ArtSEA: Seattle art spaces for solace and contemplation

Plus, picks for ‘Refract,’ the Northwest glass art festival, and a floating installation of nature as medicine.

photo of a huge yellow room with stained glass panels running down the center and sides

A new installation by Raúl de Nieves fills the Henry Art Gallery with light, color and contemplation. (Jonathan Vanderweit)

It’s been a tumultuous week so I’m recommending arts outings that support inner clarity and finding connection with something larger than ourselves.

We’ll start with a light-filled new show at the Henry Art Gallery. Created by Mexico-born, Brooklyn-based artist Raúl de Nieves, A window to the see, A spirit star chiming in the wind of wonder (through Aug. 25, 2024) has a cosmic title that’s also a pretty accurate description of the installation. 

Drenching the lower-level galleries in warm yellow light, the piece welcomes visitors to sit and stay a while. Lie back on one of several angled benches — covered in some 3,000 pounds of carpeting to soften your landing — and take in the kaleidoscopic vision above: 21 large window panels brought to life with geometric patterns, wild faces and vivid hues. 

Created with simple acetate and tape, the panels have a convincing “stained glass” effect, especially as positioned: like giant retractable glass garage doors over the Henry’s huge skylights. The many colors catch the light and shine it downward, adding to the sense of sanctuary.

You’ll note echoes of Tarot cards, Catholicism, mythology, drag performance and Mexican craft traditions — all working together to bring earthlings closer to the metaphysical realm. Your guides are mysterious stationary figures, made from found materials and cast-offs from de Nieves’ previous works. One is draped in layers of elaborate fabrics; another melts into a bed laden with countless tiny baubles. 

Sit in quiet meditation or marvel at the explosion of color — either way your mind and body may feel a much-needed shift. And if the weather’s nice, pop into the James Turrell Skyspace upstairs. It’s always guaranteed to tilt your gaze skyward.

“Bold (Pacific Squid),” by Tlingit artist Raven Skyriver, is one of many glass works on view during the Refract festival. (Stonington Gallery)

If de Nieves’ take on stained glass kindles a yearning for the bright marvels of the real thing, you’re in luck: Not only is Seattle a global glass-art capital, this weekend marks the 5th edition of Refract: The Seattle Glass Experience (Oct. 12 - 15). 

At venues across the Puget Sound region, you can see hot-shop demonstrations, artist talks, open studios and exhibits — and learn about the blowing, slumping, fusing and flame-working required to make it happen. 

Included in the mix are shows by glass art legend Ginny Ruffner, who, now 40 years into her craft, is ever innovating. See how she incorporates AR technology into her hand-worked pieces in her new show at Traver Gallery: Language = Symbols, Symbols = Language (through Oct. 29). 

Also recommended, at Bainbridge Arts and Crafts, is Soft Sculpture (through Oct. 29) by Kait Rhoads, who creates leafy and reefy shapes with blown glass and weaves them onto metal armatures. Many of these organic sculptures look pulled from undersea.

And as I mentioned last week, Stonington Gallery is presenting its annual Luminosity show (through Dec. 2) featuring stars of Northwest Native glass. See especially Raven Skyriver’s glowing sea creatures. 

Refract is a good prompt to visit Tacoma’s Museum of Glass, where current shows celebrate staff picks (Family Meal) and women of neon art (She Bends), and where the hotshop demos are hot tickets.

Amiko Matsuo’s new wind-chime installation at Seattle Center is a space for reflection. (Tom Reese)

Also recommended as a grounding experience — take a walk with art. I recently checked out the new series of temporary art installations at Seattle Center (through January 2024), featuring several local works that encourage pause and reflection. 

At the east side of the Fisher Pavilion Roof, Io Palmer presents Medicinal: A Public Art Offering. This hanging mobile of hundreds of laser-cut colored plexiglass forms was inspired by the University of Washington’s medicinal herb garden (also a grounding walk!). When I visited, the pieces were catching the sun like stained glass, and twisting a bit in the breeze. Palmer writes that the piece is about “nature’s innate ability to heal, restore and thrive.”

A short walk across Seattle Center brings you to Amiko Matsuo’s Zuihitzu: Memories and Stories of Migration, an “offering” of handmade fuurin windchimes, which hang from red string along a covered walkway behind Exhibition Hall. Matsuo calls it a “visual and sonic space for reflection about the places we come from and where we come together.” It’s also a peaceful spot to stand still and listen to the soothing ceramic sounds of the chimes.

And one last sonic recommendation for personal restoration: The annual Earshot Jazz Festival (through Nov. 5) is rolling out its 35th edition across the city, this week including a performance by Seattle-rooted, Grammy-nominated supergroup säje (Oct. 13, 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall). Featuring vocalist/composers Johnaye Kendrick (the festival’s resident artist this year), Sara Gazarek, Amanda Taylor and Erin Bentlage, säje is all about putting things back in harmony.

Get the latest in local arts and culture

This weekly newsletter brings arts news and cultural events straight to your inbox.

By subscribing, you agree to receive occasional membership emails from Crosscut/Cascade Public Media.

Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors