• Tuesday, September 04, 2018 1:06 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    RYAN! Feddersen reaches out both geographically and conceptually for the intriguing show “In Red Ink” at the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner. She breaks down boundaries of media, chronology, and above all clichés. 

    John Feodorov’s “Dance of the Colonizers,” made up of clips taken from the 1949 film, “On the Town,” exposes the racism of Hollywood as sailors team up with “girls” at the Museum of Natural History in New York City to mimic “savages. Caricature of caricature frequently appears in this exhibition. Andrea Carlson whose affiliation is the central Canadian and East Coast Anishaabeg/Algonquin, sends up the absurd cowboy and Indian stereotypes of dramatically leaping horses and men. Her style of pseudo cartoon, with heavy outlines and brilliant color, underscores her parody of popular culture.  

    Natalie Ball literally cuts up clichés in her large collaged art work that include river rocks, crow feathers, wool, and lodge pines, an intentional use of traditional Indigenous materials, along with European style painting, charcoal and oil stick on canvas. The central figure appears to be an “Indian” collaged and sewn together from mismatched pieces. It has the expressionist directness of a work by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

    Also collage-like and humorous, but entirely painted, is the series of works by Ka’ila Farrell-Smith (from the same tribal affiliation as Natalie Ball, Modoc, Klamath) with her three large “bundle” paintings painted on plastic exhibitionbanners. The term “bundle” is applied to various entities “Time,” “Chief,” and “IAIA Students.” IAIA stands for Institute of Indian Arts in Santa Fe, a renowned Indian Art School. A bundle of sticks appears below them, amusingly transposed as the group of students who themselves echo, in their clothes, a mix of the contemporary and traditional.

    Northwest artists Tanis S’eilten and Joe Feddersen both provide humor with less caricature and more politics, S’eilten by her crazy medium in “Totem and Tabu,” a Freudian book title, with pink shoes, pink suitcase, and neon referring to the stereotype of Native sexuality. She inserts the rip off of Native cultures with an old postcard of the stolen totem pole that came to Pioneer Square as a literal totem. Joe Feddersen’s show stopper, “Charmed,” a wall of symbols cast in glass, gives us a delightful mix up of high tension wire towers, petroglyphs, “teepees” and various other “symbols” that can be read as either caricatures or real objects. 

    On a serious note, John Feodorov’s second group of works reinterpret both media and content. Weaver Tyra Preston created special plain white Navajo rugs for him on which he painted with some trepidation given the rugs’ powerful importance as metaphor of land and culture. The four “Desecrations,” refer to pollution on the land: a coal plant, pipe lines, a yellow radiation house and fracking cracks in the earth.

    Other serious works include the photographs of Matika Wilbur that document contemporary tribal members in a long running project. Amy Maleuf (Metis, another Canadian affiliation), whose” Iamthe caribou/the caribouisme” offers two small braids of caribou and her own hair that refer to the reciprocity of humans and animals. With the dramatic summer of Tahlequah holding her dead baby Orca for 17 days, we are all painfully aware of the threats of extinction to Orcas and other animals. In the medium of glazed ceramic Erin Genia addresses toxic oil leaks in “Facing/Not Facing: Toxic Devastation from Oil.”

    RYAN! Feddersen herself has a rye sense of humor, an impatience with historical stereotypes, a deep commitment to redefining what we mean by contemporary Indigenous art, and a generous spirit that reaches out into the community. Her show reflects these qualities. Curated in collaboration with Chloe Dye Sherpe of the Museum, it gives us a refreshing new point of view, while also making us think about the history of indigenous misrepresentations. 

    We are so fortunate to have contemporary Native artists who speak to both their heritage and to our contemporary world about the state of the earth and the colonialism that has led us to where we are now. Humor traditionally masks politics and urgency. “In Red Ink,” a term that can mean emergency, editing out, deficits, and highlighting, all at once, gives us a chance to understand where we are now and where we can go, with the guidance of these creative artists.

