january 31, 2004








I took some time today to visit the Museum of History and Industry to see the newly installed traveling Smithsonian exhibit. This would also be something of a nostalgia trip for me as well, not having been to MOHAI for maybe 26 or 27 years.
I was dumbfounded when I pulled up, I think it is always surprises me when places seem absolutely petrified in time (I’m thinking about 1969).

MOHAI is not a conventional art museum, more of a resting ground for a hodge podge of Seattle and Gold rush history. Much like the Smithsonian it’s self, it’s full of historical mementos, photos and reenactment exhibits with the focus being on Northwest history.

While the Smithsonian in DC has the Hope Diamond* and Archie Bunker’s easy chair, MOHAI has the Slo-Mo-Shun IV Hydroplane, Seattle children’s television star J.P. Patches patchwork coat and mementos from the 1962World’s Fair.
This is a great place to take kids, Yukon history buffs and those who prefer the lively sound of player piano music to the church-like hush of most museums.
The only unfortunate thing I will say is I left with a raging headache from the noise of the reenactment exhibits.

The Smithsonian’s Industrial Drawing show Doodles, Drafts and Designs contains some great drawings. For one reason or another I find them truly intriguing knowing I couldn’t remotely emulate the style myself if I tried.
Favorites included a drawing/doodle on a napkin of a to-be manufactured transistor (somebody’s lunchtime inspiration), W.W.II graphics encouraging an industrial machinist dress code for women workers and drawings from Henry Dreyfuss Associates, which was started by the king of American Industrial design, Henry Dreyfuss.
Due to space limitations I found the layout of the exhibit slightly confusing. Thinking it was over I would wander off to another room, only to turn a corner to run into more Industrial drawings and a few moments later I would do it again. Confusion aside, it was great to be in an unpretentious place where these drawings truly belong.

MOHAI really shines right now in their efforts to digitize their immense photographic collection for on-line use, a great resource!!

Also despite my selfish wish for them to remain petrified as they are I see, they are slated for a new location and shiny new building in 2007, to give them some obviously much needed room.

Doodles, Drafts and Designs is up until Sunday, April 11, 2004

*still can’t get over the memory of being surrounded by throngs of people armed with camcorders , elbowing each other out of the way to videotape the ever kinetic Hope Diamond the day I was there.

january 30, 2004







I’m feeling cynical today. In the daily rags,amongst other things, a content free article in the P.I. reviewing a survey show titled “Seattle Perspective“, which attempts to define a Northwest style. This story competes with a puppet show in the Theater/Fine Arts section.

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I did get my hands on a great article that appeared in last week’s (1.23.04) Wall Street Journal titled “Art Appreciation”. Analyzing what really drives auction prices was both informative:
A reliable tip-off of an artist about to take off: when an auction house takes a work on an international tour.
and out right entertaining: Still any amount of hype can’t stop sea of change in tastes, which in the art market can happen in the span of a season or two. Few  artists were hotter during the 80’s than Julian Schnabel, a burly  innovator of ” big paintings” and Ross Bleckner, a fixture on the art  scene whose vertical stripe paintings sizzled. (Both were big enough  names to make the Encyclopedia Britannica). But as crockery  started popping off Mr. Schnabel’s cracked plate paintings and Mr.  Bleckner kept turning out fairly similiar-looking works, both artists  fizzled at auction….Vincent Fremont, Mr.Schnabel’s agent, both dismissed the declining auction prices, noting that prices remain strong privately. “Everyone loves to pick on Julian,” Mr. Freemont   says. [yeah, well did he ever listen to Schnabel’s music CD “Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud?‘]

The best part of the article was the accompanying grid breaking down the facts into bite size pieces. Listing “50 prominent artists” and their corresponding style as the parameters, anyone sick of academic art writing will appreciate the bare bones analyzation, case in point:
Damien Hirst- Pickling cattle; medical art
Mark Rothko- Floating bars of color
Edgar Degas – Ballerina fetish
Andy Warhol- Marilyn, soup
Jean Dubuffet- Blobs and squiggles
Pierre Bonnard- Poor man’s Monet (hey!)
Grandma Moses- Teaching herself to paint
Tom Wesselmann- Nudes with tan lines

You get the point, see for your self.

january 27, 2004








There are a few (hopefully) good shows I am mapping out intention to see in the next week or two:

Museum of Natural History and Industry has Doodles, Drawing and Doodads: Industrial Drawings, a traveling exhibition from the Smithsonian Institution (highlighting 200 years of American design with authentic drawings and plans). Opening on Saturday, January 31. I know that exhibit title sounds shamelessly cute but I am relying on the good integrity of the Smithsonian to rise above and deliver something with some substance.

