ArtSEA: A new Seattle gallery and putting the art in Earth Day

Plus, the softer side of pandemic art, Seattle Opera and Museum of Flight stage a collab, and Northwest connections to this weekend’s Academy Awards.

Pop-up gallery From Typhoon recently opened in the Chophouse Row marketplace on Capitol Hill. (From Typhoon)

We aren’t out of the pandemic woods yet, but it sure felt like we hit a sunny clearing last weekend. As I tooled around Seattle under cloudless skies, I experienced all the stuff of a normal summer Saturday — a traffic snarl in Pioneer Square! Long ferry lines! Competition for open tables at restaurant patios!

As I worried that I wasn’t quite ready for such a roaring return to the regular, I found a soft place to land in new pop-up gallery From Typhoon, which opened Saturday on Capitol Hill.

ArtSEA: Notes on Northwest Culture is Crosscut’s weekly arts & culture newsletter.

“It started out as kind of a love letter to each other, as romantic partners, as companions,” co-founder Jeric Smith told me. During the doldrums of lockdown, while working at home together, he and co-founder Robinick Fernandez would shake things up with creative challenges. “We made videos, painted, baked bread … picked up sewing again. We started a podcast about intimacy. And finally, we thought up this little gallery called From Typhoon.”

Co-founders Robinick Fernandez (left) and Jeric Smith say the idea for their new gallery bloomed during the pandemic. (From Typhoon)

The space is a rectangle of calm amid the bustling Chophouse Row marketplace. Smith (also a poet, who writes as J.A. Dela Cruz-Smith) and Fernandez (a senior associate designer at Mithun) have exhibitions planned through August. The inaugural event features vibrant mixed-media textiles by Portland artist Andrea Alonge.

In We Can Take Forever Just a Minute at a Time (through May 22), Alonge combines found fabric, vinyl, pompoms, batting, embroidery, fringe, sequins and more to create playful wall sculptures that defy boundaries by suddenly shifting course — a quilted rainbow splashes into a shiny galaxy of stars.

“Her pieces are lingering in the realms of radical softness,” Smith said, which also reflects the approach he and Fernandez plan to take with the gallery. “There’s so much out there in our world that is actually killing and harming folks … gun violence, this virus, white supremacy … environmental degradation … mass incarceration,” he noted. From Typhoon aims to try a little tenderness, welcoming those who need “a little bit of softness.”

‘Dahlia Mixed Bouquet (no. 10)’ by Seattle photographer Deb Achak. (Winston Wächter)

As we tiptoe toward a post-pandemic future, I’m sure we’ll see more art created as an antidote to the harsh reality of the last year. Take Seattle photographer Deb Achak, whose new show at Winston Wächter gallery is My Eyes Need Beauty (April 24 – June 5). “[The show] was born during the time of COVID and in the weeks when the West was blanketed with forest fire smoke,” Achak writes in her artist statement. “Homebound and restless, I found strength and optimism through the healing power of flowers, vivid color, and meditative movement.”

The result: large scale close-ups that gently press the viewer’s face toward soft pink petals. But these aren’t just pretty bouquets. They’re imbued with a deeper undertone, realized by way of deliberate blurriness — as if the flowers have been thrown, or held underwater or remembered as the scrap of a dream.

‘Grappling Reflections,’ by Northwest painter Drie Chapek. (Greg Kucera Gallery)

There’s a similarly intriguing smeariness in the body of new paintings by Edmonds-based artist Drie Chapek, whose show at Greg Kucera Gallery is Churning (April 22 – May 29). In these works, glimpses of domestic scenes (a mirror above a dresser, patio doors looking out on a yard, empty neighborhood streets) are nearly obscured by roiling swaths of thick paint, signaling interruption and upheaval.

For more transformations of chaos into art, consider the Schack Art Center in Everett, where the new show Art of Recycling: Repurpose with a Purpose (through June 1) celebrates Earth Day (today!) with work made from found and discarded materials. Participating artists include Maria Phillips, who directed the artist residency at the King County recycling dump and who has created a huge “wave” sewn from three months of her own family’s plastic waste (a vulnerable endeavor). Also on the roster of Northwest artists: Barbara De Pirro, who makes drapey organic growths from plastic castoffs; and Marita Dingus, whose sculptural figures give humanity’s detritus human form.

Seattle artist Michelle Robinson was one of seven artists from across the world chosen to create poster art for this year's Academy Awards. (Oscar statuette ©AMPAS®)


It’s almost time for the Oscars (April 25, 5 p.m. PDT), and this year in addition to an actual live show (how will they do it?) we have a couple Northwest connections to note: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, based on the play by Seattleite August Wilson (who died in 2005), is up for several awards, including Best Actor (the late Chadwick Boseman) and Best Actress (Viola Davis). When the film came out, Crosscut contributor Misha Berson wrote about the special connection Boseman had with Wilson, whose lasting work chronicles the 20th century Black American experience.

In other red-carpet news, Seattle painter Michelle Robinson was one of seven artists selected by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to design digital poster art for this 93rd edition of the show. Born in Seoul, Korea, and raised in Los Angeles, Robinson created a striking piece that combines the architectural forms seen elsewhere in her work (including in the “Prevail” poster she created during the Black Lives Matter protests) with an Art Deco flair common to grand old movie theaters.

Seattle Opera filmed ‘Flight’ on location at the Museum of Flight, with Aubrey Allicock (left) and Karin Mushegain. (Phillip Newton/Seattle Opera)

Speaking of grand spaces … The Museum of Flight spread its wings during the pandemic, expanding its role as a showcase for innovative aircraft to a film set for soaring voices. The occasion: Seattle Opera’s newest production, which was filmed on location amid the planes. The contemporary, often funny Flight (streaming April 23-25; $35), by Jonathan Dove, is based loosely on the real-life case of Mehran Karimi Nasseri, an Iranian refugee who lived in limbo at Charles De Gaulle airport for 18 years. Dove’s opera is now 23 years old, but something about the stranded passengers — all hoping to arrive safely at a better place soon — feels extremely of the moment.

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