Kiki Smith

If you were to force me to pick just one artist to call my favorite the clear winner would be Kiki Smith.

Kiki Smith and the Pursuit of Beauty in a Notably Unbeautiful Age.

Her persistence and humility for the win.

I’ve always admired her ability to not let the work become ham-fisted narratives.

“For all the timely intensity of her work, she stayed curiously apolitical, never crossing a line into an overtly polemical gesture. “What I make is just a thing,” she says. “It has to sustain itself. It stems from me wanting to know what something is going to look like when I’m done. I’m completely influenced by where I am, what’s around me. I just react.” “

Smith on Art 21 at the Fabric Workshop.



To Endure

It’s a week where there has been much examination locally of what it is to live here as an artist with no actual art coverage. If a tree falls is there even any one left to get wood chips out of the situation? Yet most of us live a life where we are lucky to have any notoriety at all.

I have gone to Laetitia Sadier tonight. She of Stereolab and now the incredibly subtle Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble. I saw her a summer ago and was blown away. She of the heart-stopping voice and off-hand videos, I get she is making stuff probably as she has to. I feel her desire to stay the course of her own even though you  (she) are French, making obscure music and are middle-aged. Who cares.

This is a larger conversation of why try and again why try here. I feel I’ve had this discussion many times over the years. If you stay here you need to come to grips with the answer. If you can’t you will be dissatisfied. I’m pretty okay with it. Yet tonight, a piece of wanderlust is carrying me away to another world of people making videos of themselves walking deserts. Their accents are more enticing than mine.

Off to walk the desert and to contemplate why I am too tired to do anything but watch videos and drink wine tonight.

The photos of Soichi Sunami at Cascadia Art Museum

Just back from the little museum that could, Cascadia located in Edmonds. An absolutely gorgeous photography exhibit is currently the main attraction, showcasing the work by photographer Soichi Sunami who I had not heard of before stepping foot into the show today. The exhibit is appropriately titled Invocation of Beauty, The Life and Photography of Soichi Sunami.

Cascadia focuses on artists who were here in the Pacific Northwest in the early part of the 20th century. The curation places an emphasis on giving the art a historical context, so there is always a local history lesson to be had too.

Soichi Sunami was born in Japan and came to Seattle in 1907 at the age of 22. His stunning gelatin silver prints are elegant and evocative reminders how sophisticated and intellectual the dance and art world could be in that era spanning the late 1920s to early 1940s.

He was known locally at the time as a member of the Seattle Camera Club where “in 1920, with the art museums yet established in Seattle, the local department store Frederick & Nelson sponsored a photography salon” -1

At that time he was working for the  Ella E. McBride Studio which is how he started documenting the visiting dancers who came through the region. Subsequently a large portion of his most acclaimed work focused on portraits of modern dancers. 

There are dramatic images of such greats as the dancer/ choreographer Martha Graham, who I was unaware spent a year teaching at Cornish College here in Seattle in 1930.

Sunami moved to New York City where eventually worked for The Museum of Modern Art as their internal photographer (from 1930 until 1968) a position that kept him safe from internment during World War II

It was also in New York that he met author Anais Nin, and become the photographer for many of the cover for her books. At this point again I ask, why am I unaware of him having spent a large part of my 20s reading all of The Nin Diaries.

Here is Peggy Guggenheim’s daughter Pegeen and husband painter Jean Hélion.

Photos from when he was at the Museum of Modern Art line one wall, then rounding the corner you are pulled back to a poetic photograph of Mount Rainier seen from the vantage point that you yourself have witnessed from living here.

It is hard to express how consistently lovely the photos are as one looks around the exhibit from wall to wall.

Cascadia has also given room to video clips of a handful of modern dances he photographed as added context to his work. 

The exhibit coincides with the publication of a book of the same name by Cascadia Curator David F. Martin, an art historian who has been a long running champion of our regional artists.

Invocation of Beauty, The Life and Photography of Soichi Sunami has been published by the University of Washington press.

Cascadia Art Museum is located in Edmonds, WA
They are open Wednesday – Sunday: 11am-6pm
Art Walk Edmonds: Third Thursdays, 5-8pm  – FREE

I was unaware of this institution until recently. They opened in 2015 in a building that used to be a Safeway grocery store and then an antique mall. They are genuine in their championing of local artists and are taking their job as cultural historians quite seriously.

The Sunami exhibit is on view through January 6th. -2
Free parking is ample in Edmonds.

Here is the Everett Herald’s Review of the Exhibit.

Seattle Time’s piece on Curator David F. Martin.



