How they F#&%! You Up…


After a year of doing tiny, tight work (which I am actually taking a breather from right now) I finally have the impulse to return to living in the world of oil painting. I miss it and realize I probably need a bigger space to work in, if this is to come to fruition. I am also sure as with many people who work in a cyclical nature, I feel myself returning to work that I was thematically dealing with almost a decade ago…subject matter that was a lot more personal and psycholgically potent. So we hope.

This is the stuff I was dealing with around ‘98. There was one painting in particular (below), now destroyed out of impatience that related to a copy of Granta I had carried around with me for years. The thesis for the issue: The Family, They Fuck You Up. I think then I harbored this as a personal anthem. Yet time and perhaps age does give you a little wisdom. Now I really ask, is there an American on this planet who doesn’t claim this almost like a badge of honor? I thought of this last night as I was watching The Squid and the Whale. Is there a way to get at this subject matter with out being completely self absorbed? There has to be.

How about cyclical postings?

No Man’s Land by Elise Richman

I spent Saturday with Elise Richman’s beautiful new work, conducting my sitting duties at Shift. It was one of those fantastic weather-wise day people brag about in Seattle, bringing a fair amount of people out to view galleries that day.

Some of my visitors:

Michael Brenner, Director of Hotcakes Gallery in Milwaukee (and his brother).

He told me to check out Art In Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Artist Resource Network which he is directly involved with.

Very nice guy visiting our good city for kicks.

Also saw my friend Jim, below.

Also another Jim later on I forgot to photograph.

See more of Elise Richman’s show here.

Frye Artist Spotlight

As a brief coda to Jim Demetre’s thorough and insightful overview of Swallow Harder, Swallow HarderSelections from the Ben and Aileen Krohn Collection, at the Frye, I wanted to mention I spent a nice two hours at the Frye Museum last Friday night in attendance at their Artist Spotlight Artist Talks.

Thinking this would be an auditorium filled sit down gig, I was surprised to find a large crowd of us moving en masse through the galleries as we were directed to gather around the art. Nine local artists in the exhibit were given ten minutes each to discuss their work and answer questions that might arise. While ten minutes might seem like a brief moment, it can seem like forever when you are on the spotlight.

Artists are usually known through their work, so it’s fascinating to see what they actually have to say about their process, their choices of materials or even how they arrived at that moment to be standing in front of you. Some people, I site Leo Saul Berk and sidekick Claire Cowie, in particular we’re funny smart asses while speaking, while others like Patrick Holderfield were solemn and introspective, turning to his work to actually speak to it. I always find it rewarding when artists tend to be a lot less theory laden and get to the meat of why they do what they do. Victoria Haven spoke of how she arrived at her mapped drawings and why she will never again use rubber bands as material. Jeffrey Mitchell, still fresh in my mind from the Western Bridge show talked about his choice of building his over-the-top objects with every day materials.

Steven Miller, represented by his Milky Series in the show spoke about engaging participation, from friends to chat rooms – to arrive at the photographs. Scott Fife, whose lumbering big head of Mies van der Rohe greeted you upon arrival to the museum, talked about the historical importance of such a personality to his own work. Alice Wheeler, represented by two large Nirvana related portraits spoke about studying photography at Evergreen and how photographic film is quickly getting phased out by the digital age, causing her to reexamine everything she does. Of courseMark Mumford, whose pieceSwallow Harder, Swallow Harder is utilized as the title of the show talked about how the Krohn’s have this piece in their home above the dining room table.

Having followed most of these artists for a while now, it was funny to think you were witnessing a kind of aural debriefing for the best hits selection of Seattle’s art scene. People stayed engaged and the crowd, being what it was, asked intelligent questions. The staff from the Frye seemed surprised that so many people had decided to spend their Friday night at the museum.

The Frye has more goodness up its sleeve, opening a show of Robert Yoder on May 26thHenry Darger on August 19th and one I can barely believe will be coming to Seattle: Life After Death: New Leipzig Painting…which we have to wait 9 months for (February 17th).

As a footnote to the coda, and more recommendations from Demetre, Claire Cowie has a show opening tonight at James Harris. I squarely put myself in the camp of being a large fan of her work. I neglected to mention her discussion about process was its self worth coming to the artists talks and look forward to witnessing it this weekend.

Swallow Harder, Swallow Harder closes this weekend, if you are looking for something to do on Sunday, they are open 12-5pm.


Amy S. in NY

I tell myself I don’t give a shit anymore about what is going on in New York and then I find out Amy Sillman just closed a show…instant remorse. I love her work. As duly mentioned hereHere. And here.

