Friday, April 20, 2012

U DISTRICT: Gargoyles, Surf & Coffee at the Boulevard

Where does 4.20 find you this lovely eve? If you're looking for art on the Ave, you're in the right place! With four fantastic new venues, this month's University District Art Walk is explosive! I'm hoofing it alone to-night, but I don't mind. I decide to start on the south end of the Ave and make my way northward.

My first stop is Cafe Allegro, one of the art walk's new venues. I've never been there before, possibly because it's located in a retro-fit alley just around the corner from Magus Books, or more likely because I have at least five favourite coffee stops on the Ave, and I never thought to explore the little alley. But I know as soon as I walk through the door that I'll be back. Established in 1975, Cafe Allegro has the distinction of being Seattle's oldest espresso bar. It turns out my friend Michael is pulling shots behind the counter, and he tells me that the featured photographs, traditional black and white silver gelatin prints by Billy Ballard, are a chronicle of Cafe Allegro's history. One of the oldest photos shows a patron holding a cigarette at a time when smoking was still allowed inside the establishment.

Billy Ballard @ Cafe Allegro
Cafe Allegro
I leave with a delicious chai latte, courtesy of Michael, and follow the alley up to BC Surf & Sport, another brand new U District art space. Established in Florida in 1977, BC Surf specialises in clothing and accessories for surf, skate, snowboard, and swim. They've steadily branched out across the US, and now includes thirteen locations in six different states; the newest is Seattle. Their debut show features work by thirteen artists: 179, Cris Cook, David Enriquez, Baso Fibonacci, EGO, Alex Johnson, Pars, Pgee, Solace, Spear, Jeffrey Taylor, Joe Vollan, and Luke Yates. The bar is flowing freely, and the party is overflowing onto the sidewalk!

BC Surf & Sport
Jeffrey Taylor @ BC Surf & Sport

Joe Vollan @ BC Surf & Sport
EGO @ BC Surf & Sport

Just up the Ave from the brand new surf shop is Gargoyles Statuary, a unique and enchanting University District art space. Gayle, the proprietress, is the initiative and heart behind the University District Art Walk, and her efforts have kept the art walk alive through many months of ups and downs. This month, the featured artists are Jessika Geiger, K. Amarak Waters, and Henna Luna. Geiger's curious characters and Waters' tiny monsters are are an excellent complement to Gargoyles' familiar Gothic aesthetic.

Gargoyles Statuary

 "Each character is a fusion of my past, my present, and the people in my immediate environment. Their struggles, desires, and personalities are revealed through their faces, gestures and surroundings." - Jessica Geiger

Jessica Geiger @ Gargoyles
"My monsters arise from popular culture, mythology, religion and dreams to evoke the darker, primitive regions of the psyche. Incorporating traditional figurative art with fantastic imagery, they represent my exploration of what it means to be human and what would happen if humans were no longer at the top of the food chain. We are often defined by what fascinates and frightens us." - K. Amarak Waters

K. Amarak Waters @ Gargoyles
Dominique Cilento's functional fine art collages are still on display at Aprie Clothing, but I also notice some of her work in Gargoyles on my way out the door, in particular, a lovely cat themed journal and tiny treasure boxes.

Dominique Cilento @ Gargoyles
The coffee shops on opposite sides of Gargoyles have conspired to trade artists. Tom Whipple has migrated his digitally manipulated photographic assemblages to Starbucks Coffee, and Tully's Coffee is now featuring the landscape oil paintings of John Patterson. An accomplished photographer, Patterson decided to switch his medium to oil and graphite in order to explore the challenge of a new art form.

Tom Whipple @ Starbucks Coffee
John Patterson @ Tully's Coffee

The University Business Center is on the way back to my truck. I missed them last month, but with their gallery right next to the historic Metro Cinema and art walk signs pointing toward the 3rd Floor, I have no excuse not to check them out. Unfortunately, once I find my way upstairs, it seems that everyone has left for the evening. I'm still able to view the art, a fun series of acrylic paintings extrapolated from photographic details by Niki Sherey, but I'm unable to meet the artist.

It's dark by the time I arrive at Boulevard Grocery, officially my favourite new venue on the U District Art Walk. This month, they're featuring NARBOO and starheadboy's acrylics on wood and canvas as well as their limited edition original art on Seven Coffee Roasters bags (the in house coffee roasting company).

The coffee bag project is a collaboration between Boulevard Grocery and local artists. Each 1-pound bag sells for $21 with a cut going to the artist, the store, and a charity. NARBOO and starheadboy are the first artists in the cycle, but there will be more to come! For more info on Boulevard Grocery and Seven Coffee Roasters, check out Lauren Kronebusch's fantastic article written for the U District Daily.

