• Saturday, May 02, 2020 4:17 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    After René Magritte’s 1928 painting, The Lovers

    A portrait of a couple posed side by side. The painting cropped at the chest, the landscape behind them a meadow, bushy trees, the sky is a solemn blue with clouds. She in a dress and he in a suit and tie. Their heads tilt toward each other. White cloth is draped over their heads and necks. Just the hint of features under the cloths—point of a nose, a chin, the cloth is close to the face. They have only their bodies to give each other in their senseless love. Two lovers without a harsh word for one another. Words that stench and stink and sting cannot fester in the mouth (a cauldron of venom) nor the ears (a rancid pit). Without eyes to criticize, to close when they should be open, remain open when they should be otherwise. They press their heads together and grin for the artist.

    Janée J. Baugher

    Janée J. Baugher is the author of two ekphrastic poetry collections, The Body’s Physics and Coördinates of Yes. Her poetry and prose have been published in Tin House, The Writer’s Chronicle, Boulevard, NANO Fiction,Nimrod, and The Southern Review, among other places, and she teaches at Richard Hugo House. In autumn 2020, McFarland is to publish her academic book, The Ekphrastic Writer: Creating Art-Influenced Poetry, Fiction and Nonfiction.

  • Wednesday, March 04, 2020 12:00 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Seattle Asian Art Museum: Reimagined. Reinstalled. Reopened.

    Visit the dazzling new installations at the Seattle Asian Art Museum as soon as possible! In a striking departure from tradition, the museum is now organized thematically rather than by geography, the only Asian Museum in the country to take this bold step. It is a huge success. 

    Themes enable us to see familiar works with new eyes, and to enjoy never before seen masterpieces. Each theme includes many countries, and each object often is the result of crossing boundaries, such as a Chinese robe made with Russian silk. 

    As you explore the twelve themes, enjoy the cultural intersections. In fact, the theme of the entire museum is the intersections of culture.

    Architectural firm LMN restored the stunning 1933 Art Deco building. As you approach the entrance, you at once notice that it glows a subtle pink color as a result of the restoration of the exterior. The reglazing of the doors now allow views out to the park and beyond. Restored windows throughout the museum allow frequent views of Volunteer Park and its magnificent trees. 

    The new gallery of over 2600 square feet is scaled to the rest of the building. In addition there are newly imagined education spaces and a state-of-the-art lab for restoring the mounting of Asian painting, the only one west of the Mississippi. Even the auditorium has new seats (made by the original firm) and better lines of sight.

    First look up at the delicate canopy in the Fuller Garden Court by Kenzan Tsutakawa, the grandson of our famous George Tsutakawa. Composed of LED lights in a pattern based on Asian textiles, it swoops toward the front door and the outside world.

    Many works have never been shown before such as a Filipino “Fichu” or shawl, made of pineapple fiber in the first gallery off the Fuller Garden Court titled “Are We What We Wear?”  In another radical act, the curators added contemporary work in most of the galleries, amplifying their themes. So in this gallery we see jewelry and ceremonial clothing, along with contemporary Korean photographer Jung Yeondoo’s “Bewitched” project. The two photographs pair a young woman dressed for her humble job with the same woman outfitted for her fantasy life to explore the Arctic. 

    “Writing Images” includes painting, calligraphy, and poetry. Don’t miss the small horizontal book made of stacked palm fronds, then enjoy the larger masterpieces. These fragile light sensitive works most likely are to be on display for only six months.

    The narrow gallery, “Color in Clay,” faces the park with a long display ranging from white to polychrome. It has no labels which encourages simply looking at the colors as they change according to the light. A video display includes all the information about each piece if we want to pursue the detail.

    Just to the right of the front entrance, “Kamadeva, God of Desire” greets us in “Spiritual Journeys.” Highlighted here as an outstanding 12th century masterpiece of the South Asian Collection, it was formerly lost in the many works in the Fuller Garden Court. After exploring the images of gods of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam, pause in the next gallery, “Awakened Ones,” and listen to chants: these three Buddhas are from Japan, China, and Thailand.