    Speaking of that creativity, look out for “yəhaw̓,” an exhibition of 200 indigenous artists sponsored by the Office of Arts and Culture and the Na’ah Illahee Fund, opening at King Street Station in January 2019.

    Susan Noyes Platt

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

    The Museum of Northwest Art located at 121 First Street in La Conner, Washington, is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M., and Sunday through Monday from 12 to 5 P.M. For more information, visit

  • Tuesday, September 04, 2018 12:50 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    We all think we know the photographs of Edward Curtis from a handful of frequently reproduced images that offer us romanticized, nostalgic views of Native Americans from the turn of the twentieth century, a time when Native peoples were thought to be vanishing. Curtis set out to preserve their traditional way of life, when it was already almost destroyed by assimilation efforts by the US government.

    This summer, on the 150th anniversary of Curtis’s birthday, the Seattle Art Museum along with many nearby museums and cultural centers, is reexamining his work, his legacy, and his relationship to contemporary native culture and art.

    At the entrance of “Double Exposure” at the Seattle Art Museum, a voice in Lutshootseed and English welcomes us, as we are immersed in the stunning installation by Marianne Nicholson. Two back to back glass panels, etched with native imagery, and a light inserted between them, cast shadows on the floor. Ḱanḱagawi (The Seam of Heaven), metaphorically presents the Columbia River, in its beauty and disruptions. The name means “sewn together.” The two pieces of glass suggest the breaks caused by dams and borders, while the light and shadows offer possible healing as the treaty between Canada and US comes up for renegotiation. 

    “Double Exposure” features 150 historical images by Curtis, a selection from various chapters of The North American Indian, created between 1907 and 1930. The book is available online at and well worth reading even a short excerpt from the detailed information that originally accompanied the photographs.

    Curtis created 40,000 photographs of more than 80 tribes, but they were meant to be seen in the context of tribal history, customs and much more. His accomplishment is staggering. His assistants also made 10,000 wax cylinder audio recordings of music, a few of which we can hear in the exhibition. We also can watch his pioneering film from 1914(!) “In the Land of the Headhunters” starring Naida as the bride. Her descendant holds the Curtis photograph in Will Wilson’s tintype.

    The stunning photogravure images, created on copper plates, glow on the wall. We revel in Curtis’s eye for composition, and his technical facility with a complex photographic process. Curator Barbara Brotherton offers detailed and nuanced labels. In some cases these images are posed works that followed Curtis’s romantic perspective, in others they document historical practices that had mainly been passed on through oral traditions.

    For more immersion into Curtis’s technical prowess, Flury & Co, our local Curtis specialists offers “Edward Curtis Photographs in Copper” (On view through September 30) featuring 30 copper plates, never before displayed, from the original North American Indian publication. Flury & Co is a like a small museum in itself. The family have rights to the sale of Curtis prints and plates, memorabilia and manuscripts, acquired directly from the artists descendants living in Seattle.

    In “Double Exposure,” we also can experience native commentary on Curtis. First, there is a new way to insert videos into an exhibition, the app “Layar.” As we scan a Curtis photograph of a canoe race, a video appears with an interview with a 16 year old youth who participates in contemporary canoe journeys. He speaks vividly of the endurance required to paddle a canoe as a team for 10 hours straight.

    This dramatically layering of the Curtis photograph with contemporary interviews by native speakers makes a dynamic intersection of past and present. Will Wilson’s large tintypes come alive as we scan them and hear from the contemporary person photographed, a poet, a state politician, an artist, a filmmaker, a drummer, a dancer. Tracy Rector’s experimental films record contemporary natives speaking of the threat of environmental contamination as well as the preservation of rituals and traditional practices.