On a brighter note, the most amazing bright fuchsia breasted hummingbird was just nosing around my back yard. Not quite a trade off but lovely in it’s own right.

Robyn O’Neil at the Frye

May I recommend between now and July 30th that you stop by the Frye Art Museum, and spend a quiet moment with Robyn O’Neil’s work…? I would particularly recommend you do this if you have any interest in drawing to see what the humble hand and a graphite pencil can do.

O’Neil’s work, depicting imaginary scenes of humanity is profound in that she allows the characters she has invented to be more than just evil or compassionate. As noted in other writing about her work, groups of “lumpy track-suited men” and their dogs depict cruelties on each other and nature. In other pieces they grieve for what they have done… or at least some of them. The stark use of only graphite on expansive white paper contrasting with the small barely decipherable characters do lend themselves a bit to Bruegel. For those of us who like to draw, and often find ourselves bobbing in the sea of conceptual trickery so apparent in today’s modern world, this exhibit is a wonderful relief.

The titles add a layer of seriousness to her work that cue you into the emotional intent of the author. The one I that impacted me the most, which I had to leave the room and come back again for a last look is titled: As my heart quiets and my body dies, take me gently through your troubled sky.

O’Neil lives in Houston,Texas. Houston’s Glasstire site has written a nice piece on her here.

In 2003 she received the Artadia Houston Award, and noted what she would do with her new found resources:

” I’ve been working in my tiny apartment driving myself crazy. I plan on getting a studio immediately. This is something that was simply not possible before I got this grant. I will furnish my studio with a table large enough for me to make my drawings. This grant will aid in the proper packing and shipping of my work which is very delicate.”

O’Neil’s work can regularly be seen at NYC’s Clementine Gallery and Chicago’s Bodybuilder and Sportsman Gallery.

The Death and Life of Jane Jacobs

Today everyone who values cities is disturbed by automobiles.

Traffic arteries, along with parking lots, gas stations and drive ins are powerful and insistent instruments of city destruction. To accommodate them, city streets are broken down into loose sprawls, incoherent and vacuous for anyone afoot. Downtowns and other neighborhoods that are marvels of close-grained intricacy and compact mutual support are casually disemboweled. Landmarks are crumbled or are so sundered from their contexts in city life as to become irrelevant trivialities. City character is blurred until every place becomes more like every other place, all adding up to Noplace. And in the areas most defeated, uses that cannot stand functionally along—shopping malls, or residences, or places of public assembly, or centers of work—are severed from one another.

But we blame the automobiles for too much.

—Chapter 18: Erosion of cities or attrition of automobiles,

The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs, 1961.

I just learned that Jane Jacobs passed away on April 25th, 9 days before her 90th birthday.

Not finding the stomach to keep up with the general news these days, I came across this fact mentioned in an offhand way somehow. It is sad news.

I can’t claim encyclopedic knowledge on Jacobs, but I found her practical sense to do the right thing in life poignant enough to write a little homage to her while still making small contributions to Bust magazine a few years ago. It was upon reading the piece in publication that I learned we shared the same birthday. I took this as a nice coincidence and of course always think about her when our day rolls around. Little did I know this past week she was off to (hopefully) that bigger city in the sky.

When I moved back to Seattle almost four years ago, I was so disturbed by what I found in a decade’s absence, I practically ran to Elliot Bay bookstore to buy The Death and Life, Jacob’s most famous treatise on urban planning. In it, I found relief reading her essays, seeing my gut reaction to all the senseless overbuilding (and lack of preservation) was indeed valid. At the time I was living between what used to be the market and Belltown and it was indeed a ghost town at night. (Chapter 2: The uses of sidewalks: safety. “This is something everyone already knows: A well-used city street is apt to be a safe street. A deserted city street is apt to be unsafe. But how does this work, really? And what makes a city street well used or shunned?).

Cranes, building condo after condo reached up through the sky line with unfinished projects, but if there was any indication of life after 6pm it was only found hidden in bushes backed up into the viaduct and infrequent spurts as bar life filtered out into the street. It was depressing. The truth of the matter is the vast majority of Seattleites don’t live in down town proper, and I don’t either any more.

Last night, on a lengthy bus ride home from First Hill, I stared out the window as the sun set over my left shoulder. Our bus traveled gradually— with complete lack of urgency, from the downtown waterfront, through Eastlake, over Portage Bay, and into the congested Friday evening of the University District. If anything can mark an instant return to youth, it’s a lumbering Metro bus ride, one whose routes remain practically unchanged. As the radio towers standing straight up on Queen Ann darkened and car lights brightened, I realized all in all Seattle actually does seem unchanged from the viewpoint of a bus. Downtown disappeared and slowly an almost suburban spread of green lawns and full blown rhododendrons threaded out in replacement.