    “Divine Bodies” emphasizes the human body, accompanied by a video that outlines “mudras,” the complex blessing gestures of Buddhism. We can see a teaching gesture in the early 9th century bronze of Buddha Shakyamuni. This bronze is so sensitive to oxygen that it required a special case and has never been displayed before. Anita Dube’s photographs “Offering” of ceramic eyes on hands creating mudras hangs above a riveting thousand armed eleven headed Guanyin. Dube’s work is one of many contemporary works loaned by our generous local collectors Sanjay Parthasarathy and Malini Balakrishnan.

    Finally the new gallery has a separate contemporary art exhibit, “Belonging,” centered around the enormous and familiar Do Ho Suh’s “Some/One,” made of hundreds of military dog tags. In addition to international superstars, be sure to find the work of our own Akio Takamori. His group of poignant ceramic figures depict villagers he remembered from his childhood in Japan. 

    As you leave the large new space, pause with Kim Soja’s “Mandala: Zone of Zero,” three “mandalas” made from juke boxes, each reciting a different chant from Gregorian, Islamic, and Buddhism, an example of ecumenism so crucial in today’s world.

    Perfect. Hats off to the curators and the staff. 

    Susan Noyes Platt

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

    The Seattle Asian Art Museum, located at 1400 E. Prospect Street in Seattle, is open Wednesday from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M., Thursday from 10 A.M. to 9 P.M., Friday from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M., Saturday from 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., and Sunday from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. For info, visit

  • Tuesday, March 03, 2020 1:00 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

  • Tuesday, March 03, 2020 12:19 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    After Alberto Giacometti’s sculptures

    Start with a metal skeleton of what serves your pleasure: a house, a mug, a human figure. Then, take clay and obliterate the metal with it, rendering it inexhaustible of air and mind and any wayward form that disagrees with this surface. You may add mounds of clay or as little as possible. In this manner, you will sculpt Everyman, and how you depict him here people will remark on: Did you make him portly, disheveled, mute? Is he capable of doing anything? Have you captured motion, devolution, mutation? This figure remains lean. Scarcely clay beset the metal, the bones of which poke out of him—he with his elongated, attenuated, atrophied limbs. His head looks straight on, his features are cast in bronze, yet I cannot tell his eyes from nose. Does he feign movement of thought and promise—that solitude starves from ourselves? Merely alone, we are left in the skeleton of our daily skin, the way the bronze catches the light and absorbs it into itself—that color, that light that spreads around a room only hibernates there inside Giacometti’s thin figure. I imagine him falling off the edge.

    Janée J. Baugher

    Janée J. Baugher is the author of two ekphrastic poetry collections, The Body’s Physics and Coördinates of Yes. Her poetry and prose have been published in Tin House, The Writer’s Chronicle, Boulevard, NANO Fiction, Nimrod, and The Southern Review, among other places, and she teaches at Richard Hugo House. In autumn 2020, McFarland  is to publish her academic book, The Ekphrastic Writer: Creating Art-Influenced Poetry, Fiction and Nonfiction.

  • Thursday, January 02, 2020 12:52 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Fifty coffins by Ebony G. Patterson, decorated with fabric flowers, fringe, glitter, lace, rhinestones, ribbon, and tassels stand in a dense cluster in the center of the Henry Art Gallery. Glorious to look at, “Invisible Presence: Bling Memories,” celebrates as well as mourns. The coffins bear witness to the lives of youths killed in violence during only four weeks. At the same time, in the tradition of Carnival, they suggest a celebration. Patterson amplifies that with three almost mural scaled collages that celebrate with a dense pattern of toys and, on the floor, paper-mâché balloons, the hopes and joys of youth who die young with titles like “…they were filled with hope, desire and beauty (…when they grow up…).” 