Original Art Coffee Bags @ Boulevard Grocery
Jeff, Boulevard Grocery manager w/ my coffee
Brandon Baker (a.k.a. NARBOO) and Dave Bloomfield (a.k.a. starheadboy) are both well known street artists/muralists/graphic artists who regularly show in the Seattle area, and share a studio space in the Greenwood Collective. They're also both hanging out in-house this evening, painting coffee bags as art walkers come and go. I can't leave without purchasing a kitty-covered bag of beans, artfully displayed by Boulevard Grocery manager Jeff. Fresh delicious smelling coffee and original art for only $21? I'm absolutely going to make this a habit.

Starheadboy & Narboo @ Boulevard Grocery
The University District Art Walk is growing swiftly! With new art spaces joining every week, next month should be even more spectacular! Support your local art scene! Cheers!

~ BCDuncan

Thursday, April 12, 2012

CAPITOL HILL: Kittens, Mystics, Cupcakes, Cameras, and True Love

It's the 2nd Thursday Art Walk on Capitol Hill, and I'm strolling down Melrose Ave, accompanied once again by my partner in non-criminal related activities, the lovely Grace Wood. Grace is a fellow photographer and the author of Motopresse, a fun and insightful blog devoted to local food and fashion. Grace snaps a shot of me as we round the first corner, which I will post here as proof that your not-so-humble narrator is actually person-shaped, and not some art-obsessed blog-bot... Just in case there was any confusion on that front.

BCDuncan @ Capitol Hill (photo by Grace Wood)
Our first stop of the evening is the Warren Knapp Gallery. The gallery space is crowded, and it's small wonder with work by 34 artists currently on display. The featured art this month is by Tony Durke, a painter who uses oil to create minimalist landscapes and cityscapes on recycled and found wood panels. His style reminds me somewhat of Mondrian, except with a less severe palette and more accessible blending and textures.

Katie McDonald's "Birch Trees" hang just to the right of the entrance beside the artist signature wall. Katie draws much of her inspiration from solitude, nature and her childhood in Oregon; and the gold, silver, and copper leaf she uses to embellish her work is reminiscent of the warm rays of a lazy sun filtering through the forest on a stark winter day.

Tony Durke @ Warren Knapp
Katie McDonald @ Warren Knapp
Another artist that draws my attention is Javier Ortega, a native of Spain, who manipulates acrylics with such refinement that at first I'm convinced his melancholy portraits are actually oil paintings. His subjects seem as though they would feel equally at home on the streets of Victorian London or having just stepped off the set of a Tim Burton film. They ar sad, and strange and lovely.

Javier Ortega @ Warren Knapp

Javier Ortega @ Warren Knapp
Around the corner from Warren Knapp, we duck into Bauhaus Books and Coffee and end up running into artist Tnglr, the creator of the larger-than-life technicolour monsters that have overrun the walls and effectively subjugated the army of books. His street art style is equal parts grafitti, comic, humour, sarcasm, social commentary, and urban entertainment; you can find evidence of his guerrilla art endeavours all over Seattle.

Tnglr @ Bauhaus
After Bauhaus, we're on to CakeSpy! A favourite of both mine and Grace's when it comes to delicious treats and pretty much the most adorable art you'll see in Seattle. To-night is CakeSpy's grand re-opening follwing the unfortunate flood damage that forced them to briefly close their doors earlier this month. Thankfully, the shop is now back to normal, and open for business and fun.

Featured artist Jettie Wilce has taken over the upstairs balcony with her super-sweet mixed media collages. A combination of paint, jewelry, rhinestones, and glitter, Jettie's small fuzzy animal art is so cute, I kind of want to pet it... Or squeeze it... Or lick it... I manage to restrain myself, but just barely.

Jettie @ Cakespy
Grace (with Justin Hillgrove) @ Cakespy
Grace can't leave without purchasing a print by one of her favourite artists, Justin Hillgrove. "Walking the Owlbear" is a little too cool to pass up.

True Love Gallery is in full swing this evening with a live DJ, drinks, snacks, and fantastic art. The featured artists this month are well-known Portland-based poster artist Gideon Klindt, Manga pen and ink artist Chris Summerville, and painter Masado.

I've seen the work of Gideon Klindt before, but I've never been this close to any of his originals. With a background in illustration, animation, film, drawing, painting, and photography, Klindt has a style that is whimsical, eclectic, and commercial.