    The exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum is one part of “Beyond the Frame:  Being Native” a collaboration of 20 native groups and cultural institutions reexamining Curtis in a contemporary context. Just up the street from the Seattle Art Museum, the Seattle Public Library offers “Protecting the x əlč: Indigenous Stewardship of the Salish Sea” (On view through August 15). It has two parts; the first room emphasizes Curtis’s photographs of traditional practices such as fishing and harvesting (including historical artifacts); the second room presents contemporary life as in the flourishing canoe journeys, the success of the dam removal on the Elwha River, and contemporary resistance to industries, such as the Lummi defeat of a coal terminal on Cherry Point. Concluding the exhibition is a video with Brian Cladoosby president of the National Congress of American Indians and Chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, speaking about their pioneering plans to resist the effects of climate change.

    For a complete list of the exhibits and events affiliated with “Beyond the Frame:  Being Native” as well as information on contemporary native life see the website. Look out in particular for the exhibition of 20 contemporary native artists, curated by RYAN! Feddersen with Chloe Dye Sherpe, “In Red Ink,” at the Museum of Northwest Art in La Connor that opens on July 7. Also don’t miss RYAN! Feddersen’s amusing installation at the end of “Double Exposure” in which we take on the role of “post-human” types such as “Humans of the Glass Offices” and “Vanishing Human Types: People of the Outdoors,” echoing Curtis view of natives as the “vanishing race.” It’s online at

    We are fortunate here in the Northwest to have a vibrant contemporary native art and cultural flowering that is gaining increasing visibility throughout our region thanks to the collaboration of traditional institutions with committed and articulate tribal groups in Washington, Oregon, and Canada.

    Susan Noyes Platt

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

    Seattle Art Museum

    1300 First Avenue, Seattle, Washington

    Flury & Co

    322 First Avenue S., Seattle, Washington

    Museum of Northwest Art

    121 N 1st Street, La Conner, Washington

  • Saturday, August 11, 2018 12:28 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Thursday, May 03, 2018 9:56 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    The Man & The Myth: The Epic Works of Michael C. Spafford

    What does it mean to separate a artist from his work? Is it truly possible to view art in a vacuum, separate from any outside historical context or influence? Are the stories behind the art separate from the stories within it? 

    These are all questions that were percolating as I went to witness the colossal collection of Michael Spafford’s work that is currently on display at Greg Kucera, Woodside/Braseth, and Davidson Galleries. While I arrived full of questions, I left with a profound respect for both the depth of Spafford’s work and the ideas he is trying to unravel within it.

    At its heart, Spafford’s work is about storytelling. Not his own stories per say, but rather the retelling and depicting of ancient myths. He interprets the tales in a variety of mediums, each more nuanced than the one before. In oils, he is bold and sometimes even primal in his expressions. If you look closely at the paintings, you can occasionally find where his fingertips traced the tales into the canvas. In watercolor, he is more subtle, but by no means subdued, carrying ancient archetypes and his strong linear forms across each expression. The collection goes on to include works in charcoal, collage, and sketches to form an immense array spanning nearly six decades that proves that Spafford is impactful in any medium.

    The work is as intense as it is expansive. While some collections of this scale might contain only a few pieces that truly captivate, each piece of Spafford’s does its part to draw you in. This is not to say that all of the pieces are all particularly inviting. Many of the canvases come off as eerie, while others feel more bold and visceral, largely in part to the artist’s affinity for the color red. They are all however, consuming in some capacity, bringing each story they contain to life in a variety of renditions and sizes. In fact, it is Spafford’s unique use of both canvas and scale, and the way in which some works are cut, peeled away from the surface, or designed in obtuse shapes and pieced together, that makes the work feel as if you could climb inside and suddenly find yourself within the artist’s mythical world.

    Some of the pieces are striking simply because of their size, while others are because of subject they contain. All of the work shares a common thread in the depiction of Greek myths, many of which containing characters both human and animal. Half man, half bird, Icarus takes a spiraled flight. In bold blues, red, and black, the chimera meets its fateful end. Men battling serpents, Leda laying with the swan, Europa and the bull, the mighty minotaur waiting in the many of these pieces trace the lines and connections between man and beast. Looking at them, one starts to wonder, what is it that brings Spafford back to these stories time and again. On the surface, mythology appears to be the common thread, and yet, I found myself questioning: Where does Spafford see himself in these stories and struggles? 

