Friday, September 14, 2012

GREENWOOD: Erratic Expressions and Art By the Inch

It's that time again in the Greenwood-Phinney Ridge neighbourhood, and I have absconded with my friend Sarah for amazing art walk adventures! Sarah has never before been to an art walk, so I'm excited to introduce her to one of the most colourful art spaces in Seattle, Tasty Delectable Collectibles.

This month, Tasty is hosting "Erratic Expressions," a mixed media group show that features work by 16 local artists. A few of my favourites are Sarah Gordon's pop culture themed Scrabble collages:

Sarah Gordon, "Marilyn"
Sarah Gordon, "Alice in Wonderland"
I also very much enjoy Gretchen Fuller's mosaic creations. I first saw her work at the Capitol Hill Art Walk back in February, and it's fun to see so many new pieces! The TNT Bunny Bomb is back, and he's holding a whole host of portraits hostage!

Gretchen Fuller, "Ballistic Bunny"
Gretchen Guller, "Are You My Mummy"

The comic-inspired collages of Raw Garbage, and the mechanical avian assemblages of Jen Hardwick are also pretty amazing. I can't help but adore the tiny metal birds.
Raw Garbage, "La Verdad"
Jen Hardwick, "Crow-Bot"
Sarah loves the vibrant diversity of the Tasty shop. In addition to the "Erratic Expressions" artists, Tasty also features new and exciting consignment arts, crafts, jewellery, accessories, and decorations from many other local artists, and we keep getting distracted on our way out the door. We both decide we need to come back for some FrankenSocks.

Just a few blocks down the road from Tasty is Chocolati Cafe. We duck in for a quick look around and are instantly drawn to Ellen Hastings' colourful collages and Chocolati's creatively shaped edible chocolate confections. Who doesn't like an environmentally conscious tree and a tiny chocolate paintbrush wrapped in exciting bits of coloured foil?

Ellen Hastings, "Solar Willow"
Our next stop is Bherd Studios. Bherd is in a brand new location this month, a second storey flat above Chase Bank on the corner of 85th and Greenwood Ave. The new space is a good bit different from the maze of underground studios across the street in the Greenwood Collective that they used to call home. While it's similar in size, the new studio has large windows that let in lots of natural light, consistent air flow, and a lovely Bherd's-eye-view of Greenwood at sunset. Not only have John and Michele, owners and operators of Bherd, spent the better part of the past month packing and moving, they somehow found the time to arrange "By the Yard," an experimental and provocative inaugural art exhibition.

Bherd Studios: shiney new space!
"By the Yard" features the work of Crystal Barbre, Zachary Bohenkamp, Greg Boudreau, Jenny Dayton, Troy Gua, Tessa Hulls, Ryan Molenkamp, John Osgood, Kellie Talbot, and Dan Voelker. Each artist was challenged to create a piece of art 1 yard long by 1 foot tall that will be sold by the inch (minimum 6-inch purchase). Prices range from $7.50 to $75.00 per square inch, and buyers have the option of purchasing the entire piece or picking up a tape measure and divvying up their favourite bits.

The newest show at Bherd addresses the cultural phenomena of art as a product and presents artists and buyers alike with some interesting questions:

"What makes a piece of art compelling — its subject, color, size, materials? What do we lose or gain when we can only see a portion of the whole? Is a specific section of a piece more precious, more mysterious when removed from its context, or does it lose its spark when it loses its frame? Is there a 'more bang for the buck' mentality to purchasing art? Does a work become more precious as it disappears? Do we relate to a piece more when we are allowed to alter it to our own tastes? And can we really bring ourselves to cut up an original work like a birthday cake?" (from

John Osgood, "Mikhail's Bondage Dream"
Tessa Hulls, "Fall"
Experiencing the exhibit from the perspective of an artist, I find myself acutely aware of the part of myself that cringes at the thought of slicing up one of my own art pieces to make a sale. Of course, the artists featured in "By the Yard" created pieces of art with the perametres of the challenge in mind, so, in theory, these pieces are intended to be parted out (although the price per inch is probably meant to discourage 'partial' buyers in a couple of cases). Visually, some of the pieces seem to lend themselves better to the 'art by the inch' idea, while others... not so much.

