ArtSEA: Finding Fourth of July fireworks in Seattle gallery shows

Plus, miles of lush landscape paintings for your summer road trip dreams.

a futuristic painting with three purple suns and bright stars and an a distant mountain range

“Threeclipse,” by Ricky Allman, is part of the new ‘States of Being’ show on Capitol Hill. (AMcE Creative Arts)

Seattle mythos holds that summer doesn’t start here until July 5 — and I’ve experienced enough cold, rainy July 4ths to believe it. But this year disproves the lore: Summer is already on, and we have the backyard parties and BBQs to prove it.

If you aren’t a fan of real fireworks, there are plenty of pyrotechnics of the strong, silent type to explore in the coming weeks.

Take the new exhibit at AMcE Creative Arts. States of Being (July 9 - Aug. 20) is a group show featuring paintings that explode and whizz with color and spark. Check out the giant “Threeclipse” by Kansas City artist Ricky Allman, whose work blends landscape with mystic futurism. 

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Also lighting up the AMcE skies: Dion Johnson’s vivid color stacks resembling cross-sections of stained glass; Gegam Kacherian’s menacing cityscapes, in which twisted creatures loom on high; Guy Palmer Merrill’s clouds cut with iridescent angles; Lester Monzon’s abstracts that pop-pop-pop with polka dots; and Christine Nguyen’s floral “prism” pieces, which look like what you might see when lying back and peering at the sky through a daisy chain. 

After oohing and ahhing over that barrage of color and light, consider a visual breather at the Henry Art Gallery, where July marks 20 years since the fantastic James Turrell Skyspace Light Reign” was installed. (Also of note: July 7 marks the retirement of Henry director Sylvia Wolf, who has led the gallery for 15 years.) 

The Skyspace is one of my favorite places to achieve summer calm: Sitting inside the wood-lined ovoid and staring up through the open aperture at the bluest blue. (Yes, it is really open to the sky — there is no cover unless it’s raining.) It offers a remarkable meditation and reset, where the surprise appearance of a seagull in flight becomes a firework all its own.

Summer brings lazy days and unscripted road trips, which is maybe why so many galleries are currently showing different takes on landscapes. I’ve assembled a few examples here, so you can create a virtual road trip of your own. Just pretend you’re in the car — windows down, snacks close at hand — and watch the scenery roll by. 

In the top row above, at left, you’ll encounter “Sunrise Yellow Yakima Valley” by artist Sarah Winkler. Her show The Edge of the Wild (at Foster/White Gallery July 6 - 22) was inspired by the geology of the Cascade range, and features her color-banded hand-painted collages. 

At top right is the stark beauty of “New Land 1,” by LA-based Chilean artist Rodrigo Valenzuela, who presents his series New Land (July 8 - Aug. 19) at Mini Mart City Park in Georgetown. Valenzuela took the photographs in Chile and the American West, then altered them with geometric hand-drawing. Mini Mart celebrates both the show and the gallery’s first anniversary with a party on July 8 (2 - 9 p.m.; artist talk at 5 p.m.).

Smack dab in the middle is “Demonstration,” a postcard of sorts from Shaun Kardinal, a former Seattle artist now based in Philadelphia. In his show This Is How We Learn (through July 15 at J. Rinehart Gallery), cards and other paper ephemera are given new focus with his carefully embroidered lines. 

At bottom left is “Somewhere in the Hoh” by Northwest painter Hart James. Her Songs of the Earth (July 6 - 29 at Harris Harvey Gallery) feature lush, lyrical interpretations of the local environment. And at bottom right is “Shifting Sightlines,” featured in Michelle Muldrow’s show The Winds Began to Shift (through July 22 at Koplin del Rio Gallery). This Portland artist says she is focused on “dissecting” the American landscape in all its vast diversity.

Sibling band The Black Tones are headlining the Ballard Seafood Festival. (Matt M. McKnight / Crosscut)

I’ll be doing some summer travel in July, to (still cold! still rainy!) Alaska. I’m looking forward to the trip but sorry to miss our glorious weather and events made for sunny days. Readers, you’ll have to get out there and experience these in my stead. 

Local arts collab Forest for the Trees continues its summer run at the Railspur building in Pioneer Square by mixing two favorite American pastimes: baseball and art walks. (Well, one of those is my favorite American pastime.) The next show coincides calendrically, geographically and thematically with the MLB All-Star game (apparently happening July 11 at T-Mobile Park). 

Featuring artful odes to baseball — think piles of winning players, stacks of caps, and even a take on Field of Dreams — Forest for the Trees is creating an All Star Alley (July 6 - 11), featuring an art exhibit, interactive performances and commissioned murals by local artists. 

For those more taken by theater than sport, consider the Seattle Outdoor Theater Festival (July 8 - 9). This is a super-fun way to experience plays, with several different troupes taking over the various lawns of Volunteer Park. You’ll chance upon all sorts of Shakespeare (The Tempest, The Taming of the Shrew, Cymbeline) as well as some unexpected high jinks. 

Contrary to popular belief, the Ballard Seafood Fest (July 14 - 16) is not all about the salmon. This sea-themed smörgåsbord also offers a terrific and diverse music lineup. This year it includes bands La Fonda, the Smokey Brights, Shaina Shepherd, Eldridge Gravy, the Breaks and Swells, and Black Arts Legacies siblings The Black Tones

Speaking of Black Arts Legacies, tomorrow we’ll reveal our final artist in Season 2. It’s been a joy to share this year’s list of remarkable artists past and present. If you haven’t yet, please add all 15 new profiles to your summer reading. 

Happy trails and see you later in July!

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