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

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