ArtSEA: On the prowl for fresh Seattle art shows

Plus, extreme beachcombing, light displays in Pioneer Square and art for the eclipse.

a red, black and light blue painting of a bear's head in the formline tradition

“Papa Bear” by Maynard Johnny, Jr. is part of the new show “On the Hunt.” (Stonington Gallery)

It’s the First Thursday in April, which means time for the Pioneer Square art walk. Among the new shows opening this month is On the Hunt at Stonington Gallery (through April 27), a group exhibit showcasing all types of hunters and huntees as depicted by contemporary Indigenous artists.

You’ll find the formline work of Coast Salish artist Maynard Johnny Jr., whose “Papa Bear” reflects his signature bold colors. See also his “Eagle’s Catch,” in which the raptor is juuust about to bite into a salmon. Aleut artist Heather Johnston shares several works painted on vintage maps of Alaska, such as “The Great Race,” in which a canoer, an orca and pod of sea lions appear paused in a moment of seaborne drama. 

Aleut/Haida/Tsimshian artist Allie High’s earth-toned serigraphs include a leaping snowshoe hare, a contented bear post-blueberry snack and “Courage,” which depicts a “fighting octopus” inside a halibut and is an homage to cancer survivors. And Tlingit/Haida artist Paul Rowley presents a backpack, a clam bag and fishing nets, all exquisitely hand-woven from red and yellow cedar — and ready to scoop up sustenance.

Seeing Rowley’s nets reminded me of a short documentary I recently caught while on my own hunt … for something to watch (a hunt once known as channel surfing). Extreme Beachcombing, released on YouTube in February by Danish filmmaker Christian Klintholm, is an utterly charming 16-minute portrait of John Anderson, founder and curator of the Beachcombing Museum in Forks. 

A retired plumber and avid beachcomber, Anderson has turned his former shop into an incredible showcase of the flotsam and jetsam that washes up on the western edge of Washington. Included among the finds from 40-plus years of foraging are countless colorful foam buoys (many have been made into Anderson’s outdoor sculptures), glass fishing floats, rubber boots and a large number of Japanese items that washed up after the 2011 tsunami.

Perhaps I’m the last person to know about this place, but it’s now on my list to seek out for a summer visit.

“Shine On Seattle” is a series of new Lusio Light installations in Pioneer Square, including this fluid video projection by Anthony Bassett. (Downtown Seattle Association)

If you can’t get to a beach but you’re up for a scavenger hunt of sorts, consider hitting the streets to encounter the abundance of art currently on display in urban windows. 

In celebration of National Poetry Month, Seattle Civic Poet Shin Yu Pai has orchestrated a “public poetry campaign,” featuring short works by five poets writ large across the city. Appearing in the form of posters and installations, the poems reflect the theme of sustainability. 

Included are local writers Cindy Luong, whose ode to checking out books is posted on the window of the Seattle Public Library in South Park, and Bryan Wilson, whose poem “Atmospheric River” is appealingly reproduced in large cascading banners in the windows of the Seattle Municipal Tower Gallery downtown and the Bureau of Fearless Ideas in Greenwood. (See the full map of poem locations here.) 

If you’ve recently noticed an influx of colorful lighting in Pioneer Square, you can thank Shine On Seattle, a collaboration of the Downtown Seattle Association and Lusio Light. Five new art installations are aglow in Occidental Square and nearby vacant storefronts (through April 30). Peer through the windows to see neon artist Kelsey Fernkopf’s minimalist yellow mountain (at 220 S. Jackson St.), and video artist Anthony Bassett’s lava-lamp-like storefront (at 113 First Ave. S).

More art worth window-shopping: The storefront windows at AMcE Creative Arts on Capitol Hill are currently adorned with 1950s-inflected vinyl wraps by Jennifer Vanderpool, as part of the vibrant Oh So Rosy show (through April 28). And in Ballard at Das Schaufenster — which has always been a window-only gallery — Seattle-based Polish artist Sylwia Tur presents Language Forms [...], featuring small sculptures that transform letters into a geometric code.

Lastly, in the Pratt Fine Arts exhibit window (across the street from the school in the Central District), new-to-Seattle glass artist Eriko Kobayashi is showing “Chewy Thoughts,” her delightful homage to the Gum Wall (which is significantly less gross than the real thing). “Gum and happiness,” she says, “are parallel experiences.”

“Breakwater” by Seattle artist Tim Cross. (Koplin Del Rio Gallery)

Those of us still hunting for a last-minute way to experience the total solar eclipse on Monday (April 8) are outta luck. Far from the lauded path of totality, we can merely hope for a partial glimpse — and only if the clouds clear. 

Take solar solace in the show Night Flowers by Seattle artist Tim Cross (at Koplin Del Rio Gallery through April 20). Several of these moody abstract works have a curious color, similar to that cast during the long elapse of an eclipse — at least as I experienced it in central Oregon during the 2017 event. As the sky darkened midday, familiar flora took on a strange sheen, as if lit by another celestial body: the full moon. 

Artistic Comings and Goings

< Amanda Donnan, the highly respected chief curator at Frye Art Museum, announced that her position has been eliminated, much to the dismay of the arts community.

< Jordan Jones, an artist and former exhibitions coordinator in New York, has been named the new director and curator of the Jacob Lawrence Gallery at the University of Washington. 

< Black Arts Legacies is back! In about two weeks we’ll launch Season 3 of our multimedia project highlighting the long-standing cultural contributions of Black artists in Seattle. Sign up now for the Black Arts Legacies newsletter to receive weekly reveals of each new artist in this year’s cohort, plus behind-the-scenes looks at how the effort came together.

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