The Museum of Glass has a Sandy Skogland show already opened, which I would like to see and check out their facilities as well.

What I really need though, [what I am craving] is a good painting show. Maybe it’s time to check out the galleries, which will be playing the big exhibit switch over in one Thursday. The city’s strangely named c.d.a. gallery (Cultural Development Authority, I know, don’t ask) has a painting show coming up, and I imagine I could visit Seattle Art Museum one of these days, now that I’ve missed the too trend laden to be good Baja to Vancouver: The West Coast in Contemporary Art. I promised myself if I change my mind about Baja, it’s a good enough excuse to go to Canada this summer.


january 18, 2004

This is turning into more of a review log than I intend but it is nice to keep track of what I have been seeing. Here is the one I have been mulling on.
A week ago I went to the Frye Museum to view the Bo Bartlett show. I was both surprised and pleased with what I found.

Even though I grew up in the area I had never stepped foot in the Frye.

After my first 10 minutes in the building I was particularly mortified by that fact. It is a beautiful and stately facility. It has an impressive 19th century Munich School collection in its permanent holdings among other turn of the century offerings . The art is hung in ample, breathable viewing spaces which were surprisingly filled up with visitors that afternoon. The fact that remained most impressive though was knowing part of The Frye’s mission is keeping the museum free to every one, every single day it is open.

What’s not to like? The truth is 12 years ago or so I wouldn’t have appreciated much about this “Little Jewel on the Hill”. I had no interest as to any art form previous to the year 1945 and the effort would have been entirely wasted.
I am pleased to know you can outgrow your own personal tunnel vision.

I specifically made the trip this day to see the current travelling exhibit Bo Bartlett’s Heartland. I’d discovered Bo’s work at the P.P.O.W.  gallery in New York and had always found myself looking forward to another show of his there. I didn’t really think I would get a chance to see an exhibit of his now that I am back on the West coast*.

My love for Bartlett is funny. It was originally hard to put my finger on what engaged me so fully about his paintings. Everything in his work seems a recipe of contradiction to what usually draws me. The works appear at first glance saccharine and melodramatic, their subject matter painted in a heroic school of realism style that can try too hard. This was all further amplified by a seal of approval from Andrew Wyeth, who I have never cared for.

None of my pre conditioning matters though upon viewing. Stepping into a room with these paintings I am struck by the buoyant color, the power of his figures set against stark backgrounds and I am taken by the sheer size of the works. Hints of malice subtly appear in the story lines; little indications that file down the sweetness of the subject matter.

The old adage that good painting is just that, and where is the point of categorizing something if you like it apparently works for me in this case.

My favorite painting in the show is the vast (134″ x 204″) Hiroshima.
I am not entirely sure what personal significance the subject matter holds to the painter. It is the only foreign landscape in the exhibit, the third work completing a trilogy about war. It is a beautiful and solemn meditation on Japanese field workers allegedly moments before the bomb strikes.

Many of the paintings in the exhibit I had seen previously. An opportunity to view them collectively though cemented my appreciation for both this painter and my new found Jewel on the Hill.

*new paintings I will be missing at P.P.O.W. open 2/04.

january 25, 2004







I love the smell of turpentine. I really love the shiny goo of damar varnish and can’t wait for the fresh batch I made today to be nice, viscous and ready to use in some form either as a paint binder or a glaze soon.
One of my upcoming studio-keeping chores is figuring out a better ventilation system than what I’ve got going on now. Currently I’m huffing more toxins than Citizen Ruth and probably killing off those much needed brain cells. I keep telling myself how great it is it’s been years that I’ve been off the cigarettes, but lets get real, headache inducing fumes probably aren’t doing my lungs any favors either.

I read this great quote once from an L.A. painter, claiming the reason all West Coast artists put so much shine on their paintings is because they are only familiar with art as reproductions in art magazines.