    Nearby we mount a large platform with several bookcases, part of Oscar Tuazon’s installation based on his continuing “Water School” project adapted to each locale where he shows it. For this installation, he included large maps of the rivers of the Olympic Peninsula and Lake Washington, highlighting the native names of rivers and omitting roads. His work, both visionary and historical, encourages us to think about water on indigenous land and the colonialism of dams, pipelines and other abuses.

    These two impressive works are part of “In Plain Sight,” the first large exhibition by Senior Curator Shamim M. Momin. The exhibit features fourteen national and international artists whom we have not seen in Seattle. It fills the entire Henry Art Gallery with artists who address topics, communities, and stories not usually visible in public spaces. The exhibition gives us the opportunity to see artists with a sharp critical edge as they expose untold narratives.

    For example, Sadie Barnette’s moving installation “Room to Live” features the story of her father, Rodney Barnette, who was an active, but little-known, Black Panther, under extensive FBI surveillance. She juxtaposes redacted pages of his FBI file with a living room setting from the sixties, suggesting his personal life. Sanford Biggers’ combination of sculpture and textile mixed media wall pieces also forces us to rethink racial clichés and news bites. The bronze sculpture “BAM (for Michael)” confronted us in the stately museum medium, here pockmarked and damaged, with the reality of police violence.

    Tom Burr’s installations throughout the exhibition, quietly written in corners, list the names of locations he cut out of “Spartacus,” an International Gay Guide, for gay men to meet up. The piece originally conceived in 1989 and recreated for this show is all the more affecting for its subtlety.

    Hayv Kahraman’s dramatically scaled paintings would seem more straightforward than Burr’s lists of street names, but in fact they are equally layered with meanings that are hard to immediately grasp. Kahraman fled her native Iraq as a child in 1991 to escape Saddam Hussein’s brutal policies toward Kurds. But her paintings feature ironic statements on international entertainment fundraisers that stereotype victims as they raise money. She “orientalizes” the women she depicts, rendering them all alike as “other” as seen by Westerners.

    Beatriz Cortez of El Salvador created an intense steel portal honoring the 1000 men, women and children in El Mozote, brutally massacred in 1981 during the Civil War. In a corner of the gallery, she spoke the names of each victim layered over one another. We cannot understand the names, just as we cannot grasp the tragedy.

    Alison O’Daniel addresses hearing loss and alternative means of communication through a series of videos called “The Tuba Thieves.” Based on an actual event in which tubas were stolen from a South Los Angeles marching band, stealing a crucial sound, she creatively conveys the difficulty of communication for the hard of hearing.

    “In Plain Sight” requires time to experience, particularly for the video works. It is easy to miss Mika Rottenberg’s “Cosmic Generator” at the end of the exhibition in a very dark room, too dark to read the explanation. Rottenberg swerves between surrealism and narrative, documentary and pop to explore artificially created boundaries. Filmed in a Chinese restaurant in Mexico and a kitsch souvenir shop in China, the larger theme is the corruption of capitalism. Amusing scenes underscore that in wildly unpredictable imagery like a taco with men in suits lying inside.

    The exhibition provides an opportunity to see a provocative range of very current artists who address the difficult topic of hidden stories for the ironically titled “In Plain Sight.” Thanks to Shamim M. Momin for bringing these challenging artists to Seattle. 

    Susan Noyes Platt

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

    “In Plain Sight” is on view at the University of Washington’s Henry Art Gallery, located at 5th Avenue NE & NE 41st Street in Seattle, Washington. The hours are Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M. and Thursday 11 A.M. to 9 P.M. For more information, visit

  • Thursday, January 02, 2020 11:28 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    “The Lavender Palette: Gay Culture and the Art of Washington State” at Cascadia Art Museum is the first of its kind. Curator David Martin seeks to document and illustrate the influence of gay artists in Washington state and outline their regional, national, and international importance. The public and private artworks and writings of these artists are on display for the first time together in this exhibition. Martin describes significance of this in his introductory statement, “While certain aspects of their creative output exist in public collections, art with subject matter illustrating their personal lives was often destroyed or weeded out in museum collections in order to preserve a sanitized version of their lives.” The show touches on many aspects, including stylistic contribution,international acclaim, the risk of persecution and imprisonment, aesthetic influences, and documentation of gay culture. However, I believe that the core strength of the exhibition is that it shares the stories and significance of these artists, and in many cases these personal narratives are being shared with the public for the first time.

