Having lived here all of my adult life, Seattle has played a huge role in shaping me and helping me find my voice as an artist.
I first moved to Seattle so I could study painting at the University of Washington. I lived in a downtown loft space on the corner of Seventh Avenue and Virginia sharing the building with musicians, sculptors, filmmakers, writers, photographers, and painters. I took classes from influential professors like Jacob Lawrence, Michael Spafford, and Curt Labitzke who helped guide me as a young artist.
Over the years, I’ve spent countless hours sketching in cafes around the U-district and in restaurants and bars throughout the city. I was drawn to the vibrant neighborhoods of Fremont and Capital Hill which fed my creativity and I found calm walking the beaches along the sound and nearby parks.
My paintings are a reflection of the people and places I have grown to know and love. I implement images from a variety of sources including sketches and photos I have taken around town over the years. I paint on vintage windows salvaged from local buildings being transformed. As I repair glazing or touch up the wood frames, I think about the history and stories behind the window and what was seen through the glass. I like the depth that this adds to each of my paintings.
Next time you’re downtown, stop by SAM and enjoy some time with my cast of characters on display at TASTE through August 6.
Seattle and the surrounding area means many things to many people. Even among the artists whose work is on display in Inside Game at SAM Gallery, there are varied reactions to relocating here or living on the outskirts of this still slightly wild city. From the subdued silence of Seattle compared to Texas, to the striking shades of green crowding the San Juan Islands, the locale has a distinct impact on the inspirations and introspection of local artists. See for yourself with a visit to SAM Gallery to see work from the artists in Inside Game, on view through May 6.
I remember when I first visited Seattle five years ago deciding if we wanted to live here, we arrived early to a restaurant, sitting with my back to the empty patio. After our two-hour lunch, I turned around to a patio packed with people, but it was still so quiet I was shocked. No hootin’ and hollerin’ like back in Texas. And that has been my experience here. Everyone keeps to themselves. Daily life on public transit everyone is silent. No nods hello from acquaintances on the street. This in turn magnifies the tons of daydreaming I do since I’m not talking. So the work I’ve made while in Seattle is very introspective. The result is from concentrated ideas that have been in my head like salt water taffy moving over and over, changing a little, but tracing an obsessive path in my brain. I always wait with anticipation to see how people will respond to my work, because these are my images based on ideas based on daydreams with vague appearances from things in my life. The artist community here has been super welcoming, so this is my attempt to connect with my other fellow Seattleites.
I live and paint in a rural outpost of Seattle—San Juan Island—where I have dwelt upon the same piece of land for over 35 years. Our house is in a clearing in the woods. Vegetation overflows around us: fir trees, cedars, alders, maples, willows, thickets of salmonberry and elderberry, wetland grasses, nettles. Summer brings endless shades of green. In winter, we are presented with all sorts of bare branches crisscrossing, fallen limbs and trees, trees broken off and still standing. It is a cacophony of messy nature. There are no vistas: all is seen from a close-up viewpoint, all the edges, the complexity along those edges. Nothing stands out as a focal point. One never quite knows where to look. So, one just keeps looking, here, there, here again, eyes always in motion. The eye gathers all those disparate bits of vision, flickering, changing, moving, and somehow assembles them into a semblance of unity. These particular paintings of mine in Inside Game are exactly that way.
Images: Lambent Rabble, Elizabeth Lopez, 48 x 36 in., mixed media on canvas. Owl Light, Dana Roberts, 48.5 x 52 in., oil on linen.
Seattle is that rare location where it isn’t trite to make conversation about the weather. Right now it’s that time of year where elsewhere in the world the sun is beginning to shine again, but in Seattle the sky is still a solid grey. SAM Gallery artist, Laura Van Horne doesn’t mind the muted monochrome of Seattle in the spring. Instead, she feels it is the perfect backdrop for the colorful paintings she currently has on display at TASTE Café. Learn more about the artist and see her paintings on view through May 6. If a pop of color is what you need in your life right now, consider renting or buying art from SAM Gallery.
I grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and moved to Seattle, WA in 1994. During my schooling I spent several winters in North Dakota, Boston and New York, so was thrilled to move to mild-weathered Seattle. I am not bothered by the rainy season here in the Pacific Northwest, as it gives me a perfect excuse to spend the day inside, painting at my studio. I feel my work is greatly influenced by my surroundings. Living in Seattle is breathtakingly beautiful. I love to go for walks and photograph everything around me, and am especially drawn to the trees, which frequently show up collaged into my encaustic paintings. My body of work is often abstract and landscape inspired with lots of layering.
The Geode Series, which is on display now at TASTE Café in the SAM is packed full of color which is in contrast to the gray palate of Seattle. Gray is the perfect backdrop for these pops of color. These abstract paintings have evolved from years of experimentation with an elixir of inks, pigments, paints, and resin used on a variety of substrates. The result appears organic and scientific with geodes, human cells, irises and orbs coming to mind.
