Things to do in Seattle: Nov. 21 - 27
Gina Siciliano on Artemisia Gentileschi
Last weekend, an oil painting by Artemisia Gentileschi sold at a Paris auction for $6.1 million, setting a record for the Italian painter, who died in 1656. One of a handful of professional women painters during the Baroque era, Gentileschi is finally getting her due — not just in the fickle art-buying market, but widely, as more people recognize her remarkable painterly skills and the sharp female gaze she brought to paintings of biblical and mythical scenes. In a debut graphic novel, I Know What I Am, Seattle artist Gina Siciliano pays tribute to Gentileschi’s work via beautiful scenes rendered — incredibly! — in ballpoint pen, and a meticulous re-creation of the context in which Gentileschi lived. “I didn’t want to just use her work as a jumping-off point for my own expression,” Siciliano told me in an interview. “I wanted to get inside her head.” Siciliano and Gentileschi have a lot in common, including Italian heritage, unstoppable artistic drive and surviving sexual abuse. (Gentileschi was raped by her painting tutor, whose face she famously inserted into her painting of Judith beheading Holofernes, currently on view at Seattle Art Museum in Flesh and Blood.) During her upcoming “My Favorite Things” talk at SAM, Siciliano will share insights and some of the voluminous knowledge she amassed during the seven-year creation of her book — which in the introduction she says is really about “the determination and will it takes to live an artist life, no matter what.” –B.D.
If you go: My Favorite Things tour with Gina Siciliano at SAM, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. (Free with admission)
Gloria Steinem: The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off!
Feminist icon Gloria Steinem is known for memorable sound bites — including the one that serves as the title of her new book: The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off. But following those words of wisdom, here’s a small truth bomb: It’s a shame to boil down the life and work of a hugely influential writer, activist and thinker to a selection of digestible quotes. So it may in fact piss you off that such is the case with Steinem’s most recent title, an illustrated collection of her most famous one-liners. Luckily, the book also contains a couple of short essays by Steinem. And even if the book feels lightweight for such a massive force of a human, Seattleites can head to The Paramount Theatre to hear Steinem speak in person about her groundbreaking journalism and activism in the 1970s women’s movement, and on topics from pro-choice politics to #MeToo, and the state of feminism today. –M.V.S.
Fantastic Fungi: The Magic Beneath Us
They thrive in moisture, they live among the ferns, their preferred mode of communication is a complex internet — Pacific Northwesterners and fungi have a lot in common. But if you haven’t quite succumbed to the cult of the mushroom, this documentary should do the trick. Featuring Shelton-based mycologist Paul Stamets and a host of other fungi fanatics, Fantastic Fungi: The Magic Beneath Us employs mind-blowing science alongside stunning time-lapse video to argue its case that ‘shrooms are a miracle species that might just save the planet. “They really are a frontier of knowledge,” says renowned food guru Michael Pollan, deep in the sway of the spores. CGI graphics displaying the incredible branching of mycelium networks — which extend some 300 miles beneath every footstep, everywhere — reveal a subterranean world akin to "the upside down" in Stranger Things (thankfully minus the Demogorgon). Arguing the organism’s potential to cure everything from Alzheimer’s to fear of dying, the movie proves there is indeed a fungus among us — all of us — and it’s high time to tap into the magic of mushrooms. –B.D.
If you go: Fantastic Fungi at SIFF Uptown, Nov. 21; SIFF Film Center, Nov. 26-27.
Heather Havrilesky: Embracing the imperfections of the everyday
From “Am I Too Obsessed With My Nemesis?” to “Should I Give Up on Trying to Make My Family Accept Me?” and “How Do You Learn to Be Happy Alone?,” it’s safe to say that as advice columnist Ask Polly, author and critic Heather Havrilesky deals with one of our primal propellers as humans: to become better — at life, at relationships, at being a mother or a friend, perhaps at ignoring your archenemy. But recently, no thanks to digital culture, this drive has become an obsession with the kind of self-improvement that can be attained only through constant embrace and upkeep of the “new,” Havrilesky finds. In her just published essay collection, What If This Were Enough?, she lambastes our Sisyphean search for perfection. At Town Hall, Havrilesky will talk with Crosscut’s own Brangien Davis about what we can glean from the perfectly imperfect moment that is now. –M.V.S.
