ArtSEA: First visual arts show lifts off at Museum of Flight

Plus, new artists prepare for landing at Sea-Tac airport and Georgetown brings a carnival to town.

photo of a plane museum with a colorful mural below a vintage plane

“Assemblage,” the 60-foot mural Northwest artist Joe Nix created for ‘Art + Flight’ at the Museum of Flight. The son and grandson of Boeing and Naval engineers, Nix is inspired by the engine rooms that “brought cold steel and wood vessels to life.” (Brangien Davis / Crosscut)

The Museum of Flight has long been a home for spectacular design and creative vision. But this summer the 58-year-old institution is boldly going where it has never gone before — flying into the universe of visual art. 

The expansive new show Art + Flight (June 10 - Jan. 7; with lots of special events on opening day) reveals the ripe potential of this new connection between the region’s aviation history and artistic vibrancy. 

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

Centered around a juried group show in the Red Barn (featuring diverse artwork selected by curators from the Museum of Glass, Wa Na Wari, MadArt, the Henry Art Museum and Martyr Sauce), the exhibit celebrates the kinship between the human desire to fly and the drive to make art. 

“We put the artists first,” the Museum of Flight’s Ted Huetter noted at the press preview, “not knowing where it would take us.” Where they landed is a cool and surprising collection of paintings, photography, video art, textile works, murals and sculptures by 31 artists — all connected by the theme of flight.

“What Do Dreams Know of Boundaries,” by Angelina Villalobos. The new mural casts a colorful glow inside the the lobby of the Museum of Flight. (Layne Benofsky / Museum of Flight) 

Among the many pieces: RYAN! Feddersen’s intricate, sky-blue “Aura” mural depicting the wide band of space junk orbiting the earth; retro rocket prints by “Salish geek” artist Jeffrey Veregge; Barbara Noah’s ridiculous yet sublime digital image of a balloon octopus hovering over the surface of Mars; and scale-model hobbyist Jhun Carpio’s amazing exact replica of the Artemis SLS Rocket — made entirely from coffee stirrers and and matchsticks (!).

And on a large expanse of front windows, Angelina Villalobos has created a vibrant, pastel-colored piece that captures the creative connection between art and flight: A girl, flying paper planes, transforms into an astronaut.

Villalobos told me that growing up on Beacon Hill, she used to come to the Museum of Flight on field trips. Those visits, combined with the aviation knowledge her grandfather — a Boeing draftsman — shared, led to her lifelong fascination with planes, flying and starships. 

At the same time, she longed to be an artist. Her new mural, “What Do Dreams Know of Boundaries,” serves as a sort of full-circle moment. She is an artist now, with her work adorning this homage to aerospace. “There’s a realization that you made your dream come true,” she said. 

Peter Shelton’s ‘Clouds and Clunkers,’ one of the many art installations at Sea-Tac Airport. (Matt McKnight / Crosscut)

While you’re looking skyward … There's exciting art news from out at the airport. Already recognized as one of the country’s most art-full airports — with some 30 visual artists currently contracted for new projects — Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has just announced several of the newest creative contributors.  

The roster includes Juneau-based Crystal Worl, who is designing a new mural for the C Concourse expansion. Describing herself as a Tlingit Athabascan Yupik Filipino artist, she is building a bit of an air-travel theme with her public works — having recently had the thrill of seeing her artwork on the exterior of an Alaska Airlines 737. 

Called Xáat Kwáani (Salmon People), it’s the first aircraft in the history of domestic airlines to depict Northwest Indigenous formline art. Look for it on the tarmac during your summer travels. 

Also on Sea-Tac’s artist itinerary is Seattle-based artist Fumi Amano, who’ll create a new sculpture for the “lookout deck” on the C Concourse. (Personally I’m hoping it’s another giant red rope uterus, like the interactive one Amano debuted — to delighted viewers — at Method Gallery in 2021. But I won’t hold my breath.) 

On the forthcoming amphitheater-style Grand Stairs, you’ll find works by Jaq Chartier, Beccy Feather and June Sekiguchi. On the same concourse, Rebecca Bird, Marco Brambilla, Dan Mirer, Anna Mlasowsky and Hussain Almossowi will create video art for a new video installation. 

It’s all part of the grand 2019 plan to expand the Port of Seattle’s Public Art Program under the guidance of curator Tommy Gregory. To achieve it, the Port is dedicating $20 million to artists in the next five years.

The plan has already resulted in some spectacular installations, including John Grade’s massive “Boundary.” But estimated completion dates for the C Concourse projects aren’t until 2026. So for now we’ll have to do something we’re accustomed to at the airport: wait.

Coalescence Dance is one of several Seattle companies on the bill at the 2023 Seattle International Dance Festival. (Brittany Mattox)

More ways to take flight …

The Seattle International Dance Festival (June 10 - 18) kicks off on Capitol Hill this weekend with a wide array of contemporary works. Included in the packed roster is a South Korean showcase, as well as many local favorites. 

In the Northwest mix: longtime choreographer Donald Byrd, who’ll stage the newly commissioned piece From the Dark Land; multidisciplinary art monsters Degenerate Art Ensemble, whose Anima Mundi — Amnesia is about our loss of connection with nature; and popular Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer Price Suddarth, who presents the soft launch of his new dance company JUMPKUT. 

If you’re seeking a raucous street-performance vibe, set your course for the Georgetown Carnival (June 10, noon - 10 p.m.). This annual event is a paean to punk art projects, with high-flying aerialists, acrobats and axe throwing. Also on deck: a full lineup of live bands, belly dancers, the “Oddwall Emporium of the Weird” and the truly must-see Hazard Factory Power Tool Drag Races, the last of which roars to life at high noon —  remember to keep fingers and toes behind the line.

But maybe the lift-off you seek is something that takes you to a higher plane. You might well find it in the new show Transcendence at Woodside / Braseth Gallery (through July 2; artist reception June 10, 4 - 7 p.m.). 

These new paintings by Skagit Valley-raised artist Lisa Gilley showcase her skill at capturing the majesty of the Western landscape in evocative oils. Counting Georgia O’Keeffe as an influence, Gilley depicts lakes, rivers and rock formations in wide swaths of creamy color that’ll have your head in the clouds.

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