Images: Kiwi Cocktail, 2018, Laura Van Horne, encaustic, ink, metal on board. Courtesy of the artist.
Seattle is often cited as a great place to live because of the ease of access to the outdoors. With mountains encroaching on the city’s skyline from every direction and terrains ranging from rain forest to desert in the state of Washington, it’s easy to understand why we’ve got a reputation as a city of landscape painters and nature poets. In Outside Influences, on view in SAM Gallery through April 4, Dan Hawkins, Ryan Molenkamp, Kate Protage, and Chris Sheridan depict both the cityscape as well as our moss and stone backyard—taking their inspiration from everything outside themselves and filtering it through their particular medium to create unique and striking scenes of Seattle and its surroundings. This artwork begs for reflection on the artist life in Seattle and Molenkamp provides.
When I moved to Seattle in 2001 to pursue an art career it didn’t make a lot of sense . . . frankly moving anywhere to pursue an art career didn’t make a lot of sense, but I had the bug, the itch, and I found Seattle to be a welcoming place to grow. The city was full of artists and galleries and a lot of DIY spaces to show art, but it always felt like it had a chip on its’ shoulder. Very little attention was ever given to what was happening here, unless it was in music. But the scene was tight. I remember in particular during the recession years strong unity among artists in this town. If no one was going to buy art at least we could all go out and support each other over 2-buck-chuck and a Rainier. Those days have given way to a more expensive Seattle, one that has priced out a lot of artists and venues. At the same time the new Seattle is full of opportunity for artists to actually make a living at this business. The success of the Seattle Art Fair, as well as the continued success of galleries like SAM Gallery and Linda Hodges Gallery (plug—I show with Linda, too) shows that this city is ready to be more than a forgotten corner of the art world. I’m excited to have a small voice in the conversation that gives me the privilege to pursue a career in the city I love.
Image: Cascade 7, 2018, Ryan Molenkamp, acrylic on panel, 40 x 34 in.
What does it mean to be local in a city that is rapidly growing? This month hear from two of SAM Gallery’s newest artists whose work is on view in New Art, New Artists through February 5. One of these artists transplanted to Seattle four years ago and the other comes from a family that has lived here for four generations. Hear how Seattle influences the creative output of these artists and then come see work by some of SAM Gallery’s newest regional artists in all their complexity, interest, and beauty, regardless of where they are from.
Having moved from Austin, Texas to the Pacific Northwest four years ago to pursue a career in the tech industry, I wouldn’t say that my work is specifically inspired by Seattle—Though I do try to create work that is as complex and layered as the city I now call home. My paintings explore the intersection between abstraction and meaning. Abstract assemblages with recognizable reference points. I think of them as earnest attempts at condensing rich, complex subject matter down to drips of paint through juxtaposing traditional abstract expressionist painting methods with cartography, proofreader’s marks, and amateur roadside museum techniques of display, classification, and critique.
I’m a fourth generation Seattleite, most comfortable in a mossy wet forest in the fog, on a darkening late-November afternoon, even. My paintings explore complexity in the forest, analyzing the layers of plant growth we see all around us in the Pacific Northwest. I have a studio at Magnuson Park where I’m surrounded by soccer families, dog walkers, and artists. Every day I see people doing healthy things together, and I truly appreciate how Seattle values this. Showing at SAM Gallery only amplifies my pride of place. It’s a hub for art lovers. I’m meeting new people and enjoying Seattle’s active social media community. I love that our SAM Gallery show coincided with Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect, whose work is an enduring influence on me. I remember seeing an image of Helga Testorf in a book in my Nathan Hale High School art class. Helga’s braids! I couldn’t get enough. Last week I looked so closely at Wyeth’s brushwork I nearly broke the barrier that would set off an alarm. I should be more careful, but I just love the art that much. Resources like SAM help me to dream of the paintings I’ll make next.
We emigrated to Seattle from England in 2001. My new environment certainly changed my art making—from small realist watercolor paintings, to large bold abstract renderings. I feel that shift was largely due to scale, for a start the walls are so much bigger here, and I can move a 48 x 60″ canvas in my car! Seattle embodies an abundance of extremes and contradictions that generates a rich influence and narrative for art making. From a very young age I had always made, played, and explored. I feel this has continued to be present in my art practice. I have always allowed myself the freedom of discovery through “mistakes”. For me, there are no wrong choices when making art, I trust in my intuition and value those unexpected awkward marks that can only present themselves when you truly surrender to the process.