Jeffry Mitchell: New Work
A certain sadness has always bled through the ultradecorative sheer of Jeffry Mitchell’s saccharine-cheerful ceramic figurines, vases and objects. But recently, the Pacific Northwest artist’s work has taken a darker turn toward dense, dystopic scenes. “That comes from the political climate — and aging,” says Mitchell, who turned 61 this year. The Olympia-based artist is as prolific as ever, and this year alone finished artist residencies in Pullman, California and China. Some of the new work he created during those stints has been on view in London, Paris, New York, Portland and Los Angeles, but not in Seattle. This weekend, local audiences get a chance to see Mitchell’s new work during a four-day show at Oxbow in Georgetown, where new drawings, airbrush work and ceramic sculptures (partly inspired by pre-World War II Picasso and German expressionism) will be displayed on wooden furniture that doubles as art. –M.V.S.
Taj Mahal Quartet
If it’s Thanksgiving time, it’s Taj Time. That’s Taj Mahal, the beloved veteran bluesman and multiple Grammy Award honoree, whose holiday gig with his band at Jazz Alley has become an annual ritual. With his pleasingly rugged singing, bluesy guitar picking and repertoire of classic and modern tunes, Taj (born Henry Saint Clair Fredericks) has been spreading joy as a roots revivalist and troubadour for well over half a century (he’s 77 now). He has incorporated Latin, reggae, Caribbean, calypso, Cajun and jazz influences into his musical mélange, and joined forces in duets with everyone from Jimi Hendrix and Van Morrison to Gregg Allman and Keb Mo.’ But when you catch Taj live, along with his robust musical gifts you get to experience his storytelling flair. He can spin a front-porch yarn with the gusto, so every performance is also a date with a natural-born raconteur. –M.B.
If you go: Taj Mahal at Dmitriou's Jazz Alley, Nov. 22 - Dec.1 (no performances on Thanksgiving Day), times vary. ($37.50 - $50.50)
What good is sitting alone in your room? Come hear the music play (to quote the title song of Cabaret) in this production of the famed Kander and Ebb musical. Inspired by Christopher Isherwood stories and set in a Weimar-era Berlin nightspot, the show depicts a slice of decadent demimonde Germany on the brink of Nazi rule. Cabaret has had many stagings in Seattle, but this one is noteworthy for two reasons: first, it’s being performed in the smallish 12th Avenue Arts theater with the audience in on the act. And second, it’s a production by the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society. What’s this company, which was for decades exclusively devoted to the works of G&S doing with a jazzy ol’ Broadway tuner?
“In addition to working to rewrite and revitalize the G&S canon,” explains Phil Lacey, the group’s new artistic director, “we’re branching out into the rest of musical theater to produce some of the exciting, gorgeous pieces that we think will appeal to and have something to say to audiences in Seattle today.” Lacey (who also heads up the Leavenworth Summer Theatre) says his staging features “up and coming” local musical theater artists (including Tanesha Ross as cabaret chanteuse Sally Bowles) in this more “intimate” Kit Kat Club setting. But G&S fans need not despair: The company will be back at Seattle Repertory Theatre in July with a production of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance. –M.B.
If you go: Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society at 12th Avenue Arts, Nov. 22-Dec. 15, times vary. ($30-$40; VIP seating $75)
Ben Lerner: The Topeka School
“America,” says a character in Ben Lerner’s new, 1990s-set novel The Topeka School, “is adolescence without end.” Hindsight is 20/20, but according to critical acclaim, the way in which Lerner reexamines the ’90s in today’s light is of another magnitude. In author Maggie Nelson’s review blurb, she raves that the book is a “prehistory of a deeply disturbing national moment ... written with the kind of intelligence, insight, and searching that makes one feel well-accompanied.” New York-based Lerner, who has received a Guggenheim and a MacArthur “genius” grant, is no stranger to praise, but the buzz for The Topeka School has been off the charts, with the New York Times dubbing him “the most talented writer of his generation” — and The Topeka School his best book yet. As with his previous novels, Lerner inhabits the most personal of viewpoints: his own. By way of a semiautobiographical main character, high school debate champion Adam Gordon, Lerner delves into the hollowing of political speech, the anger of white men and something we would now, with hindsight, call “toxic masculinity.” –M.V.S.
