ArtSEA: 10 photo shows that bring light to Seattle’s dark days

Plus, holiday art markets and craft fairs in Georgetown, South Lake Union, Beacon Hill and Magnuson Park.

black and white photo of trees in fog with a mysterious figure at lower right

Preston Wadley’s “Nocturne, Volunteer Park” is part of his show ‘The Dark Season’ at Cornish College’s Behnke Family Gallery. (Courtesy of the artist)

Given the short days and abysmal weather, exhibits with titles like The Dark Season, The Light that Gets Lost and Black Sun feel almost too on-the-nose. But these are among a deluge of fantastic photography shows currently on view, so let’s go with the flow of the atmospheric river. 

Though planned many months ago, Preston Wadley’s new show feels particularly timely. The Dark Season, on view through Jan. 12 at Cornish College’s many-windowed Behnke Family Gallery, showcases the longtime local art professor’s moody black-and-white landscapes and city scenes. 

Wadley — whose excellent photo/sculpture show Abstract Truth remains up at Bellevue Arts Museum through the end of the year — presents some familiar places: the arched steel underpinnings of the Aurora Bridge, pilings doubled in the reflection of a lake, foggy treescapes. 

It feels like a mirror of our current damp-o-sphere, but many of the shots were taken during the height of COVID-19. “This collection of photographs is not so much a ‘body of work’ as it is ‘the work’ of my body moving through the ether of the pandemic during lockdown,” Wadley notes in his artist statement. We feel their immediacy too, as we move our own bodies through wet Northwest winter.

You’ll find darkness of a different sort in Vantage Points, an exhibit of shadowy photographs by Tim Roda (at Greg Kucera Gallery through Dec. 23). Shot in black and white and often featuring the artist and his son, these staged family scenes straddle the line between unsettling and amusing — kinda like those vintage photos of terrifying Easter Bunnies

Roda uses costuming, collage and clay (he has an MFA in ceramics from UW) to achieve his theatrical tableaus, which he says are “filled with metaphorical reverberations of my own memories of childhood and family traditions.”

Photographer Søren Solkær’s “Black Sun #75,” captures a starling murmuration in Catalonia, Spain. (National Nordic Museum)

Memory — and its mysterious machinations — throbs in the photos in the current group show at AMcE Creative Arts on Capitol Hill. As I Saw It (through Jan. 14) showcases the work of several artists who take photos as a leaping-off point for their work:

Los Angeles artist Diane Meyer embroiders rectilinear patches directly onto family photos, blurring out faces with fuzzy pixels of thread. Jan Waldon takes needle to paper as well. The self-taught Bentonville, Arkansas, artist sews elaborate patterns onto her own travel photos as a way to get a grip on their emotional charge. And, employing another method of mending, Seattle artist Daphne Minkoff photographs condemned and dilapidated local houses and preserves their presence in paint and collaged paper.

Opening this weekend at the National Nordic Museum, Søren Solkær: Sort Sol (Dec. 9 - Mar. 10; artist talk Dec. 10, 2 p.m.) is a truly soaring show, exhibiting some 50 photographs and videos of starling murmurations, captured over several years by the Danish artist. “Sort Sol,” which translates to “Black Sun,” refers to this endlessly fascinating natural phenomenon — and the fact that an avian swarm can amass the power and wonder of dark clouds.

As I mentioned last month, Seattle artist Selena Kearney’s photographs are a jarring juxtaposition of formal presentation and consumer kitsch. For Object/Ritual (at Solas Gallery in Pioneer Square through Jan. 20) the Chehalis artist sources stereotypical “Indian” costumes and photographs them in black-backed box frames. 

Kearney’s archival-style documentation of commercially produced plastic masks, fake headdresses and other faux regalia emphasizes the objects’ crude mimicry — as well as, she says, her own complicated feelings about wearing the traditional garb of her ancestors. (See more of this project in the new book Every Object Has a Ritual from local photography press Minor Matters Books.)