I think this is the livability that people really mean when they talk about Seattle, (we’ll pretend for a moment, for livability’s sake that it isn’t one of the most over-priced housing markets in the country). In a 2001 interview with Reason magazine, Jacobs sites Seattle as one of the cities that has improved with age:

Reason: Do you think that the people who run American cities have learned what to do and what not to do?

Jacobs: I think some of them have learned a lot. There are quite a few cities that are more vigorous and more attractive than they were 10 or 20 years ago. A lot of good things are being done, but it’s not universal.

Reason: Can you give me an example?

Jacobs: In Portland, a lot of good things are being done. Same with Seattle. San Francisco has done many attractive things.*

Jacobs by Arbus

[Jane with son Ned, by Diane Arbus,Esquire, 6/65]

At any rate, much has and will be said about Jacob’s legacy, and it is neglectful to leave her in 1961 as she wrote many other books. Some site her as missing the point, but I would like to depart thinking of her as someone willing to leave her mark in a positive way on humanity. Besides she was a character:

“Togetherness” is a fittingly nauseating name for an old ideal in planning theory. This ideal is that if anything is shared among people, much should be shared. “Togetherness”, apparently a spiritual resource of the new suburbs, works destructively in cities. The requirement that much shall be shared drives city people apart.”

Chapter 3: The uses of sidewalks: contact. –D&LoGAC.

More notes on Jacobs since her passing:


Michael Blowhard

Outgrowing Jane Jacobs and Her New York

Reason Obit roundup

Jane Jacob’s Memorial 

*Portland boosters should continue to read as she has much more to say on your city, and you’ll get no arguments stateside here.


Liability Insurance Anyone?

It’s First Thursday, and I think a lot of people are coming downtown, to see art on the notion (just like I did in my 20s), that they’re going to be getting a lot of free drinks. All fine and dandy I guess. Maybe years later someone will have a glass of wine and get the sudden impulse to be standing in a gallery or thinking about art. Perhaps.

On a related note, someone brought an article to my attention yesterday – on the topic of booze and art which I actually thought was hilarious- mainly as it’s spotted in the current Scientific America. Titled The Proof Is on the Painting, it’s a analytical piece on how chemically harmful food and booze could potentially be to works of art.

What prompted the article was the recent and by all reports out of control all-you-can-drink for $30.00 Martini-fest (First Annual) held at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Hmmm.

According to Scientific America:

Here’s the capsule summary from the Journal Sentinel: “People threw up, passed out, were injured, got into altercations and climbed onto sculptures.” Which is either really bad management or a fairly banal example of postmodernism.

The article goes on the entail what impact the contents of your stomach lining might have on your favorite work of art.
More fun reports from Milwaukee here and here. I love the fact there was actually a Chihuly in the building too during this raucous event.

Here is the Milwaukee Museum site…no mention of said fest remain.

Tacoma’s Critical Line

Those fine folks of artrod down in Tacoma, who bring you Tollbooth Gallery amongst other events have opened a new gallery space called Critical Line. From what I hear it’s a gorgeous space and will be officially opening this Friday.

“Please join us on May 5, 2006 from 6-9pm as we celebrate the opening of Critical Line and our inagural exhibition, Found Space! “

I was happy to see that Shift gallery mate, Kevin Haas is part of the inaugural festivities with a new piece being shown at Tollbooth and work at Critical Line.

More images can be found at artrod’s flickr site.

A few weeks ago, between that irresponsible moment when I was sweating out the deafening tax moment of April 15 and the second my sister said,”file an extension, duh“*… I decided I just had to learn a new piece of mapping software called Wayfarer. For kicks I mapped out everything I knew about the Tacoma art scene…things are looking pretty hopping down there from a cartographer’s perspective.

Yes, then I procrastinated enough to get a start on Seattle (still have a few blanks to fill in), and spent about 10 minutes thinking about the Eastside…which only resulted in a sad four dots. The software is pretty clunky still, but I wasted a good afternoon spinning my wheels in it. Then I think I spent the rest of the day complaining about how I never have any free time any more.

*actually, she didn’t say duh…but that is how obvious it should have been.


Very nice, shiny new Visual Codec, hot off the press.

Fine discussion panel with some online representation by some of our favorites and nice photos too, nice salute to the Flintridgers and some great photos by Alice Wheeler.

PS interview with Punch gallery too which I finally visited on Saturday, fine street level space, I spoke breifly with Punch member Jen Erickson whose small drawings I admire.

Punch website here.

I admire VC’s tenacity it takes to keep up with everything going on around here.