    There are four artists whose work is synonymous with Northwest art. Kenneth Callahan, Mark Tobey, Morris Graves, and Guy Anderson are the “big four” artists who make up the core of the Northwest School. Three of those artists, Tobey, Graves, and Anderson, are included in this exhibition. Tobey’s paintings show his experimentation with white lines, which would become his signature style. Several of Graves’ paintings from the 1930s are included and they are wonderful examples of the social realistic style. A later painting, “Preening Sparrow” from 1952, is also included. I was particularly thrilled to see Guy Anderson’s “Fisherman Dreaming of Home” from 1964 which is oil and metal collage on wood. His paintings and prints are staples in the both private and public art collections in the Northwest, but I think his mixed media pieces are especially personal because would often use materials in his immediate surroundings.

    It is vital that Tobey, Graves, and Anderson be included in this exhibition, but there another dozen artists featured that will likely not be familiar to even the most devoted Northwest art connoisseur. Once the visitor has entered the galleries, the first images that the viewer sees when entering the space is a series 54 mugshots of men arrested for sodomy between 1893-1913. On a perpendicular wall, portraits of many of the artists are also installed. I was so grateful to be able to put faces to the names of artists that I was learning about for the first time. I am very familiar with portraits of Morris Graves, for example, but other artists like Thomas Handforth, Sarah Spurgeon, and Richard Bennett were completely new to me. Rediscovery has become a theme for the exhibitions at Cascadia Art Museum and it is a real benefit for the artistic community.

    The galleries that hold the exhibition feel intimate and the visitor can easily stand in a position so that they can see the majority of the room. As I stood at the entrance of the largest room, I was amazed at the number and variety of artworks. Since the works are arranged by artist, it can be a wonderful visual exercised for the visitor to try to note some of the thematic through-lines as they move from artist to artist. Many themes are revealed, including interior mid-century scenes, fashion illustrations, labor scenes in social realist style, Northwest School style paintings, and more. However, the artworks most interesting to me focused on intimate subject matter and portraits. The thesis of the show is to bring the private lives of these artists to the forefront; lives that they often had to hide to varying degrees. These intimate writings and  images tell many stories including the “wedding” of Jackie Starr (“a top female impersonator at the Garden of Allah Club in Seattle” according to the exhibition text) and Bill Scott, the long-lasting professional and personal relationship between Del McBride and Clark Brott, Orre Nobles’ diary in which he describes “chats” (code for sexual experiences), and photographs of naked men in a variety of poses and displayed in the “mature content” section of the exhibition.

    As stated in the introductory text, this exhibition is groundbreaking. The time and knowledge required to gather all the artworks and primary sources together in this show is staggering. I was told by the docent that there a catalog is forthcoming, but its release date is unknown at this time. There are three Coffee with the Curator events throughout the run of the exhibition and the last event is on January 5. If you want to discover artists who will likely be new to you and learn more about their concealed personal relationships and artworks, this is the exhibition for you.

    Chloé Dye Sherpe

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

    “The Lavender Palette” is on view through January 26 at the Cascadia Art Museum, located 190 Sunset Avenue in Edmonds, Washington. Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 11 A.M. to 6 P.M. and on 3rd Thursdays Art Walk Edmonds from 11 A.M. to 8 P.M. For more information, visit

  • Thursday, January 02, 2020 9:53 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    Perry and Carlson Gallery & Shop • Mount Vernon, Washington

    After decades working in New York and Seattle as design professionals, couple Trina Perry Carlson and Christian Carlson were primed to build a life with their personal creative imperatives on the front burner—textile-based artwork for her, abstract painting for him.