I find the concept of the show fascinating. Splitting up a piece of art would certainly affect its worth — to the artist, the buyer(s), and the economy of the art world. I've spoken with artists, art collectors, art appreciators, and art critics who assert that the 'worth' of art is completely subjective. I can see their point, especially considering the extremely large price tags associated with some noteable art pieces in the past (i.e. C├ęzanne, Pollock, de Kooning, Klimt, Van Gogh, Picasso, Renoir, Munch, and Warhol whose work has sold for upwards of $100 million)... But as a not-quite-so-famous artist, I set my prices to reflect the cost of materials, time spent, and a surcharge for being awesome. (The vision is mine, and you won't find it anywhere else, savvy? The awesomeness surcharge is possibly the percentage of the cost that could be considered subjective.)

12 Midnite, "Optimism"
Kellie Talbot, "White"
Many artists, myself included, create art in series - individual pieces that are thematically related, but still intended to be sold individually (unless someone wants to purchase the whole damn thing, in which case, fantastic!) I can't speak for all artists across the board, but I often become attached to my finished pieces. Not that I won't sell them — I enjoy being able to pay the rent doing something I love, and I find it incredibly gratifying to know that other people enjoy my work enough to buy it — I just can't imagine myself becoming quite as attached to a piece that one of these days is going to be cut into little pieces.

Selling art by the inch does, however, make it instantly more affordable (in most cases) than purchasing an entire painting (or drawing, or photograph, or sculpture, etc.), and I like the idea that a single original piece of art can be owned and continually enjoyed by more than one person. Different people owning different pieces of the same original work has the potential to create more of a dialogue between buyers. It also allows the art to be viewed not only as a complete (albeit static) composition, but also as a changeable artscape comprised of many possible *new* compositions. The main problem I can predict is that a piece could be divided in such a way that the left over sections simply wouldn't sell. Artists could, of course, price their work so that they would receive ample compensation regardless of whether they sold a single section or the entire composition, or they could make every inch of the art work so fantastically interesting that no section would be left behind. "No Art Left Behind" has a nice ring to it; perhaps there would be enough interest to generate some federal funding. Any takers?

So go see the show. It's up until 5 October for your viewing, measuring, and slicing pleasure. Measuring tapes have been generously provided by Bherd Studios; you can find them nestled in silken pillows atop pedestals throughout the show.

Following Bherd, Sarah and I head across the street, through the nearly hidden door, down the colourful hallway, and down the deceptively precarious staircase to the Greenwood Collective. Even without Bherd, it's still one of my favourite artist enclaves in Seattle. The crowd is a little sparse, which could be a result of Bherd's migration or the fact that it's still early in the evening, but the art is excellent, and the snacks and libations abound. EchoEcho has a few fun pieces this month. Some of my favourites are Alexandria Sandlin's deliciously tempting mushrooms and Ripley's post-apocalyptic zombie photography.

Alexandra Sandlin, "Candy Coated Mushrooms"
Ripley @ EchoEcho Gallery
Urban Light Studios is displaying the "Cityscapes and Mountainscapes" of Adrian Wyard and Kim Hood in their downstairs studio space. Curated by Zachary Sofia, the show includes a selection of interesting textures and lines preserved in elegant black and white photography.

Kim Hood @ Urban Light studios
Adrian Wyard @ Urban Light Studios

Solace at Home Suite Home has re-created the studio space as a sitting room, complete with TV, a standing lamp, a comfortable sofa, and framed art on the walls.

Home Suite Home
At the end of the hallway, Full Circle Gallery is host to artists Tnglr, Narboo, Starheadboy, Andy Miller (Mantisart), and 13fngrs. Combining elements of pop culture, comics, graffiti, collage, silk screen, print art, and straight up fun, the Full Circle artists have created a unique, inviting, and constantly evolving art space.

Full Circle Gallery (photo courtesy of Full Circle on Facebook)
Sarah and I decide to end our evening upstairs at the Green Bean Coffeehouse, where we are joined for a drink by the ever-illustrious Noah Beasley and serenaded by the lone piano player in the corner, a determined late-night open mic aficionado. We toast to the ridiculousness of politics, the deliciousness of quiche, fun art, and fantastic friends.

Support your local art scene!

~ BCDuncan

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