    As I continued through the collection, I came to realize it isn’t just the artist that sees himself in these stories. In a way, mythology is one of our oldest forms of expressions, and by nature, stories like these are means to which we better understand ourselves and our common connections. These stories in particular explore the idea of both our humanity and our animality, and how intertwined the two truly are. We like to see ourselves as a species far evolved. And yet in modern day, looking at the bloodshed and beasts in Spafford’s work, you realize that our kind is only slightly less impaired by impulse and instinct than the creatures depicted in these stories from long ago. Reflecting on these tales of man and animals, make one start to question how distinct and divine we truly are from our fellow animal forms.

    While some may see the content of Spafford’s work as no more than depictions of tales from a far off ancient time, I think the artist is calling us to question something that lives beneath the surface of these stories. He is calling us to see the connection between past and present, between reality and recreation. He is wanting us to consider the thread that binds us to our most visceral self, and in turn these stories from the past. It is this questioning that makes this work continue to have a profound and primal way of pulling one in during the present day. Perhaps that is why Spafford and his paints return to these tales again and again, ever blurring and building the connections between the man and the myths that came before.

    Madeline Reeves

    Madeline Reeves is a Pacific Northwest writer and consultant. For more information about her and her work, visit

    Davidson Galleries

    313 Occidental Avenue South

    Seattle, Washington

    Greg Kucera Gallery

    212 Third Avenue South

    Seattle, Washington

    Woodside/Braseth Gallery

    1201 Western Avenue

    Seattle Washington

  • Thursday, May 03, 2018 12:50 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Thursday, March 01, 2018 1:00 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Keep an eye out for satire in the Seattle Art Museum’s new exhibition “Figuring History.” Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, and Mickelene Thomas all share a deep irreverence for traditional Euro American history as they rewrite familiar stories and turn clichés upside down and inside out. But first, immerse yourself in the sheer virtuosity of these artists. “Figuring History” the theme presented by Catherina Manchanda, curator of the exhibition and modern art curator at the Seattle Art Museum, emerges from brilliant formal games with color and space.

    Fortunately, because the paintings are large (in the tradition of history painting,) there are not many of them, which makes it possible to fully experience their aesthetics, their satire, and their rewriting of history. The show encompasses three generations of African American artists. Robert Colescott (1925–2009) turned to monumental figures inspired by both Leger and Egyptian art (he lived in Cairo for several years). He was directly affected by the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s; Kerry James Marshall, born in 1955, celebrates middle class black life starting in the 1990s with its undercurrent of impending danger. Mickelene Thomas, born in 1971, brings us to the present moment with her assertive, no holds barred paintings of black women.

    Colescott’s first rewriting of history, “George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware,” 1975, outraged many people with its repertoire of cliché black face figures filling the boat of the iconic representation by Emanuel Leutze’s “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” Intriguingly, this painting is more straightforward than much that followed. Colescott layers satire, caricature, and political and historical defiance. You can’t always decipher all of his references, as his mature style of loose, brushy, overlapping figures purposefully obscures the identity of many of his figures. Looking at “Afterthoughts on Discovery,” for example, Columbus is obvious in the foreground, a conquistador behind him, a slave, a native American, two skeletons, perhaps Lincoln, a Spanish priest, but what about the five people on the upper left. Are they identifiable, symbols? Or are they actual people? The same can be said for “Knowledge of the Past is the Key to the Future: Matthew Henson and the Quest for The North Pole,” 1986. African American explorer Matthew Henson who accompanied Peary to the North Pole in 1909, is rescued from oblivion as the central figure here. Around him are Peary, a slave, a white slave trader, a Native American, and a collection of other people including Salome presenting the head of John the Baptist, a half black half white woman, and a prostitute with bright green shoes and bag. So we wander through the painting, wondering how they fit together, do they fit together, does it matter? Colescott provides a virtual catalog of skin colors and types, high and low, famous and anonymous. He mixes up all the boundaries. Perhaps that is more important than a coherent single point in time.