    “My motivation for coming was to have time and space and creative freedom,” explains Christian, an architect. “And Trina’s was to start a retail business.”

    They decided that moving to a smaller, more affordable community would set the stage for realizing their aspirations. So as their youngest child neared the completion of high school, they began looking at real estate with that ineffable “it” factor in Oregon and Washington.

    Their sweet spot turned out to be an hour north of their Capitol Hill home, in Mount Vernon, where they purchased a 6000-square-foot building in the town’s commercial heart. Since moving into the 1924 property almost five years ago, they have transformed its street-facing area into two fluidly conjoined spaces: a gallery featuring contemporary artists and a retail shop rich with handcrafted objects and vintage finds. And in the back, an enviable loft-like residence, with room for their own studio spaces.

    “Mount Vernon is one of the most intact towns in the West, at least on First Street,” according to Christian. “We’re both urbanists and understand what makes a town healthy or unhealthy and Mount Vernon seemed to be doing everything right.” The pair was impressed by the town’s active farmers’ market and downtown business association, mix of retail, restaurants, cafes, and bars, and a recently completed flood wall and riverwalk.

    “One thing that really spoke to us was how vibrant the community co-op is,” says Trina. “People travel from Bellingham to shop at the Skagit Valley Co-op and also to go to the Lincoln Theater. It felt like if this town supports these two really strong community-based businesses that’s a good sign.”

    They wanted to avoid the gallery being a gift shop with art on the walls. And, unlike many of the Valley galleries which mainly focus on local artists, its exhibitions have featured national and international artists.

    “We were trying to make a splash with bringing more of a big city kind of art scene to the Valley,” Christian explains. “We got some nice attention for that. And then the local artists started kind of paying attention to us. And in the meantime, in the last three years, we’ve met dozens of local artists.”

    Looking ahead, he says, “there are two things that we haven’t done that we would like to do. One is more focused on installations, where we invite artists to take the gallery for a month and build something in situ. And the other is new media.”

    The unexpected pleasures of the move have been many. Trina explains, “We feel like we’ve built more community in the last four years than in 20 years in Seattle.” Another boon of moving to a smaller town is that “there’s a real value in getting involved. There’s room for involvement and you can make a difference. Christian’s on the planning commission now, he’s a planning commissioner and helping the city.” Collaboration with other artists, artisans and galleries has been rewarding as well.

    And Christian’s work has changed profoundly. Prior to the move, he considered himself an inveterate abstract painter. “I’d never been interested in landscape art in any way, shape, or form. To me landscape was the same as still lifes or something. It was just kind of too representational and too sort of light.”

    Once settled in town, “I kept noticing how the horizon organizes everything that you see, especially in the Valley where you pull over to the side of the road and there’s a field that starts right in front of you and goes almost to the horizon. And then there’s stuff on the horizon, trees, buildings, telephone poles, whatever, and then usually a uniform white sky. And so it ends up being this very abstract composition. And so I started really focusing on the line of the horizon. I would just sketch this again and again, and then I started painting it.”

    His fascination continues. “I’m just obsessed with it. I can’t stop. I paint the Valley again and again and again.” Christian’s Valley-inspired work is on display in the gallery through January 31. Entitled “Skagit Winter,” the show includes drawings and paintings in encaustic, acrylic, and oil.

    Clare McLean

    Writer Clare McLean is based in Snohomish County.