1- Invocation of Beauty, The Life and Photography of Soichi Sunamipage 21

2- This is a total aside but after pondering it for a bit the imagery in this exhibit reminds me of the 1928 movie the Passion of Joan of Arc by director Carl Theodor Dreyer.


For some reason this is my favorite from the exhibit, it strangely could have been taken today:

Georgetown Galleries – November

Visiting art galleries is usually a means to inspiration for me and today was a good one in Georgetown.

I wasn’t going to miss the closing of Kim Van Someren’s exhibit and artist talk at Bridge Productions and I’m really glad I made it there. Kim’s discussion was facilitated by her friend and fellow artist Emily Gherard, a pair who have a long history together. Both are artists who place an importance on mark-making in their work, executed in very different manners though.

A few takeaways from Kim’s talk:
She has a deeply entrenched respect for printmaking that she feels she will always be with her. She emphasized it is important to her to have a skill that involves using her hands if electricity goes away. I’m paraphrasing poorly, but that is something I absolutely think about all the time. What endures in our culture if electricity and our digital world go away, essentially collapse? Our reliance on something so fragile as the electric grid seems tenuous at best. She asterisked her comment saying well she would be able to do printmaking in daylight hours at least.

Double Half Hitch, sugarlift, aquatint, 18″ x 15″2018

The topic I most appreciated hearing them discuss was about the planning her studio time. She is now a Mom to twins (three years olds) and has a printmaking job at the University of Washington. How does one find the ability (and energy) to put together a show like the one that was installed around us in the gallery one wonders.

She stated she found she has to really hone in and take advantage of any quiet time (a rarity) and to be very disciplined. She spends 2-3 hours every day after teaching running prints in the studio at the University. Then from 10-1p every night she intricately assembles her pieces. Cutting collages, looking at compositions of different parts of her work from photos she takes, downloading and rearranging imagery on her computer and making micro decisions about what belongs where is all part of her practice She is currently learning how to weld as it was mentioned her work feels like it is growing off of the paper. I personally think artists need to challenge themselves with new materials to keep their internal search mechanisms and curiosity sharp, so that was exciting to hear. I hope we (the public) are privy to the results.

It was lovely to be privy to the back and forth between Kim and Emily, both whose work I heavily admire. I appreciated hearing the contemplative nature of what is behind the artwork, how humor seeps into the imagery and the query of did her midwest background have anything to do with her execution (yes).

The funniest thing Kim said was that printmakers are the serial killers of the art world as they are always strategizing, a hilarious aside.

As I mentioned this was the closing for Kim’s exhibit. Follow Bridge Productions at their website and on Instagram. Kim is here and here.

A snippet of her gorgeous work:


The Alice across the hall from Bridge Productions has a fiber-cross-pollination-one-person-show up of Jeanne Medina. I always appreciate seeing fiber arts creep into galleries and being taken seriously. She also uses performance heavily in her final work. There was a video example in the Alice of her wearing one of the pieces on the wall.

Here is a video example I found on her website appropriately titled for this weekend Daylight Savings Project that utilizes Laurie Anderson’s Walking and Falling (from Big Science) as a backdrop.

Daylight Savings Project from John Lui on Vimeo.

Here are installation shots of the show:

  The exhibit is up through November 17th. The Alice is here and Jeanne is here.


Finally I ended my day by driving five minutes and stopping by Studio E Gallery where I happened upon the closing of Molly Magai’s painting exhibit (which I liked and was too busy absorbing to document).

Her work, which I was unfamiliar with, has a certain kinship with Portland’s Michael Brophy whose landscapes I have admired for many years. I’m a sucker for painterly execution and her work demonstrates that beautifully while sitting on that fine line between representation and abstraction. She states, “I paint the landscape in motion, as we usually see it, from our cars“.  Sadly that’s how I witness most nature these days. I should add she works on somewhat tiny rectangles of canvas which I was pretty drawn to for the amount of visual information she managed to insert into each one. I’m glad I stopped in to see the show.

Molly Magai, Playground Cedar, 12 x 12 in., Oil on panel, 2018

Upstairs there was a one day pop-up of Michael Doyle’s work. If I use the word whimsical you’re going to groan and after saying it I think it is possibly inaccurate but that’s the first thing that popped into my head when I entered the room. I also was said out loud “I love it”, so make what you want of that. I thoroughly enjoyed the portraits and head cut-outs on display.

Studio E is here, Molly Magai is here and Michael Doyle is here.

Studio E. lived true to their welcoming offering of coffee, nice conversation and a warm reprieve from the traffic and rain outside before I got back on 99 and headed home. A good day was had.