ArtSEA: Nirvana’s back on stage in a new photobook and art show

Plus, NW glass artists are ‘Blown Away’ on Netflix, Lily Gladstone’s up for an Oscar and local musicians are jamming across the city.

a black and white photo of the rock band Nirvana performing on stage

The new book “Charles Peterson’s Nirvana” includes the Seattle photographer’s famous and never-before-seen band photos. The launch is accompanied by two visual-art shows. (Charles Peterson via Tacoma Art Museum)

Even if you never went to a Nirvana show in Seattle, you probably have a sense of it: the raw performance and furious sound, the primordial pulse of the mosh pit, the smell of stale Olympia Beer and sweat.

That cultural memory lives on thanks in large part to Charles Peterson, the Longview-born, Bothell-raised, UW-educated photographer who documented Nirvana and other bands as grunge was just beginning to bloom. 

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In these electric black-and-white captures, the musicians are often moving — their faces or limbs blurred, the glint of a guitar stretched into a flame. And while many of his images are recognizable, for the new documentary photobook Charles Peterson’s Nirvana (from local Minor Matters press), the artist focused on photos never before published. 

This meant poring over thousands of negatives from the 1980s and 1990s and selecting those that best reflected his “visceral memories” of live performance. 

Accompanying the book’s release is a new gallery show Dive with Me: Artists Re-Envisioning the Nirvana Prints of Charles Peterson (March 7 - 30; open for First Thursday art walk and Saturdays 1 - 4 p.m). Hosted in Occidental Square’s new Hometeam complex (a buzzy restaurant/sneaker shop/gallery combo), the show brings this time capsule of images into the present with new works that take the photos as a jumping off point.

For “THE PIT (After Charles Peterson),” Seattle artist Anthony White traced and encased an original print in layers of PLA plastic. (Brangien Davis/Cascade PBS)

The 13 invited artists chose prints from a Peterson-selected pool and went to town. Seattle artist Victoria Haven chose an image of Kurt Cobain leaping mid-performance, his legs bent back with shins parallel to the stage. She surrounded him with gem-like geometry in painter’s-tape blue and called it “Kurt Shaped Box.” In this protective bubble, he resembles an astronaut hovering over the barren surface of the moon. 

Ceramicist Jeffry Mitchell picked a shot of the band happily holding flowers in a field, and surrounded it in a sweet porcelain frame with a picket fence. Baso Fibonacci selected an iconic Peterson photo — snapped in the millisecond when Cobain was playing upside down — and turned it pointillist, heightening its magical realism. Muralist Rick Klu, who died in October, covered several black-and-white photos in graffiti-style shapes and squiggles, adding color and punch. 

And painter Anthony White, known for creating images crowded with colorful pop-culture detritus, applied his layered-plastic technique to a floor-level shot of the crowd reaching up to catch a stage diver. “I liked the perspective from the pit,” he told me at the preview. “I felt like, ‘That could be me.’”

Heads up: Peterson will have another show of his Nirvana photographs at Tacoma Art Museum in the fall (Oct. 5 - May 25, 2025), so keep your Doc Martens and whack slacks at the ready.

Season 4 of glassblowing reality competition “Blown Away” features three local competitors. (Netflix)

Several current Seattle art stars are shining on the national stage this month — though hopefully aren’t yet experiencing the complications of fame that Cobain famously struggled with. 

I remember several years ago, when I first heard Netflix was doing a glassblowing reality series called Blown Away, I thought it was a silly idea. Yet here I am, totally addicted and amped for Season 4 (which premieres March 8). And why not? Beyond the standard reality show pulp there are inherent thrills in the artmaking process — including gloopy molten glass and meticulous creations slipping and crashing to the ground. 

Plus, thanks to Seattle’s status as a haven for glass art, there are always local competitors to cheer on. 

This year the field of 10 includes three Puget Sounders: Karen Willenbrink-Johnson, from Bow, creator of delicate bird sculptures; Ryan Blythe, from Vashon Island, known for his collaborations with Tiffany & Co.; and Morgan Peterson, from Seattle, whose edgy creations include “Modern Day Fabergé” egg sculptures featuring images of Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, and Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks

In addition to rooting for this local crew, watch for a special guest judge appearance by Michelle Bufano, executive director of Chihuly Garden and Glass.

And we may have another reality star in our midst: fleet-footed local tap dancer Cipher Goings, who is one of 100 hopefuls in the new season of So You Think You Can Dance (on Fox). Goings wasn’t among the auditions shown during the premiere last week, but keep an eye out — and fingers crossed — for him as the auditions proceed on Monday nights. Meanwhile, catch a glimpse of this talented tapper.

Lest we forget: The Oscars are this weekend (March 10), and up for a Best Actress Award is Lily Gladstone, who took her first acting classes as a preteen at Seattle’s Stone Soup Theatre, studied drama at Mountlake Terrace High School and later directed summer shows for local Native youth theater group Red Eagle Soaring

Gladstone, who is Blackfeet and Nimi’iipu, has already won Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe awards for her performance as Osage woman Mollie Burkhart in Killers of the Flower Moon. Could the first Native American nominated for a competitive Oscar take home a golden statuette? Her Mountlake Terrace classmates thought so — 20 years ago she was named “Most Likely to Win an Oscar” and has the yearbook photo to prove it. 

Seattle cellist Gretchen Yanover is celebrating her fifth album with two concerts. (Jennifer Richard)

We’ll complete our foray into local fame with a few upcoming music shows, which may or may not inspire stage diving. 

The Clock-Out Lounge is hosting an International Women’s Day Showcase (March 8 at 8 p.m.) with a killer local lineup, featuring Carrie Akre, Star Anna, Brittany Davis, Kim Virant, Dejha and Kathy Moore.

Legendary Seattle trombonist Julian Priester (whom we profiled in Black Arts Legacies, Season 2) returns to his ongoing Julian Speaks series at the new Seattle Jazz Fellowship venue in Pioneer Square (March 9 at 1 p.m.). Expect stories from his days collaborating with the likes of Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Dinah Washington, Sun Ra and Herbie Hancock.

Longtime local cellist and composer Gretchen Yanover is celebrating the release of her fifth album, Holding/Movement, with several performances, including two this weekend at Octave 9 (March 8 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.). Accompanied by lush video from Ahren Buhmann, it’s the perfect way to experience Seattle Symphony’s intimate and high-tech downstairs venue. 

And if you can’t get enough of Yanover’s gorgeous looping electric cello vibes, her official album release concert is happening at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute (March 24 at 2 p.m.), accompanied by dancers and the poetry of local writers Luther Hughes, Quenton Baker, Jourdan Imani Keith and others.

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