the images are items that Joy has repurposed from thrift shops and the like. As a stalwart recycler who aims to tread lightly, she doesn’t buy anything new other than printing supplies to create her work. 

    Joy grows many of the plants seen in her work in her Interbay neighborhood P-Patch. She also raises some of the insects in her home. “If you have to hurt another living being to make your artwork, then what’s the point of making artwork?,” she asks. “I’m not going to harm another animal for the sake of making art. When I find an insect, I will photograph them usually in place. I won’t take them out of their environment, if possible. If I can do that safely, then I will take them home really quickly and then put them right back in their same spot. But I do have a rule that I’m not gonna hold onto an insect that I found for longer than 12 hours.” 

    Below are excerpts from a wide ranging Zoom conversation with Joy (who has auto-immune issues) during the COVID-19 stay-at-home period; they have been edited for clarity and concision.

    A Modern Lucretia

    When I started planning the show a year ago, I was thinking, “Oh, election year.” This was when Christine Blasey Ford was in the news and all of those things. And I was thinking, “Oh, ‘Battle Cry’ will be about winners, losers, and aristocratic-type portraits.” And now we’re in this entirely different battle (the COVID-19 crisis) that nobody could have predicted.

    For my “Lucretia”* piece, I pulled part of the Christine Blasey Ford “I pledge” hand from that really famous image. So that’s part of her. I just kept on thinking of Lucretia when I was watching her at that time. It struck me as like, “Oh that’s a modern Lucretia—that’s who that is.” And that’s really what inspired the show.

    *Lucretia has been the subject of many revered Old Master paintings. She was a virtuous noblewoman who was raped by the son of a tyrannical ruler in the sixth century B.C. Her resulting suicide caused a revolt that led to the overthrow of monarchical tyranny and the creation of the Roman Republic.

    Under the Magnifying Glass

    We always put magnifying glasses next to my work so that people can get really into it. I have to put glass over the front because there’s always—every night—fingerprints that we have to clean off, because people can’t help it...they’ll spend a really long time getting so close that they’re not even really seeing the human shape anymore. They’re just finding the little snails or the butterfly or the flower that they’ve never seen before. The teeny tiny strawberries, which are like my favorite to hide into things.

    I think that’s why people like having the work around them…and why thankfully people are buying it because they know that they can look at it for a year or so before they can even get close to seeing everything that’s in there. 

    Breaking Cycles

    I wasn’t even willing to consider or call myself an artist until fairly recently. I had won awards for being an artist before I felt comfortable being called an artist. I had this block that, “This isn’t for people like me, that’s for rich people. That’s not for people that grew up in trailers.”

    Now that I’m a little bit on the inside (of the art world), I’m so thankful that I’m working with (gallery owner) Judith who works really hard to make an open environment that feels like a living room.

    I fully intend on breaking a lot of these cycles of needing to have money to be an artist. One of the things I really want to work on is making a frame library so that artists that have an opportunity to show but can’t afford to frame the work can just rent frames for free. 

    Art should be democratized. I hope that from growing up very poor as a truck driver’s daughter, coming at this from a very outside perspective, that I can bring something different to it. I think that’s actually a responsibility of mine as somebody that’s in this space, to be’s part of my job to make sure that other people get seen equally. 

    Two Shout-Outs

    My husband is basically my assistant that I don’t have to pay. We were on a hike, and was like, “Ooh, I found a lizard. Can you just hold onto him for a second?” And I look over and the lizard is hanging off his beard while I’m trying to set up my camera. He used to be an Army Ranger, so he’s gotten into worse situations than I could ever get him into. 

    I am the person everyone is staying home to protect. I would be risking my life to go out and print right now because of my auto-immune issues. I don’t know how we could have done this show without the Photo Center and Sandy King. She’s the digital lab lead there and I call her my hero—she’s been doing all the printing for the show. She knows how picky I am and she holds the same standards I do. The execution has to be spot-on because it’s on a black background. 

    Flower Anarchy

    If we’re able to have an opening, I’m giving everybody little May Day baskets with flowers or flower seeds. Hopefully people will be planting flowers all around the city. It’s a total experiment of like, can I get this to happen? Is planting wild flowers the same thing as graffiti? Is it considered a nuisance or is it considered artwork? Let’s see…

    Clare McLean

    Clare McLean is a writer, photographer,  and horticulture student in Snohomish County.

    The opening reception is on Saturday, June 13th, from 3-6 P.M. and First Thursday, July 2nd, from 5-8 P.M. J. Rinehart Gallery is located at 319 Third Avenue South in Seattle, Washington. For information, visit

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