    Two tightly selected series present Kerry James Marshall here along with a few other well known paintings. Manchanda did well to fill a room with his spectacular “souvenir” series. They glitter in tones of gray, while honoring the terrible loses of the Civil Rights Era. Marshall’s work draws on every source from kitsch to classical, he plays with us, drawing us into the spaces he creates. In contrast, “The School of Beauty, School of Culture,” 2012, represents a crucial aspect of Marshall’s work, his exploration of black middle class life. Nothing is more iconic that the black beauty salon and this work offers realism, pop art references, and a hologram representation of a white blond in the foreground (a look back to what black women used to desire?), now eclipsed by absolutely self-confident black women with stunning hairdos. (For another view of this subject, see the Al Smith show “Seattle on the Spot” at the Museum of History and Industry until June 17, featuring a black beauty school in the Central District as well as other themes that reinforce the idea of ”Figuring History.)

    Don’t fail to spend some time with Marshall’s “Vignette” series as well: he layers seemingly simple statements of love with pointed political references.

    Mickelene Thomas’s glittering canvases of confident black women envelop us. Thomas, like Colescott and Marshall, sometimes redefines famous paintings. Here she transforms Manet’s “Dejeuner sur L’Herbe” into the fabulous “Le déjeuner sur l’herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires,” 2010. Thomas’s games of space are outrageous and fascinating, they pull us in and push us out; they interrupt predictable perspectives; they adeptly juxtapose modernist squares of colors with complex patterns. While Marshall depicts a shimmering curtain in reflective glitter that closes off the space behind in “Memento V,” Thomas’s shining rhinestones copiously distributed on her paintings actually push us back. That push back in Dejeuner sur l’herbe reinforces the bold, but unavailable, women at its center .

    Take time with these stunning paintings, explore their complexities, and pay attention to their new histories of life in the US. It refreshes the spirit amidst the current degradations of our public politics.

    Susan Noyes Platt
    Susan Noyes Platt writes a blog She writes for local, national and international publications. Most recently she has curated several exhibitions on the subject of Migration.

    “Figuring History” is on view through May 13, 2018 at the Seattle Art Museum, located at 1300 First Avenue in Seattle, Washington. Hours are Wednesday, Friday through Sunday 10 A.M. to 5 P.M.; Thursday 10 A.M. to 9 P.M.; and closed Monday & Tuesday. For more information, call (206) 654-3100  or visit

  • Thursday, March 01, 2018 12:47 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    The genre of portraiture doesn’t get a lot of love these days. Come to think of it, it never really has.

    In the Royal Academy—the post-Renaissance prototype for today’s art schools and museums where the best of the best European artists trained—portraiture was second on the hierarchy of genres. Any artist who wanted to paint “important” works in the academy was producing History Paintings, depicting mythological or religious subjects to
    convey some kind of higher ideal or moral value. Portraiture was important —it sat above landscape painting and still lifes on that academy list—but it wasn’t number one. In general, Western portrait painters were respected for their technical skill and ability to produce a
    recognizable likeness of a person, but not so much for their ideas or creativity.

    And so it has been for the last several centuries. Portrait painters have rarely made a splash or even a ripple in the trajectory of art history—can you name any portraitists off the top of your head? Recently, however, portraiture has made a comeback. Barack and Michelle Obama’s presidential portraits were unveiled recently, throwing a wrench in the historically conservative and— I’ll say it—downright boring collection of the last 200 years of presidential portraits. Kehinde Wiley’s depiction of Barack in a lush garden of green leaves and pops of colorful flowers and Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle in a bold patterned dress against a bright blue background have been a breath of fresh air. How refreshing to see portraits that buck conventions, toss off the unspoken requirement of literalism, and attempt to say something about the personalities of these important people. Portraiture is back.