Images: Act V, Romeo & Juliet Abstract, Jason Gouliard, paint and mixed media on paper under plexiglass, 12 x 24 in. Fort Casey Big Data, Patty Haller oil on panel, 36 x 24 in. Follow your lead, 2017, Anna Macrae, oil and mixed medium, 48 x 48 in.
Seattle is one of those rare places where it isn’t considered droll to talk about the weather. The SAM Gallery artists in ColorExcursion, on view December 8 through January 7, offer an escape from grey days into exuberant artwork. Below, three of the artists in this show share the ways that living in Seattle and the surrounding area impact the way they see the world. For such a moody and dramatic locale, you may be surprised by their vibrant, lively work. If you’re looking to recharge your senses, come to SAM Gallery for the Color Excursion Opening Reception on Thursday December 7, talk to the artists about their work, and find out how you can rent or buy artwork from SAM Gallery.
This year I moved from Green Lake to Whidbey Island. Previously my work originated from a contemplative state of creation. I found inspiration through travel and memory and emotions but now living on Whidbey, I’m in it. On the island your surroundings are constantly in flux. The winds whip in and carry things away, the storms batter the shoreline leaving treasures on the beach. The nights are deep and dark and full of creatures. Everything feels alive and in a state of change. The beauty and the drama of my surroundings constantly barrage my eyes and fill my brain with endless creative ideas and the solitude of the island allows these ideas to come to fruition in my studio.
When invited to make a body of work for Color Excursion, I was elated. I’m addicted to color. I mix my own colors using wax and powdered pigments and when working with this medium it becomes something else, something more tactile. It’s hard to explain, it’s like I’m making a soup but I’m loading it with saturated color until it’s thick, and I want to eat it. That’s what initially drew me to encaustic painting and I think it’s what draws people to want to touch an encaustic painting.
The use of color in my work is an unapologetic form of escapism from the long stretches of grey weather that continually blankets my Pacific Northwest home. Each year my palette of luminous, unnatural hues provides a defiant objection to winter’s approach. Pulsing fluorescent paints massage the naked eye with ultraviolet light, creating an energized glow impervious to dull environments. Maroon does not belong to me. Tubes of brown remain unopened. There is safety in muteness. My paintings speak to extroversion, experimentation, and play. Through color, I aim to activate.
Color Excursion immediately brought to mind the idea of travel, taking an excursion lavish with color. My work in this show was inspired by a trip to South America one year ago. Although the paintings for this show do not reflect Seattle, much of my work is inspired by my daily routines and surroundings. For example, the Across the Lake, Cloud Dreams, Inside a Cloud, and Inside a Leaf series are all the result of my daily walks in my Seattle neighborhood.
I let my experiences germinate and then abstract them on the canvas, translating a memory of a place or an experience. I work in layers of color and compose the image while working. My paintings are oil on canvas or board. Working with oil means that each layer needs to have a bit of time to dry before the next layer can be applied. I find that when I return to the piece it changes and evolves in surprising ways.
This new work at SAM Gallery is from a series of unique digital mixed media prints called the Gardeners Journal. The nature of the Northwest has always been a part of my life having grown up in eastern Washington. With this body of work, it becomes a touchstone away from the tech-focused culture of our evolving city. My digital print studio keeps me in front of a computer monitor much of the time. As a retreat from the stream of social media I find refuge out my window, a slight turn of the head away from the monitor. I have found the organic shapes and colors of my garden to be a creative counterpoint to the drone of data. By exploring abstracted shapes and forms found in nature, this new work provides endless metaphors and narratives and visually blend the creative tools of traditional art making with new digital possibilities to find a balanced voice in the moods and aesthetics of the region.
Images: Detail of Leslie Stoner’s studio, photo: Alison Blomgren. Afterglow Two, Liz Tran, 30 x 24 in., mixed media on panel. Easter Island, Chile, Sheryl Westergreen, 36 x 36 in., oil on canvas. Like a garden splashed across the landscape, Stephen Rock, 36 x 36 in., pigmented print, watercolor, gouache.
The days are officially getting darker and the work on view the current SAM Gallery show is embracing it. Hanging in the ground floor SAM Gallery is Darks and Lights, featuring Enid Smith Becker, Deborah Bell, Nick Brown, Nichole DeMent, and Barbara Shaiman. The artists in this show contrast darks and lights as autumn turns to winter. Nature’s cycles, retreating to our roots, and finding home are all explored by our premier Northwest artists. Hear from two of the featured artists on what living and working in Seattle means to them and see the show yourself before it closes on November 19. SAM Gallery represents many local artists whose work you can rent or buy. This is one of the numerous ways that Seattle Art Museum supports the arts—by supporting artists.
