• 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.

  • 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.

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