    Just take the current show at Foster/White Gallery, aptly titled “Portraiture.” The show brings together three painters whose work expands and questions the nature of portraiture as a genre. Erin Armstrong, Carlos Donjuan, and Julia Lambright prod and push at the boundaries of portraiture—somewhere in the middle of my time with the paintings, I found myself asking, what makes a portrait a portrait? Just as Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald offered a courageous new answer to this question with their Obama portraits, the artists in “Portraiture” proffer up three similarly bold responses.

    California-based painter Erin Armstrong tests the parameters of portraiture with
    a body of work where the visual identity of her sitters is all but obscured. Bright splashes of color and bold floral patterns surround and define her subjects, sometimes encroaching on, but never overshadowing, the human forms she depicts. It’s the form, the container that stays in tact—the context and the contents transmute. Boundaries are strongly defined, but what lies within or just without that edge is amorphous.

    For Armstrong, the frontier of identity is anything but settled. It’s wild and blooming, neon lights and floral wallpaper, bright and budding and just a little bit cheeky.

    Armstrong’s figures embody an identity or a character, but the defining physical features are concealed or abstracted. One subject covers her face with a bouquet of bright blue tulips. Another has an orange stripe for an eyebrow and a head composed of turquoise, yellow and purple stripes. The face—the place we often look first to locate identity—is the focus, but there are no distinguishing features to be found in Armstrong’s portraits. Instead, we are left with a container, a form filled with a sensation or a color or a bouquet of bright blue tulips.

    Smaller in scale but richer in symbolism are the delightfully ambiguous paintings of Carlos Donjuan. Based in Dallas, Texas, Donjuan works from his personal history as a first generation American to address notions of belonging. Fascinated from a young age with the concept of alien identity, Donjuan’s portraits toe the line between standard and strange. Here, portraiture addresses the place of the person in the land of the collective. While Armstrong locates identity within a vessel of ever-evolving sensations, Donjuan finds it in the act of assemblage. In Donjuan’s paintings, delicately rendered strands of hair are tucked behind a mask of geometric patterns and leopard print. Human faces are abstracted to triangles and circles, which then become the composite parts of the chorus of friendly creatures populating his works. Identity for Donjuan is a kit of parts that can be endlessly reconfigured and mixed and matched. We all wear masks, he seems to say. Some are friendly, some are funny and some are foreign. They all speak to the impossibility—the absurdity—of ever truly blending in.

    The third artist in the exhibit, Julia Lambright, dives even deeper into the layered facets of identity in the genre of portraiture. Born and raised in Russia, Lambright works in a traditional egg-tempera painting technique which she learned from masters in Russia and the United States. A notoriously unforgiving medium, egg-tempera is a technique ripe with historical associations. Lambright describes her work as “excavating the strata of the past,” building up layers of symbols and textures to compose the iconic figures who populate her paintings. For her, identity is about history—it can be built up and unearthed through the layers of time.

    Their methods and influences are quite different, but all three artists in “Portraiture” bring similar questions to the table: where do we locate individual identity? And how does the body in concert with its context work to convey this sense of self? At a moment in history when identity—whether gender, racial or national—holds more political relevance than ever, it seems fitting that artists are using the genre of portraiture to play with these definitions. Because, the truth is, portraitists have always used their medium to communicate carefully orchestrated messages about
    their sitters. They just haven’t always been quite so honest about it.

    Lauren Gallow
    Lauren Gallow is an arts writer, critic, and editor. You can read more of her work at

    “Portraits” is on view through March 24 at Foster/White Gallery, located at 220 Third Avenue South. The gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday 10 A.M. to 6 P.M. For further information call (206) 622-2833 or visit

  • Thursday, March 01, 2018 12:35 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Thursday, March 01, 2018 12:32 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    That’s Just Ken

    My friend Ken and I are on our second loop around Green Lake. It’s sunset, “the hour of truth,” Ken says.