Gideon Klindt @ True Love
Chris Summerville @ True Love

Our trek takes us farther up the hill, and into Frame Central. In addition to a full wine bar and a live DJ, their upstairs gallery is playing host to photographer Steve Gilbert and his new series of camera portraits. Literally, photographic portraits of vintage cameras. I've always been a little in love with art that references the media with which it was created, and I am immediately drawn to this series of unique and colourful subjects. Steve has been collecting antique cameras for quite some time, but only recently began taking their pictures. His favourites are the Sabre Bakelite Box cameras from the 1960's.

Steve Gilbert @ Frame Central
On a recommendation from a fellow art walker, Grace and I head a couple blocks up the road to Vermillion Art Gallery & Wine Bar. I can't believe I've never checked out this space before; it's absolutely brilliant. "Myth & Murder," the current exhibition, is a collaborative installation by the New Mystics, an artist collective that specialises in large-scale public art. This show is a continuation of the "Book of Shadows: A Hidden Hagiography of New Mystics" show, and features a variety of art styles and media including painting, screen printing, hand-painted signs, installation, and performance.

"Myth & Murder" @ Vermillion

Imagine finding yourself in the midst one of Edgar Allen Poe's darkest fantasies, or at the gates of Dante's 'Inferno'... Giant masked and hooded figures climb the walls, their questing talons reaching toward the ceiling, the door, the humans so small in comparison to their massive forms. Crooked stacks of blackened tomes clutter corners dusted with raven feathers, masks, bones, and other bits of gothic detritus. Curious collections of mechanical fragments are encased in glass jars, and red and black drip like ancient blood down spattered, graffiti covered walls.

Mural @ Vermillion
BCDuncan @ Vermillion (photo by Grace Wood)
A bit about "Myth & Murder"...

"The manner of eating, of evacuating, the respect of sexual rules, the manner of giving, of dressing and of decorating one's home, the use of the most recent mechanical processes, constitute the immutable framework within which we place ourselves more or less high on the rungs of a ladder...
the desire to outdo one’s rivals who don’t have the profound sense of dignity that is proper to man, is an opportunity to reveal, not the lack of dignity but the comedy of dignity, or the comic dignity of anyone who uses art without knowing what magnificence it calls into play."

~ George Bataille, The Negative Sovereignty of Communism and the Unequal Humanity of Men, Accursed Share Vol. 2.

Grace with "New Mystics" @ Vermillion
Installation @ Vermillion

The New Mystics are: Adot, Anna Telcs, Aubrey Birdwell, Baso Fibonacci, Dan Hawkins, DK Pan, EGO, Hope, Judson Felder, Kyle Johnson, No Touching Ground, NKOSign Savant, Smurf, Specs Wizard, and Suck.

"Myth & Murder will be on display through April 7th. Check it.

Still slightly dazed, Grace and I wander across the street to Retrofit Home, a vintage-inspired home furnishing store that fits in perfectly with Capitol Hill's hipster aesthetic. Their featured artist, Urban Soule, uses a mixture of photography, paint, ink, stencils, aerosol, print, and collage to create images of people, animals, and urban landscapes. One of my favourite pieces is a giant octopus living happily on the wall beside a silver filigree lamp and a made-to-look-antique dresser.

Retrofit Home features a huge assortment of arts and crafts by local artisans including visual art, jewelry, scents, stationery, statuary, furniture, and other accessories. On our way out, I pause to take a closer look at an installation of wire birds by artist Shelli Markee. A silversmith and wire artist, Shelli is influenced by nature and organic forms. Her wire birds climb high above my head, frozen in a moment of weightless grace.
Urban Soule @ Retrofit Home
Shelli Markee @ Retrofit Home
Last but certainly not least on our art walk journey is Cupcake Royale, friend to creative cupcake cravings, and provider of hot chai for a chilly night. This month The Hello Poster Show presents "Forces of Nature," a series of limited edition 2-colour silk screened posters. All proceeds benefit Youth in Focus, a Seattle-based photography programme that aims to empower urban teens through photography in order to experience their world in new ways and make positive changes in their lives. I'm partial to Ellis Latham-Brown's adorably dirty raccoon: "Nature is shitty & fun."

Ellis Latham-Brown @ Cupcake Royale
It's been a fantastic evening, but all fun things must come to an end. It's time for home and all things home-related for me and my favourite Grace as we part ways. Until next time, Capitol Hill Art Walk - same bat time, same bat channel. Cheers!

Support your local art scene!

~ BCDuncan

APRIL: Last-Minute Art Events

If you're looking for something fun and exciting to do this eve, check out the Capitol Hill Art Walk from 5-8pm!