    “Skagit Winter” featuring paintings and drawings by Christian Carlson is on view Monday, Wednesday through Saturday from 10 A.M. to 5 P.M. and Sunday from noon to 4 P.M. through January 31 at Perry and Carlson located at 504 South 1st Street in Mount Vernon, Washington. For more information, visit 

  • Wednesday, January 01, 2020 11:52 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    After Allison Collins’ 2002 painting, “Steptoe Butte”

    The squares of yellows and oranges like a library—all angles in their places until an unsuspecting hand…a melding, a greeting of hand to angle, of that which is fresh and sinewy and pale to the stacks, a landscape of yellow boxes and orange boxes amid a landscape of green expanse and lavender above. Who lingers here and who drives through. Who knows how to mix the rhythm of green—that undulation of grass not yet harvestable for straw, but plumbing in nutrients, hay perhaps, grain or crops, those that someone nods to on his way to the city where cement stacks ride on brick and the sky turns a pink some nights because of the smog, and it makes him recall the purity of a lavender sky astride the velvety green of field, makes him recall the symmetry of these shapes like books on the shelf of his own body.

    Janée J. Baugher

    Janée J. Baugher is the author of two ekphrastic poetry collections, The Body’s Physics and Coördinates of Yes. Her poetry and prose have been published in Tin House, The Writer’s Chronicle, Boulevard, NANO Fiction, Nimrod, and The Southern Review, among other places, and sheteaches at Richard Hugo House. In autumn 2020, McFarland will publish her academic book, Ekphrastic Writing: A Guide to Visual-Art-Influenced Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction.

  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 8:49 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    May You Never Have To Run For Your Life

    One of life’s unavoidable responsibilities is to show up at your friend’s fund-raising event. You could send a check. But if she’s been reminding you of the date for months; comparing her entertainment line-up to Hamilton, you really do need to attend.

    I’m joking. But even if I wasn’t, I’d never want to let her down. She’s been good to me. Loyal, generous, honest. But not too.

    Still, I’m a little fearful of round table seating. It makes me feel like I’m ten years old again waiting for the popular kids to reject me.  So I always try to find at least one person I can see myself making small talk with.

    One woman looked interesting enough. At least I wanted to think her tree-of-life earrings meant she might be fun. I put my coat over the back of the chair next to hers and we got to talking. Of course we did.

    I wish I could say it’s possible to recognize what side of an issue someone is on based on earrings alone, but one should never make such assumptions.

    Now, I’m a little sensitive about immigration, I feel protective. The more my tablemate drank, the more obnoxious she became, and we were only halfway through our salads. And so came the probe. “But your parents came legally, right? They didn’t come expecting a free ride?”

    I wanted to say, free ride? How many immigrant’s do you know who want that? Most come to work at kitchen or field labor. I’m sure you didn’t raise your son to move on down to Fresno to hand pick tomatoes. But to answer your question directly, no, I don’t think my family came legally, they came desperately. It’s why they were called WOPS. Without Papers. The legal process began after they arrived. Oh, and one other thing: May you never have to run for your life.

    I didn’t say this. I sat there with a big fat fake smile on my face, trying to be socially-correct where the worst thing you can say is the truest thing you feel. The polite thing to do is just say, “Excuse me,” and pretend to see someone you know across the room.

    I did know someone! At the head table.

    After congratulating my friend (she raised a ton of money for a scholarship program), I passed two women discussing Good Friday, “What’s so good about it again? I can’t remember.”

    “It’s when Jesus rose from the dead.”

    “Was it before or after he walked on water?” They laughed. “My first husband thought he could walk on water, too, but my lawyer showed him just how quickly you can go under.”

    Every once in a while you overhear someone who knows how to make easy, light, irreverent conversation, who reminds you that it’s possible to be sassy and bold and respectful all in the same breath. Not that it’s ever smart to assume. But I pulled up a chair anyway.

    I’ve replayed a lot of the evening over and over in my mind, looking for a reason I should have stayed home in my sweats, but I can’t find one. It was a really good cause.

    And the entertainment was top notch.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Mary Lou Sanelli is an author, speaker and dance teacher. Her first novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio (of Yucca Springs)” was recently published by Chatwin Books. Ask for it at your favorite independent bookstore. For more information, visit

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