    And I can tell when his truth is not so much about to surface but burst. This generally means I’m about to get a history lesson. What’s lovely is that I can practically see Ken’s wheels turning backward in time and that he’s a little surprised by how good remembering makes him feel.

    And that’s good enough to make me feel good, too.

    On election day, 2016, we walked along Waterfront Park. “I should write a song about this day,” he said. “A sad tune about misery and shortsightedness because that’s what it feels like to turn on the TV.” We laughed. Harder than we would have if anything was actually funny.

    Today, Ken’s lesson is about Thanksgiving. I never knew it was an English harvest celebration held the first week in October. Or that the reason why ours is on the third Thursday in November is that the U. S. Congress, in 1941, passed an act saying so. Seems the federal workers, “who live for holidays,” pointed out that October had Halloween; December had Christmas; January had New Year’s. Something had to be done about November. And the third Thursday sounded so…right. Congress agreed.“Well, why wouldn’t they?” Ken says.

    Next, we talk about friendships past. “It’s good to reflect before charging ahead into the new,” Ken says, thinking more about tax policy, I’m sure. But he can’t help himself.

    But what rushes into my mind is an old friend who-broke-my-heart. “She certainly taught me that it’s possible to keep someone close while letting them go,” I say.

    Ken calls this kind of attachment an emotional deep state. “When habits rule, not our brains.” But he would think of love like this, wouldn’t he? So I remind him that I’d recently spoke at my first national conference and he hadn’t even asked me about it yet. “Some friend,” I say.

    “You’re brave,” is all he says.

    “Brave? No way. If you knew what I looked like in the greenroom, I doubt you’d think I’m brave. I picked every piece of fuzz off the floor. And it’s weird because I’ve chosen performance anxiety since I was five when I’d stage puppet shows for the neighborhood.”

    “You just knew you wanted to run your own show,” Ken says, “and earn your own pennies.”

    “Sadly, that’s the part that has stayed the same, pennies for pay.”

    We talk about cold remedies. This exchange went something like: I say my Chinese friend gives me herbs that smell terrible, and he says his sister calls chicken soup nature’s antibiotic, and I say my Filipino neighbor, Marlin, swears by slow cooked beef tongue.

    “Ew,” I said.

    “No, ew!,” she yelled. “Just do!”

    I love Marlin. What I know about the kind of friendship we share — how it isn’t all that easy to just do it sometimes, but do it we must — I learned from her.

    “Now that kind of attachment is a good medicine and a good example of bipartisanship.”

    I spent the next couple of minutes thinking, this is Seattle, this is Ken, this is how Ken’s mind works.

    Ken saves the world. For me, at least.

    Mary Lou Sanelli
    Sanelli’s latest book is A Woman Writing. She is speaking at Village Books in Bellingham, Washington on April 14th, at the Seaport Bookstore in La Conner, Washington on May 10th, and at the General  Federation of Women’s Clubs International Convention held June 22-26 in St. Louis, Missouri. For more information, visit

  • Sunday, January 07, 2018 11:48 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    November 18, 1883 was called “the day of two noons.” It was the day that standardized time was instituted. At exactly noon on this day, four continental time zones were established in North America. It was called “the day of two noons” because at mid-day, people had to stop what they were doing and reset their clocks back to noon in order to get everyone on the same page of time.

    The new exhibit at the Henry Art Gallery­—“The Time. The Place.”­—features over fifty artworks from the museum’s permanent collection, many of which seek to disrupt this sense of a standardized, linear time. Here, time is presented as layered and cyclical rather than a straight, organized line. Historical markers are nevertheless present in this survey. Artworks mark distinct moments in the history of the 20th century, including the Vietnam War, the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, and the emergence of modernist design mid-century. However, there is a push and pull between these two conceptions of time, fixed versus fluid.