January 23, 2004


The P.I. finally weighs in on the Gallagher show.

I have to agree with the critique about how crowded the show is hung.
They did the same thing last summer in their Crosscurrents show, hanging works by Matthew Ritchie and Inka Essenhigh salon style so you couldn’t even see the paintings. It was pretty frustrating. The show single handedly redeemed its self for me though when I walked into the main gallery and came face to face unknowingly with one of my favorites: Neo Rauch.

Speaking of Neo Rauch, something strange is going on with this German painter as little exhibits across America sneak his work in. Next week at theJoslyn Museum in Omaha Nebraska opens its show Fabulism showcasing the work of “five painters — Carroll Dunham, Ellen Gallagher, Chris Ofili, Neo Rauch, and Matthew Ritchie”. This makes me want to go to Omaha!

It’s raining like crazy today, a good day to do the huddle with the paint brushes.

january 22, 2004


Het iss mijn vork; hij is niet heeell groot. (= It is my fork; it is not very large).

I wish I had retained a little bit more Dutch from visiting Holland to better know Hinke’s observations in her daily notebook updates. Her generosity though is frequently spotted in English for us poor uno-lingual slobs.*

None the less, through her notebook and her progress sheet, it has been really choice to follow her efforts since she started posting Suds and Soda in 2002 [4.02] where you;ll find Hinke has repeatedly been archiving her work and notations about the art world on line . I find it interesting that her site continues to be such an anomaly. You would think for visually apt people the format would be a no brainer. Yet, maybe either I am unobservant and there are loads of artists spreading pixels around everywhere documenting their work, or it is such a deep dark secret I better s.t.f.u. right away.

*no I swear that is not a plea to standardize every website to English. Thanks.

january 21, 2004


Ever wonder why:

‘”There are so many people who graduate with MFA’s, but after five years not many are left who are really working at art.

Read California painter Squeak Carnwath’s answer and other thoughts in an interview with the now sadly defunct works + conversations.

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I just reread the James Turrell interview in their issue #2 with renewed interest due to a revisit to his show and Skyspace [at the Henry last week].
It makes sense he used to be a Quaker.

“‘Turrell’s work is meant to be taken in slowly, quietly, and over time.”

I wonder how he would have felt upon entering his Skyspace last week, which is beautiful when you are solo, but claustrophobic if surrounded by a gregarious jabber jaw. A fellow museum visitor just couldn’t contain himself and burst into a loud monologue about doesn’t it sound different in here and wow, look at the light-what do you think and on and on and on.
So I will return to give it another chance hopefully on a less trafficked day.

january 20, 2004



A long weekend with good bouts of studio time.

I see the monotony of my ways though. No one needs to be interested in collecting paint rags and the saving up of spaghetti jars for damar varnish.

The weather was great, I mean it is January. Sunny and warm enough to leave the door open, good for eradicating fumes.


What to do with old work?

I have been sifting through the stacks that have piled of old work. What to do with it?

I have some really large drawings that I did in after living in NYC for 3 or 4 years. I had become obsessed with nature, feeling particularly deprived. I did these large charcoal drawings of bird houses- at human scale. I only showed them once, at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis. So I think I still like them-they’ve been rolled up in a tube since- moved from one storage place to another.
After that wall space or floor space to produce work at that scale was non-existent as I closed that studio making tiny panel paintings in a small corner of the apartment.
Should the drawings languish?
Sometimes I hold on to old work just as a reminder of what the hell was I thinking or on the flip side the piles of life drawings from this era remind me I wasn’t totally stagnant. Other times I just get rid of stuff I really hate-or in practical moments I’ve turned large panels (actually hollow doors) over and used them as worktables.
Cleaning up the studio-these are the times I envy writers or those that follow less “thing oriented”, conceptual work. To those that can place their entire life’s work on a CD or just cart around a laptop, I am envious. Us painters and drummers hauling around all that stuff- then just add a little turpentine to the responsibility. For gods sake, I won’t even go into the needs of sculptors. I live with one who hung up his sculpture hat and always threatens to take a load to the dump. No! I say.
Still one wonders the burden of these things we make.


