Carlyle Moore is one of those guys; you can feel the energy and excitement bristling off him like static electricity. The 29-year-old Director of Art/Not Terminal Gallery is surely one of the unheralded champions of the Seattle art scene. His seemingly bottomless well of enthusiasm and passion, in an environment often lacking such exuberance, is one of the reasons that his gallery, still just a bit player locally, continues to offer a refreshing take on the role art and galleries should play in big cities like Seattle.
Moore oversaw the 19th annual Art/Not Terminal Gallery's Photo Show. The 86 entries received were the most in the history of the gallery, which was opened in 1987 by a group of local artists. Back then the idea of the photographic show and of the gallery was to make exhibiting available and affordable to artists of all levels of experience, a concept that continues to drive the gallery's volunteer staff today.
Michael Young, an amateur photographer and part-time animal conservationist from Ridgefield, won this year's show. His remarkable photograph of a condor in flight near Big Sur transcends the documentary nature of wildlife photography, as all good wildlife photography does, framing a picture that is sinister, ominous; it is both sombre and full of movement. Young, who is also the chairman of the Volunteer Photo Committee at the Oregon Zoo, went looking for the condors at a number of condor refuge release points in California. He found them at a site near Big Sur, five of these once nearly extinct birds soaring around the mountain-tops, swimming through the thick fog, which eventually gave the photo a cloudy, abstract quality, as if it had been shot underwater.
"Sometimes you are very lucky to get in the right place at the right time," Young said. It was the standout picture of a show that exhibited the whole spectrum of photographic possibility, from nature to humanity, technology to nudes and landscapes. Second place was awarded to Megan Parker's untitled self-portrait, and third place to Su E. Don's combination of a bold nude with a vintage city landscape. Other works of note were two accomplished series shot in Honduras villages by Erica Sciarretta and Tara Adolfi.
Examining the works with Moore before the show, I realized that he is loathe to condemn or dismiss artists or their works for being sub-standard. Where I, as a less tolerant critic, would find little of merit, he would still extract worth, even if it was just the genuine effort of the artists and their bravery in exhibiting. This is clearly a driving ethos of the gallery. However, the mix of excellent work with poor, at times, diminishes its impact. Less generous locals may deride the space as one which will hang the works that others may not. I did, at times, feel like I was back at the co-op spaces around my university.
Having said that, the clinical odors of polished professionalism are strong on the wind elsewhere in Seattle. It is the variety, the coming together of diverse artistic communities, that so pleases Moore about Art/Not Terminal. "Shows like this really open my mind to what photography is about, because there is something of everything that photography can capture all here in this one space," he said.
"That's what we want to preach at Art/Not, that the community needs to come together, and not be subjective, but be free about what art can be." Community is a word that Moore often uses. As well as championing ideas such as cheaper hanging fees in order to make exhibition space more available to prospective artists, he is also the driving force behind the development Puget Sound Art Circle, a network of information that he hopes will help grassroots art thrive locally. "I want to bring cooperative behavior to the community, which I think is not really happening in the United States, at all," he said. "I've heard that New York has a cooperative scene, and I would really love for Seattle to become a more cooperative scene, in terms of artists sharing their knowledge and resources."
The Art/Not Terminal Gallery is located at 2045 Westlake Avenue. The 2008 Photo Show will be on display until July 2.