This week’s column features two visual picks by Michael Upchurch and four others by guest recommender Marilyn Montufar, a fine art photographer whose exhibition “Transcending Identity: Impressions of People, Community, and Landscapes” is on display at 4Culture’s gallery in Pioneer Square through Feb. 22. She will be giving an accompanying artist talk at the gallery, sharing stories of individuals she photographs and her own travels and process, this Thursday, Feb. 15 at 12:30 p.m.
Marilyn’s exhibition is the culmination of years of meeting and photographing subjects in the U.S. and Mexico, centered around travel from her native city of Los Angeles to locales across Mexico — from Mexico City to Oaxaca to her late grandmother’s home in Delicias, Chihuahua.
“I was particularly drawn to border towns, like Juárez and Tijuana,” she says, where she met people whose experience of belonging neither entirely to the United States nor to Mexico deeply resonated with her own complex identity as a Xicana. She found herself particularly inspired by the prevalence of cultural revivals in these towns, such as Lowriders and the re-embracing of the fashion and gender subversion of pachucos and pachucas, a Mexican-American subculture dating back to the 1930s.
“Everywhere I traveled, people were very welcoming,” Marilyn says of her journey. “I crossed paths with artists I didn’t know and learned from them — and learned to think about photography in a different way.”
In the exhibition, Marilyn strived to show the diverse perspectives of the people she encountered, some of whom she’s been photographing for 5 or 10 years. “With the current ways that Mexico is being portrayed in the media, people often think of the country with fear,” says Marilyn. “I wanted to capture a different reality.”
Bushwick Book Club: Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Sower
Marilyn is a longtime lover of Octavia Butler, a fellow artist who was born and raised in Los Angeles. “Her work is inspirational and important,” Marilyn says. She glimpsed the science fiction writer’s journals and work in process at The Huntington Library’s exhibition “Octavia E. Butler: Telling My Stories” in Santa Marino, California last year. For this edition of the Bushwick Book Club, local artists read Butler’s classic, “Parable of the Sower” and write and perform original songs inspired by it. This exciting night is curated by KEXP DJ Riz Rollins.
If you go: Bushwick Book Club, Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16 ($10-15)—N.C.
Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas
Beginning Feb. 15, the Seattle Art Museum will host the new exhibition "Figuring History," bringing together three artists whose work questions the historical narratives of the Black experience. “This event showcases how important it is for the history of people of color to be told in their own words, on their own terms,” Marilyn says. The exhibit kicks off Thursday with a community celebration, featuring live jazz from the Dr. Julian Priester Quartet, art performances and opportunities for art making. Marilyn recommends the work of Kerry James Marshall, whose exhibit “Mastry,” a 35-year retrospective of the painter’s work, she had the opportunity to see at L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art. “He is not to be missed,” she says.
If you go: Figuring History, Seattle Art Museum, Through May 14 ($24.95)—N.C.
Manos Arriba with DJ Chilly
Looking for something to do on Wednesday nights in Seattle? Marilyn’s favorite, DJ Chilly, has a free set “Manos Arriba” at The Saint in Capitol Hill every Wednesday. Marilyn and Chilly were both guest speakers at the first annual MEX-AM Festival, a celebration and exploration of Mexico’s culture, history, politics and beyond this past fall. Chilly, the host of El Sonido, which airs every Monday on 90.3 KEXP, is “a three-hour trip around the diverse world of Latin music and culture.”
If you go: Manos Arriba with DJ Chilly, The Saint, 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. Feb. 21 (Free)—N.C.
Bay Area glass sculptor Abright likes to tease the luminous out of the ordinary. In his hands, downbeat multi-ethnic figures — streetwise and a little street-weary — become shimmering repositories of light. The young hoodie-clad male figure in “West Oakland Torso (Purple),” for example, produces shimmery, kaleidoscopic effects as his surfaces glisten in different ways. From some angles, light torques transparently straight through him. From others, rough abrasions make him opaque. Abright’s complex process involves making clay models of his sitters and then using those clay sculptures as molds that he fills with blown glass. The glass sculpture is then hand-painted, polished and/or sanded. There are only five pieces in this show, but they make a big impact. You can see more of his extraordinary work at www.obenabright.com.
If you go: Abmeyer + Wood Fine Art, 1210 Second Ave., Seattle, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays through Feb. 26—M.U.
This annual Eastside dance festival offers some handy one-stop shopping for what’s going on choreographically in our own neck of the woods and in cities around the country. The 2018 fest features work by Seattleites Kyle Davis (set on Pacific Northwest Ballet dancers), Mark Haim (working Bellingham Repertory Dance, a terrific troupe) and Donald Byrd (Spectrum Dance Theater performing Byrd’s sly, funny, infinitely watchable “Geekspeak”). Out-of-town performers include Mari Meade Dance Collective (Brooklyn) and Stewart/Owen Dance (Asheville, N.C.). Stone Dance Collective, led by Chop Shop artistic director Eva Stone, is on the bill, too. You can count on Stone to deliver an optimum mix of known quantities and out-of-left-field surprises.
If you go: Chop Shop, Meydenbauer Center Theatre in Bellevue, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17 and 3 p.m. Feb. 18 ($15-$28)—M.U.