Sea Songs and Shanties
If you live in a maritime city, you’re in the realm of the sea shanty. Alternately spelled “shanty” or “chantey” or “chanty,” these rhythmic work songs were used by sailors to coordinate efforts and (supposedly) pass the time while toiling on ships. Seafaring history reveals that a wide variety of shanties might be employed, depending on the length, speed and strength of the task — whether long-hauling, short-dragging, heaving, pulling up anchor, or pumping out water. Similar (but with a lot less manual labor involved) is the genre of “sea songs,” performed by sailors while drinking ashore. Locals have a chance to hear both this weekend, as Seattle’s Early Music Guild presents a concert and talk by French-Canadian shanty ensemble La Nef (which became popular, strangely, thanks to a song they recorded for the video game Assassin’s Creed). In Sea Songs and Shanties, the seven men will sing traditional songs from England, Scotland, Ireland, the Americas and the Caribbean to evoke the sloshing soul of the sea. –B.D.
If you go: Sea Songs and Shanties at Benaroya Hall, Nov. 24. Talk at 1:30 p.m. Concert at 2:30 p.m. ($32-$47)
Seattle Freezer Gallery
We’ve all done it on one of those humdrum, hungry nights: opened the fridge in the hopes some good grub will magically materialize. Usually, the maneuver reveals only slightly too-old leftovers. But last spring, in the Capitol Hill apartment of local artists Michael Milano and Elisabeth Smith, the trick actually worked. Upon opening their freezer door, a 40-pound chunk of hand-pulled butter-flavored taffy appeared. It wasn’t food, exactly, but an art installation by local artist Francesca Lohmann and the inaugural exhibit of the couple’s new "white cube" gallery space: their fridge. The name — Seattle Freezer, of course — stuck, even as the couple moved across the city and upgraded to a new, slightly larger cooling appliance.
This weekend, Seattle Freezer debuts its fourth art show inside the home fridge. (Don’t worry: during exhibitions, the couple stores their perishables in a minifridge purchased for the occasion.) In FROMO, Berlin-based artist Annelies Kamen tackles the “importance of missing out” through ice sculpture, a tiny sound installation and other fridge-friendly art. “To our knowledge,” Milano and Smith say, “Seattle Freezer is Seattle’s only appliance-turned-exhibition space.” –M.V.S.
If you go: Annelies Kamen: FROMO at Seattle Freezer, Nov. 24 - Dec. 15. Opening reception Nov. 24, 2 - 4 p.m., after which open by appointment only. (Free)
New zodiac signs and sports stars in a micro art walk on Capitol Hill
For a growing number of millennials, the meaning of life is dictated not by religion, but by another spiritual practice: astrology. Contemporary observers credit its rise to the direction horoscopes seem to provide during uncertain and stressful times. Seattle artist Julia Y’s zodiac painting series, currently on view at Capitol Hill’s Ghost Gallery, is satisfying in the same way horoscopes are: the vivid images open stressed-out minds to new perspectives. “I look at astrology or folklore or religion as an offshoot of psychology,” Y says. “People have been practicing different methods of astrology for thousands and thousands of years... It could be a good tool for learning about yourself and hopefully become a better person.” In the series, she ties together folklore, the medicinal properties of plants and geometric patterns to create mystical mixed media collages that suggest entirely new mascots for each sign.
You don’t even need to venture outside to encounter another artful array of personality types — in the show lining the walls of Cupcake Royale (attached to Ghost Gallery by a hallway). Here, artist Barbara Trentalange presents acrylic portraits of female athletes from the Pacific Northwest, including the Reign’s Megan Rapinoe. Captured in black and white, the soccer star stands tall, hand on her hips — her posture says wisdom and the muscular shading of her arms yells power. Other portraits of powerful local women include ballerina Noelani Pantastico, cyclist Julie Gregg and gymnast Hailey Burleson. –A.P.F.
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