Here are just a few of the features:

Blindfold Gallery - Grand opening! Paintings by Kimberly Trowbridge
CakeSpy - Grand re-opening (following flood repairs) with mixed-media artist Jettie Wilce
High 5 Pie - Original dance performance starting at 6.30
Joe Bar - Embroidery on paper by Shaun Kardinal
The Ltd Gallery - Comic book inspired show with more than 35 artists!
Retrofit Home - Mixed-media collage art by Urban Soule
The Compound Artist Studios - Grand opening! Group show with local printmakers, photographers, painters, and film artists
Vermilion - "Myth & Murder", collaborative show and performance
And many, many more!

Also, head to Greenwood for the final night of Casey Brookbush's "Rock Sexy" painting show at Naked City Brewery & Alehouse! Casey will be there between 7 and 9pm for painting sales and purchased art pick-up.

 Support your local art scene! Cheers!

~ BCDuncan

Friday, April 6, 2012

FREMONT: Portage Bay, Jewelry, Pel'Meni, and Pie

Fremont, I'm sorry, but I have to say I'm disappointed in you. Why are you the only neighbourhood in Seattle that seems to be completely unaware that it has an art walk? I see the signs, and I can follow the Art Walk map, but it's just past 6, and every single business is closed with the exception of restaurants, bars, and the few spaces showing art.

This is not the case in other sections of Seattle that host art walks. Businesses stay open late (well, at least until 8 or 9) on art walk nights, both to draw in potential customers and to support their local art scene. Fremont certainly has its fair share of grafitti art murals and quirky landmarks (such as the Troll, the Lenin statue, and the Rocket), but it's art walk night, and the streets are all but deserted. I am, however, on a mission to view art, so determination wins out over disappointment.

"Fremont" mural on 36th St.
My first stop is Frame Up Studios. Their artist this month is Helaine Ettinger with a new series of Buddha and Bodhisatva paintings on wooden panels. Helaine's work combines paint, hand-printed paper, and collage to create colourful and vibrant compositions, and her inspiration for this series comes from her travels in India.

Frame Up knows how to do the art walk with style. They have a delicious spread of crackers, cheese, fruit, and sparkling cider in addition to custom printed Art Walk Maps that include all thirteen of the art spaces along the Fremont Art Walk.

Helaine Ettinger @ Frame Up Studios

My next stop is Portage Bay Goods. I'm excited to see Matthew Inman, the creator of "The Oatmeal," a hilarious online comic that includes social commentary, farce, parody, and an abundance of randomness. As soon as I walk in the door, I understand why there are no people on the streets; they're all here! The artist is in with his newest book 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth, and the line to meet him encircles the entire interior of the shop.

The atmosphere at Portage Bay is exactly what would happen if you crossed Archie McPhees with Papyrus and then gave it a distinctive Seattle flair. Hand-pieced fabric wallets made by local artists are displayed side by side with brilliantly sarcastic greeting cards, and mustache-covered mugs vie for shelf space with retro-inspired magnets and stickers. Matthew Inmann and "The Oatmeal" fit right in.

Matthew Inman @ Portage Bay
"The Oatmeal" @ Portage Bay

Just down the road is Fremont Jewelry Design and featured artist Jan Tervonen. Jan views painting as a meditative process, and her abstract watercolours are both vibrant and relaxing with a whimsically playful tone.

Jan Tervonen @ Fremont Jewelry Design
If you're interested in a custom-made piece of jewelry, just ask owner Lisa Magatteri. A certified gemologist, she is knowlegable and experienced in all aspects of the jewelry industry, and she enjoys working with customers to design jewelry that fits their personality and lifestyle. In addition to the monthly art walk exhibits, Fremont Jewelry also represents a variety of creations by local jewelers, like these nifty earrings by artist Jacob Little.

Jacob Little @ Fremont Jewelry Design
Pel'Meni Dumpling Tzar is a colourful surprise tucked into the mouth of the alley that connects Fremont Place to Fremont Ave. The delicious smell of dumplings is ever-present, and this evening, art walkers are greeted at the door by a trio of young musicians jamming out Beatles songs. The featured artist, Juliet Salvato, uses a mixture of beeswax, charcoal, ink, paper, and wood to create scenes that tell stories and explore the boundaries of the inner and outer worlds.

Juliet Salvato @ Pel'Meni's
If you wander into Pel'Meni on a lazy afternoon, step into the hidden atrium just behind the counter. You'll find yourself suddenly surrounded by a fantastically colourful floor to sky grafitti mural.

