Editor’s Notebook: Goddess power to get you through the election

Plus, picks for the Earshot Jazz Festival.

Seattle artist Holly Ballard Martz explores 'Dirty Laundry and Domestic Bliss' at Zinc Contemporary. (Daniel Spils)

We’re two weeks out from the election, and the atmosphere could not feel more different than it did at this time four years ago. Back then, many of us — quite a lot of us, actually — felt certain we were about to usher in America’s first woman president. With all that has happened since, it’s a little hard to recall the heady promise that was in the air (and the power pantsuits that were all over social media). It really seemed that maybe, finally, the so-called “second sex” would come in first.

But here we are.

Seattle artist Holly Ballard Martz has a feminist/absurdist sensibility that seems particularly apt for this cultural moment. She previously created decorative wire hangers in the shape of uteruses (on view in the lobby of Bellevue Arts Museum) and a flak jacket made from copies of the U.S. Constitution. In her fantastic new show, Dirty Laundry & Domestic Bliss (through Nov. 15 at Zinc Contemporary), she addresses gender inequity with bitingly clever commentary about women’s roles in the domestic sphere.

To wit: an exquisite array of dressmaker hams (stiffly stuffed pillows used to press rounded seams) adorned with shimmery sequins in patterns of raw meat, breasts and vulvas; a powder-blue ironing board upended to resemble a robed Madonna; a merkin made entirely of flirty false eyelashes. Less amusing: the pretty wall script Love Hurts, made from 6,000 spent 9mm shell casings, a targeted reference to domestic violence.

Renton-based artist Humaira Abid's 'Overrated Virginity' at Greg Kucera Gallery. (Daniel Spils)

At nearby Greg Kucera Gallery, Pakistan-born and Renton-based artist Humaira Abid explores the darker aspects of double standards in her show, Sacred Games (through Nov. 7). Employing her astonishing carving skills, Abid creates realistic blouses, bras and shoes made of wood, and uses them to expose the oppression inherent in cultural taboos and political hypocrisy. From her rendition of cardboard protest signs reading ARE WE GREAT YET? to a blood-red iron to the word “virgin” crawling with ants, Abid’s carvings are incisive.

If only we had bottled some of that big bright hope from pre-election 2016. We could’ve taken little sips to keep our spirits up and carry us through 2020. (OK, let’s be honest, we would have chugged it long before now.)

Anyone who’s drenched in existential dread may find solace in the documentary Resisterhood (screening free online at Northwest Film Forum through Oct. 30), which follows six American women motivated by the 2016 election to change the demographics of Congress. From 82-year-old Margaret Morrison, who marched alongside John Lewis and Martin Luther King Jr. in Civil Rights protests, to professional soccer player and “Rainbow Warrior” Joanna Lohman, these women turned defeat into action.

But maybe we need something even stronger. Maybe a goddess.

Last weekend I visited MadArt Studio in South Lake Union, where artist Marela Zacarías has re-created the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, an Aztec archaeological site in her home country of Mexico. Her version is built of wire mesh and wood and, instead of being dedicated to the male god Quetzalcóatl, pays honor to Cihuacōātl, a goddess of motherhood and fertility.

Artist Marela Zacarías created a temple to an Aztec goddess of motherhood at MadArt Studio. (Marela Zacarías/MadArt)

In our story about the exhibit, Zacarías tells Crosscut reporter Agueda Pacheco Flores, “I wanted to dedicate my temple to the resilience inherent in being a woman, the creative power, but also how we’re warriors with this energy that helps us.” Cihuacōātl is represented by a large coiled sculpture hanging inside the see-through temple. The painted plaster is wrapped around partly visible car tire — a nod to “motor city” Detroit, where Zacarías debuted the sculpture.

MadArt is housed in a former car showroom from the 1930s, when the tech companies in South Lake Union were showcasing automobile advancements. I was reminded of this when I exited the space and saw the Firestone Tire building across the street. Built in 1929, all that is left is the historic terra-cotta façade, which is currently being propped up with long supports. The rest of the building has been demolished to make way for a 15-story commercial office in the heart of the Amazon empire.

Seattle singer Johnaye Kendrick plays this year's Earshot Jazz Festival virtually. (Daniel Sheehan)

Civilizations crash, industries die out, political leadership slams from one side of the aisle to the other… and pandemics throw a monkey wrench into the works. If there’s one thing the past six months has taught us, it’s that it we’d better get good at improvising.

No one knows that better than jazz musicians, and as the Earshot Jazz Festival continues online (through Nov. 8), you have several opportunities to hear how the pros do it. Esteemed Northwest vocalist Johnaye Kendrick sings soothing standards as well as original compositions (Oct. 23, 7 p.m.); locally based Brazilian pianist Jovino Santos Neto jams with his Latin-Grammy-nominated quinteto (Oct. 24, 7 p.m.), and Seattle singer and keyboardist Marina Albero plays new music — on piano, psalterium and vibraphone — inspired by living through a global health crisis (Oct. 25, 7 p.m.)

Also timely: Seattle Modern Orchestra’s world premiere of local composer Tom Baker’s piece Simultaneously Solitary (relatable!), which lends improvisational techniques to the classical music sphere (online Oct. 23, 7:30 p.m.).

The Fisherman’s Village Music Festival (streaming digitally Oct. 28-30) features performances and conversations with 12 local bands prerecorded under pandemic safety measures inside the historic Everett Theater. Among the offerings: Lady A (the jazz artist that pop country band Lady Antebellum sued for the use of the name earlier this year, when they realized “antebellum” wasn’t coming off well; having held the moniker for 30 years, she is countersuing); folk rockers the Moondoggies; the deliciously soulful sounds of the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio; and the blues-infused rock of The Black Tones.

One last suggestion: On the heels of tonight’s presidential debate, regain your balance by tuning into Seattle Symphony Orchestra for the livestreamed performance of Vivaldi’s masterpiece, The Four Seasons (Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m.), a timeless meditation on change, change, change.

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