    Many artists in the show seek to bend time and turn it in on itself, denying its omnipresence, its oppressive consistency. And yet, at the same time (see—even I can’t escape it), the exhibit itself seems to insist on a standard marking of time. “In celebration of the Henry’s ninetieth anniversary”—every piece of didactic material about the exhibit uses this as the justification for mounting such a show at the Henry, and points out that the majority of the works have been acquired by the museum in the last twenty years. Wandering through the galleries, though, this clean-cut sense of a linear, divisible time all but dissolves.

    The opening piece in the main galleries is “Ibi Sum.” What appears to be a clock is lying flat on a pedestal in the middle of the room. Except, this clock has only a single hand and no numbers. And it doesn’t seem to be ticking. In fact, it’s not a clock at all. It’s a compass. This compass is programmed to point to artist Kris Martin wherever he is, based on a geotracker Martin carries with him at all times. Even after death, the compass will continue to point to Martin’s grave. Transcending physical presence, transcending time, the compass will forever point. For Martin, time is a trick, a disguise. Time will pass, it will end eventually. But, the compass clock will continue its work, diligently pointing.

    For me, the measure of a successful artwork is when time stands still while I’m experiencing it. These are the works where I can lose myself and forget that forward march of seconds, minutes, hours. Several pieces in the show conjured this experience for me, the most successful being the video works. What a thrill to discover that the Henry has in its collection videos by Bill Viola and Gary Hill, among others. I watched Bill Viola’s “Anthem” video piece with rapt attention, searching for any hint or trace of Seattle, wondering how this piece in particular came to end up at the Henry. What was the connection? How did it land here, in this time and this place, to be the opening work in the Henry show? Of course the answer was not there, in Viola’s clips of industry and commerce interspersed with the slow-motion scream of a young girl. The only answer being what Viola has always insisted—that human vulnerability stands outside of time or notions of its progression.

    But where I really lost myself was in the second video room, a piece by Svetlana and Igor Kopystiansky titled “Speak When I Have Nothing To Say, After L’Eclisse (The Eclipse) by Michelangelo Antonioni.” The video is an edited scene from Antonioni’s film “L’Eclisse” where the artists have removed the dialogue and rearranged the shots so that any attempts to follow a linear narrative are thwarted. What starts off as confusing quickly becomes meditative and almost hypnotic, the sound of heels clicking back and forth on tile floor and a table fan lazily buzzing a soothing backdrop to the characters moving wordlessly across the screen. Here, time is a circle, there is no beginning and no end. There are no satisfying placeholders or landmarks to latch onto—only the silent despair of two characters who circle around one another, looping and repeating until they just can’t anymore.

    This sense of a repeating loop, where time is more malleable than fixed, is a comforting cloak that drapes over the exhibition. It circles and doubles, as in Richard Long’s “Puget Sound Driftwood Circle” (driftwood arranged in an almost perfect circle) or Angela Christlieb and Eve Sussman’s “How to tell the future from the past, v. 2”, where video of forward and backward movement is seen side by side. 

    It is comforting, this conception of time, because it removes the promise and the pressure of progress. It reminds us that nothing in life follows a single line. Seasons cycle around and around, lessons take practice and more practice to learn, change happens in fits and starts and never all at once. Sometimes going backwards is necessary to go forwards, and sometimes the day holds two noons. A heartening reminder at this time, this place in history where so many things feel positively upside down. 

    Lauren Gallow

    Lauren Gallow is an arts writer, critic, and editor. You can read more of her work at

    “The Time. The Place. Contemporary Art from the Collection” is on view at the Henry Art Gallery, located at 15th Avenue NE and NE 41st Street in Seattle, Washington. The lower level galleries close on March 25. The upper level galleries remain open until April 22. Hours are Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M. and Thursday from 11 A.M. to 9 P.M. Visit for more information.

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