Price Harrison’s “Eclipse,” on view at a new art space in Madrona. (Spectrum Gallery)

At Koplin Del Rio Gallery in Georgetown, Seattle photographer Eirik Johnson is showing beautifully bleak landscapes in The Light That Gets Lost (through Jan. 20). To create these Arctic diptychs, Johnson photographed the same series of hunting cabins in Utqiaġvik (formerly known as Barrow), Alaska, in both summer and winter. The seasonal differences are stunning, as makeshift plywood bunkers attain white-out wonder in heavy snow. Bonus: the only precipitation here is the frozen sort.

You’ll find sunnier scenes at the new Spectrum Gallery, a bright, compact space that opened on Madrona’s main drag in late September. The current show, Idiomatic (through Dec. 28; open house Dec. 16, 12 - 6 p.m.), features the crisp, colorful photography of Nashville artist and architect Price Harrison. With a hyper-realistic glow, the images reflect American pop culture as seen in carnival rides, fireworks watchers, parking lots and a curious cat-show banner.

Mid-century photographer Chao-Chen Yang (1909-1969) made it his mission to expand the possibilities of full-color photos. The influential but little-known Seattle artist is now the subject of an overdue retrospective: Full Light and Perfect Shadow: The Photography of Chao-Chen Yang (through Feb. 11 at Cascadia Art Museum in Edmonds). 

Yang started in a diplomatic career, serving as chancellor of the Chinese Consulate in Chicago and then Seattle after moving to the U.S. from China in the 1930s. But he managed to study art simultaneously, and in Seattle eventually left the consulate to pursue photography. 

A committed member of the Seattle Photographic Society, Yang made groundbreaking strides in color processing and earned national awards. He served as director of the Northwest Institute of Photography and ran his own color lab. Yet this is the first solo exhibit of his work — portraits and urban scenes that feel highly contemporary. It comes thanks to Yang’s son, who donated hundreds of pieces. 

And at Ballard’s window-only gallery Das Schaufenster, Seattle artist Granite Calimpong reconsiders the art form itself. Known for his glass and ceramic sculptural work, in Postern (through Dec. 28) he uses the storefront window panes as frames that pose questions. 

“I am interested in the idea that an object can give an abstracted representation of a moment,” Calimpong writes, “... an abstracted version of the light and color that exists beyond the frame.” The dully reflective, rectangular easel he handbuilt and placed in different landscapes captures less the reflection of a place than its misty aura.

German artist Anna Mlasowsky, who founded Das Schaufenster as a pandemic project, has said the gallery’s name translates as “viewing window” or “looking-at window” — essentially the role of a photograph.

Diane Meyer’s “New Jersey XIII,” an embroidered snapshot, is in the group show ‘As I Saw It.’ (AMcE Creative Arts) 

Holiday Art Markets

Every time I think I have my list of holiday art markets finalized, another one pops into my inbox. While it’s tough on a newsletter writer, this is a good thing — it means you have a zillion options for buying locally created art and crafts during this crazed season. Behold, a (partial!) list of art markets, craft fairs and studio open houses happening this weekend.

Winter Market at South Lake Union, Van Vorst Plaza, Dec. 7 - 8, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Wing Luke Holiday Market, Chinatown-International District, Dec. 9, 11 a.m. - 3 p.m.

Renegade Craft Fair, Magnuson Park, Dec. 9 - 10, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Holiday Pop-up at galleries Fresh Mochi and The Grocery, Beacon Hill, Dec. 9 - 10

Holiday Art Market at Side Rail Collective in Georgetown, Dec. 9 (during Georgetown Art Attack)

Housewright Gallery Artisan Holiday Collective, Georgetown, Mon. - Sat. through Dec. 23

Equinox Studios Holiday Pop-up, Georgetown, Fri. - Sun through Dec. 24

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