Things to not think of in the studio:

Artists are often concerned with the archival quality of their work, yet museum storerooms continue fill up with unseen works and landfills pile high with discarded work. As a young retail clerk in an art supply store I remember being pointedly amused by people buying shopping carts of acrylic paint and stacks of foam core only to tell me at check out to “save the bag— to save a tree”.

January 17, 2004

Here is a curious thing, I saw two exhibits this week where the artist had been heavily influenced by Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (both Bo Bartlett and Ellen Gallagher). With further examination it appears although coincidental to me, this is not such a rare case. Witness a book examining the subject Unpainted to the Last Moby-Dick and Twentieth-Century American Art, by Elizabeth A. Schultz
She is quoted:

“Moby-Dick is America’s essential ‘big book’: physically daunting in sheer number of pages; cosmic and endlessly mysterious in its iconography; epic in the sweep of the story–and, for all of those reasons, irresistible to visual artists.”

My favorite recent Melville interpretation (although not a painting) hinges on his short story called “Bartleby the Scrivener”, as addressed in the movie Bartleby. It a hilarious but grim offering about office life where the main character eventual “prefers not to” do anything. This is a story made all the more delicious knowing Melvillle himself worked, unable to earn a living writing, as a clerk in the New York Customs House.

January 16, 2004


Ellen Gallagher gave an artist talk last night at the opening of her new show of here at The Henry. After a slide overview of her work (where she questioned her own articulates), she spoke very well of the stories and influences behind her work. Historical references featured in her latest show originated with a project of archiving vintage Ebony magazines.

Gallagher’s work was a favorite of mine after I first discovered her penmanship paintings at the Mary Boone gallery back in the mid nineties. I was a little disappointed there were no large paintings in the show here, but her new drawings and drawn-into films (she referred to them as animations) we an interesting progression to witness. Allegedly she is putting up a new on-site piece that is in progress in the gallery. .

I have in the past thought of Gallagher as Agnes Martin with a sense of humor and found it amusing she specifically said she has been referenced as Agnes Martin with chatter. She appears to be moving away from abstraction as witnessed in her wig series, perhaps the Martin reference might fade.

Bits of her personal history were sprinkled through out her talk including reminiscence of attending a Black Power camp growing up in the 70’s and the beauty of seeing George Clinton as her first teenage concert.
Subsequently a highlight of the evening came during the Q & A session when an audience member asked:

Q: “Who would you say your audience is- I look around the room and I see mostly white people.”

A: ” Well, I’m in Seattle!”

january 13, 2004



Sunday I had a chance to check out the new 1506 Projects gallery. A few nice works (all on paper as promised), small charming white space. Yet hell, absolutely hell to get to if you don’t live in the neighborhood. I’m talking about Capital Hill parking, which overshadowed my viewing experience about 10 to 1.

I fared much better at a same day visit to The Frye…more to come after I gather my thoughts. There is a great show up there right now (Bo Bartlett). Although not much word from above about this exhibit, I was pleasantly surprised the place was practically bustling with people choosing to spend their afternoon there.

january 11, 2004


Maybe stress is all in the eye of the beholder. Tacoma caught some national attention this week as being labeled a America’s Most Stressed City.

I take this as an moment to talk about what I saw when I was putting together a window installation there over Thanksgiving. Tacoma is trying real hard, at least from the perspective of getting their cultural hearts in the right place. Of course I don’t know first hand the reailty as I don’t live there (being a whopping 90 minute drive away), but I was impressed by the fact this medium size city is attempting to revitalize its self via the arts.
I had the opportunity to visit the new and modern Tacoma Art Museum(see the short account of my visit here) which although I did love the coziness of the old TAM, it is nice to see such a bright and shining facility devoted to their collection. The programming at TAM as far as bringing contemporary art to the region can only be rivaled by the Henry, which I hope they continue to strive for.

I was impressed also by the dedication the city appears to be pouring into it’s arts programming. While taking a breather in the TAM cafe I took a moment to read over their city sponsored Art at Work pamphlet, which showcased gallery and studio tours, films, installations, workshops etc. all in an effort to raise community enthusiasm for cultural aspirations.

I find slight irony in mentioning the city in America that rated with the lowest stress index is Albany NY. This fact boggles myself as I had the misfortune of locating myself there as I went to graduate school for two very long years.
All stress in the eye of the beholder indeed , but that city was the most miserable experience of my life. Maybe it was culture shock, but I truly felt I was living in a city with out a soul. There was absolutely nothing there I can look back in fondness about . Very curious since one would think with NYC in such close proximity a bit would rub off. As I found out later upstate and NYC proper make huge efforts to escape each others shadow.

Back to Tacoma. I did not have the time to visit the very hyped Museum of Glass, or any of the city’s galleries such as William Traver’s new space [also dedicated to glass] .
I am hoping to make it back down for the upcoming Sandy Skoglundexhibit going up at MoG[1.29.04], and I am also very curious what a Northwest Biennial entails, coming in April to TAM. I can’t remember if they used to have these on a regular basis when I was growing up or not.

January 10, 2004


Congratulations to Tyler and MAN for settling into their new home as an Arts Journal blog. Should be nice for him to have a little more elbow room. I have had the pleasure of following Tyler’s enthusiastic writing almost as long as he has been in existence on the web [could he possibly be the original art blog?].

January 8, 2004


What a thrill to find The Vroom Journal , someone who has been surveying the Seattle art world for a long time. I was looking for information on the new 1506 Projects gallery and came across a great post about their last two shows. My interest was perked when I saw a listing of their current show,”Works On Paper”. I was secretly hoping for our own Drawing Center I guess. 

The Stanger listed them as:

WORK ON PAPER Brand-new gallery! With work by Ted Galaday, Sarah Bergmann, Neal Bashor, Dianna Molzan, and Juliet Jacobson. Opening reception Sat Jan 3, 6-9 pm. 1506 Projects, 1506 E Olive Way, 860-4197. Through Jan 31.

I will have to venture out very soon, our unusual weather patterns are currently leaving me homebound. Unfortunately the studio is stinking freezing.

January 3, 2004


Still working on a back log here from the previous month before we get down to any business.

Nathan Oliveira.

  I astounded myself by making it to the Tacoma Art Museum during the very last week of the show. Nathan Oliveira at one time held a very big influence on me in my youth, and I had never seen a survey of any size featuring his work before. I hadn’t been to the new TAM either. A choice well made to say the least.

  I am still held by the sway of Oliveira’s 1960’s solo figure/expressionistic efforts. Some of the paintings with their scraped and drawn surfaces felt very recent, like yesterday. I have always been a fan of his largely monochromatic use of color, his fat paint. Certain eras of Oliveira recalled Diebenkorn which is not surprising and neither is the fact that a lot of my viewing reactions were based in nostalgia. It is hard to escape your early influences. This incidentally is not so bad if they continue to reverberate. At times during my visit I felt like a chick imprinted on a grown duck, pecking after my past..

 A mental note was made that the works in the later wing [of the chronological survey] felt empty. You can sense Oliveira’s boredom in his later works as he tries to navigate away from that singular subject he utilized for so long. They did not do much for me. Walking backwards though, into the first room, I can give my most honest critique. This may not be insightful but is a tried and true litmus test of what either a show does or does not do for me. I wanted to go home and paint.

January 2, 2004


  I was glad to see the big spread on Polly Apfelbaum in the most recent issue of Art in America, especially coming on the heels of her show here at The Henry [that she shared with Pae White ]. The exhibit was a small offering of her work, but a treat none the less. I have always been in complete appreciation of her color sensibility.

  I have to admit I am in large agreement that most art magazines are [pretty much] a bore. The one exception on a consistent basis is Modern Painters. They manage to actually talk about art in a language that doesn’t make your eyes glaze over. Not quite sure who the American art rags are writing for. Needless to say I was glad to catch a topic in AiA that makes me appreciate the fact I still give a bother. For whatever unknown reason, hope springs eternal.

  The other item of note in AiA is a review of Seattleite Robert Yoder’s recent show at Howard House gallery. Robert has become a bona fide art star in these here parts, since I knew him before relocating to the East Coast 11 odd years ago. I could have kicked myself for missing his New York show by a few days at the Charles Cowles Gallery when I was still in town.

  At any rate it is great to see him get his due. A very cool book about Robert was put out in conjunction with the Howard House show, which I thought was a brilliant thing to do, as they are not only great for folks like myself [affordable] , you were surprised by a print in each one. I selected one accompanied by the orange print.