ArtSEA: Diving headfirst into Seattle’s fall arts season

Plus, a 1903 throwback at Seattle Symphony, acrobatics at Seattle Rep and cavorting cacti at Pacific Northwest Ballet.

a side by side image of two paintings, both of divers diving down underwater, one blueish one greenish

Seattle artist Klara Glosova shares monoprints from her ‘Divers’ series in the new show ‘Diving into the Wreck’ in Georgetown. (Koplin Del Rio Gallery)

As we step gingerly across the autumnal equinox this weekend there’s no more denying it: Summer is sunsetting. But along with shorter days, colder temps and new COVID variants, the season brings a slew of promising arts events to help ease the transition from sandals to sweaters.

You might start with a visual hit of bismuth, a chemical element said to smooth difficult transitions — to wit: It’s a primary ingredient in Pepto-Bismol. It’s also used in Iridian light vs loom evil (at National Nordic Museum through October 29), a new sculpture by Jónsi, of ambient Icelandic band Sigur Rós. 

After plunging us into the blackest dark of winter with his immersive installation FLØD this past summer, Jónsi is back with a bouquet of loudspeaker horns coated in bismuth — which in this application transforms into “hopper crystals,” giving the piece a chunky pink shimmer.

The sculpture emits an ethereal soundscape composed by the artist, as well as the scent of blue lotus, which in alternative-medicine circles is believed to reduce anxiety. 

‘Iridian light vs loom evil,’ by Icelandic multimedia artist and musician Jónsi, features sound, scent and a chemical element said to ease transitions. (National Nordic Museum)

Jónsi, who is gay, originally created the piece in honor of the LGBTQ+ experience of coming out. But his message of accepting change and welcoming new beginnings resonates widely.

While at the National Nordic Museum, check out the final troll in Thomas Dambo’s Way of the Bird King series. Called “Frankie Feetsplinter,” the newly installed puckish creature stands outside the museum, smashing a bench with his trompy troll foot.

Those who can’t wait to dive right into fall may find kindred spirits in Seattle artist Klara Glosova’s series Diving into the Wreck (at Koplin Del Rio Gallery Sept. 23 - Oct. 28).

Inspired by the Adrienne Rich poem of the same title, as well as the tradition of Japanese pearl divers, these pleasingly watery monotypes ripple with enticement and danger.

“Diving without protective gear and supplemental oxygen, they descend into great depths and frigid waters,” Glosova says of the divers in her artist statement. “From my own perspective they appear resilient and fearless, yet at the same time so very vulnerable.”

Alexander Ekman’s ‘Cacti’ is part of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s new triple bill, ‘Petite Mort.’ (Angela Sterling)

Several of the city’s biggest arts orgs are putting away their flip-flops this weekend, tying up their laces (and toe shoes) in preparation for new fall programming. 

Seattle Symphony is kicking off another season without a full-time music director — the post has been empty since Thomas Dausgaard’s sudden departure in early 2022. But never fear, there’s a familiar face at the helm for the opening festivities (Sept. 21 and 23): fondly regarded conductor emeritus Ludovic Morlot. He’ll lead a program that hearkens back to organizational history.

In celebration of the symphony’s 120th season, the orchestra will play pieces featured in the very first Seattle Symphony concert in 1903, including Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony. Similarly, in commemoration of Benaroya Hall’s 25th anniversary, the roster includes selections from Wagner’s Götterdämmerung, played at the 1998 opening of the grand music hall.

For Pacific Northwest Ballet, fall starts with a “tiny death,” perhaps referencing a dead leaf dropping, or, if you catch the French drift, perhaps something a little sexier. Petite Mort (Sept. 23 - Oct. 1) features three pieces, including the titular work by Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián, which features the clever swish of swordplay. Also on the bill, Kylián’s Six Dances and Alexander Eckman’s thumping, frenzied and sometimes very funny Cacti.

And over at Seattle Rep, the season opens with a springy, sproingy cirque spectacular called Passengers (Sept. 22 - Oct. 15), performed by Montreal-based troupe The 7 Fingers. Spinning off of the concept of train journeys, the acrobatic group juggles, jumps and, um, gymnastics through a series of vignettes based on arrivals and departures, reunions and goodbyes. 

Playwright Andrew Lee Creech (left) and director Valerie Curtis-Newton talk during a technical rehearsal for the new play ‘Last Drive to Dodge’ at Taproot Theatre. (Jessey Dearing)

Speaking of transitions and fall arts happenings, this week we’re rolling out a new series of short videos highlighting several Seattle artists premiering new work this season. 

First up is an interview with playwright Andrew Lee Creech, whom I had the chance to interview during rehearsal for his world premiere play Last Drive to Dodge (directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton at Taproot Theatre, Sept. 22 - Oct. 21).

I had a blast chatting with Andrew about the play, which depicts Black cowboy culture in 1880s Texas. A history buff, Andrew explained that African Americans made up some 25% of cowboys after Emancipation — a reality that has been largely absent from pop culture and history books. 

You can catch our conversation in the latest episode of Crosscut Now. And stay tuned for more artist spotlights coming soon.

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