Graffiti mural inside Pel'Meni's
The next art space on my list for the evening is Adobe, the newest addition to the Fremont Art Walk. I'm looking forward to seeing new work by Kate Protage who creates paintings and drawings that toe the fine line between reality and abstraction. The only problem is, I can't find the Adobe art space. The building is right where it's supposed to be, but after fifteen minutes of exploring the perimetre, all I've been able to find are darkened windows and locked doors. I'm disappointed, and there's only one solution...

Perhaps, if I'm being honest with myself, one of the main reasons I came back to the Fremont Art Walk this month was for Pie. These perfectly hand-sized pastries have taken up residence in a happy corner of the part of my brain that controls my food cravings, and I believe they have every intention of staying. Their featured artist hasn't changed since last month, but Deborah Faas' vintage poster-style paintings still fit the Pie setting well.
I'm happy that Fremont has an art walk, and the businesses that *do* display art are dedicated and persistent. But in a community that proclaims itself the 'Centre of the Universe', there certainly isn't much to do after 6pm on a warm almost-summer eve. I'll probably be back next month for the art walk veterans and Pie. And I'll keep hoping that the rest of Fremont wakes up and smells the art.

Support your local art scene! Cheers.

~ BCDuncan

Thursday, April 5, 2012

PIONEER SQUARE: Flatcolor & the Underground at the OK Hotel

It's 1st Thursday in Pioneer Square again, and I'm off to see John Osgood and Chris Sheridan at the OK Hotel. Both are premiering new work ~ John a new series of acrylic/aerosol paintings, and Chris a new series of longboards bearing prints of some of his signature oil work.

John Osgood is a painter and muralist and has shown work all over the Seattle area. He enjoys juxtaposing bright colours with a variety of emotions, often reflected simultaneously in a single face. His subjects are vibrant and strange, but somehow familiar, and I can't help but relate to expressions that I recognise in myself and people I encounter every day. Both John and his wife Michele are chilling at the OK Hotel this eve, and I have a chance to chat with them for a bit about John's painting process and the encore 2nd Friday opening of the "Look Up Here" show at Bherd Studios, the gallery space that they co-run and operate in Greenwood.

John Osgood @ OK Hotel
Chris Sheridan's work combines elements of mythology, spirituality, symbolism, mysticism and magic. The pieces displayed at the OK Hotel this eve are from his series "Shadows, Persona, and Trickery," an exploration of how religion has influenced culture, the ways in which humans attribute meaning to symbols, and the search for the soul.

It's interesting to see both John and Chris' work in the same venue. Both artists have a fascination with the human form, nuances of expression, and the individual's place in culture and society. The perspectives are wildly different, but the combination of their bold colour palettes have created an incredibly dynamic and cohesive show.

Chris Sheridan @ OK Hotel
Chris Sheridan @ OK Hotel

Below the OK Hotel is warren of art spaces called the OK Hotel Arts Collective (a.k.a. The Underground). I stumble upon it entirely by accident after walking through a doorway that leads to an office out into a hallway and down a blind stairwell into a murky basement with a low ceiling and walls covered in art.

I am drawn to a series of large, colourful oil paintings down the first hallway on the left. I meet the artist, Jeanette Jones,who describes her paintings as multiple images broken apart and reassembled into a non-rectangular grid. The overall effect is a collage created entirely with paint. One of my favourites is "Marie Therese," a piece commemorating the mistress and sometimes model of Pablo Picasso who later hanged herself.

The Underground
Jeanette Jones @ The Underground

Just around the corner from Jeanette is artist Atelier Boy, with "The Skellies." This ink on paper series features skeletons in various settings intended to create different moods. Shown below are "Sundown Skelly", "Sexy Skelly", and "Matrix Skelly".
Atelier Boy @ The Underground

After leaving the OK Hotel, I'm off to Flatcolor Gallery on 1st Ave. It's a little bit of a walk, but worth it to see the final show in their current location. The featured artist is Stacey Rozich, a Seattle-based illustrator and graphic designer. Her latest body of work "The Last Wave" is inspired by traditional folktales, symbolism, dreams, and nostalgia. It's a fantastically vibrant show, and it's a bit of a bummer that after three years in Pioneer Square, Flatcolor will be looking for a new space. Visit their website for new information and details.

Stacey Rozich @ Flatcolor
My last stop of the evening is the ArtXchange, a contemporary intercultural gallery that features art from around the world. This month's show, "Where We Meet: Encountering Nature" includes artists Yuko Ishii, Wang Jiang, Gillchun Koh, and Jane Alden Stevens, from the US, China, South Korea, and Japan, respectively. The work explores humanity's changing relationship with nature.

Gillchun Koh @ Art Xchange
Yuko Ishii @ Art Xchange

Support your local art scene! Cheers!

~ BCDuncan