Enid Smith Becker
My work explores our relationship with the land, time, and space. Despite the different ways each of us approach a place, the land and its beauty is always there. As I paint, I begin with the natural space and into that I layer the rectilinear forms that represent human impact on nature and the different ways that each of us sees the world. One of the things that draws people to Seattle is its natural beauty. As a Northwest native I spend a lot of time outdoors. The paintings in the show Darks and Lights are inspired by places in Washington that we visit on the weekend.
In my work, I am inspired the colors and textures of the natural world. I work in acrylic, but I also build real texture through the inclusion of art paper, junk mail, plant matter, loose-weave cloth, and thread. The constructive nature of combining paint and collage appeals to me. The layering of paint, natural and man-made materials becomes a kind of a metaphorical rebuilding of the land.
As a ceramic artist whose work references our natural environment and the affect of human activity on it, living in the Northwest plays a pivotal role in my imagery and ideas. Memories of the rock forms, arches, and cave entrances found in La Push and other areas of the Northwest coastline greatly influence my work.
Our relatively easy access to the ocean and mountains is a major part of my love of Seattle, but I also value the intellectual and artistic stimulation of the city. Environmental justice issues are important to me, as are climate change and sustainability. While being at the coast inspires my awe and my imagery, an evening talking with friends in the city reminds me that we have a lot of work to do to conserve the beauty of our area and enable our neighbors and future generations to enjoy it as well.
While referencing issues such as climate change and the intersection of natural and human-made environments, I prefer the work to be enigmatic, not to try to supply answers but to encourage us to think about our relationship to the environment with a somewhat altered vision.
Image: Planes, Enid Smith Becker, acrylic on canvas, 36 x 48 in. Transition Arch, Barbara Shaiman, glazed stoneware, 15.5 x 16 X 5 in. Photo: Hernan Celis
Hear from Harold Hollingsworth, the artist whose work is hanging at TASTE Café in SAM on adulthood and art life in ever-changing Seattle. See how the textures of travel, the shapes of imagination, and the colors of Seattle’s urban ephemera all combine into the abstract and graphic work of this talented SAM Gallery artist. On view through February 4, all the artworks on view in TASTE are available for purchase and SAM members have the option to rent to buy!
The question as to being an artist in Seattle is a ever fluid one in my case. I’ve been here most of my adult life so it’s part of me and I feel a part of her. The city, like myself, is in a constant state of change, trying out new things, celebrating when it can, and admitting mistakes the best it can, openly. I use the city as a partner in collaboration, seeing graphics I can borrow, from a wall with paint or flyers, or a sign coming apart ever so beautifully. I travel away from her from time to time, seeking new inspiration from other places or cities, but I always return and see her again in a new and dynamic way. I’ve had studios in the center of the city and to the south and now the north of her. These places contribute to my work in small and ongoing ways. I keep my eyes open when I move around the city whether on a bike, on foot, or in a car. My camera is always ready for an assist, a sample of something I can use in a new painting—there’s always something available to those who stay attentive.
Have you read the recent Fall Arts Report, State of the Arts feature in the Seattle Times? The current show hanging at SAM Gallery features three artists whose artwork grapples with Seattle’s layers of history and industry. On view through October 15, Industrial Strength is a visual meditation on the objects, jobs, and people that shape the city. We’ve invited our SAM Gallery artists to get personal and offer their own state of the arts and how it impacts (or doesn’t) their creative output. Hear from Iskra Johnson, Kate Protage, and Kellie Talbot on how Seattle has helped, hindered, and influenced them and their artwork. Each of these artists utilizes the cityscape in their paintings and is fascinated by the unique underbelly of Seattle—from the texture of a wheat-paste wall, to the blur of rain reflections, to long-gone landmarks—Johnson, Protage, and Talbot are paying attention to their surroundings and sharing their thoughts on them with you below.
I am a Seattle native and an unapologetic descendent of the Northwest Mystics. I like the sense of being on the edge of the continent and the brooding state of contemplation the natural environment inspires. The frontier also defines the ethics of my social interactions. I see conversation as a practice of risk-taking improvisation, and my personal motto has always been talk to strangers, how else are you going to make new friends? If I had an MFA I could call this “social practice” and get a grant for walking down the street, but unfortunately it’s just my way of being. I was born with a New York personality in a city of impenetrable Nordic reserve.
My work documenting construction sites might really just be about talking to somebody: these men in orange vests with stickers on their hats are the only people on the street not looking at their phones. Although my prints may look like pure contemplations of inanimate beauty, beneath the architectural structure is a confrontation with urban alienation and a path to transform it. All of my work involves photography in the field, and a bit of personal risk. My favorite social practice moment happened a few weeks ago when I was photographing a fire hydrant. A man shouted at me from across the street, are you that girl who takes pictures of fire hydrants? I saw you here last year. He then told me he has never seen fire hydrants the same way. That made my day.
I left the corporate marketing world to become a full-time painter about 15 years ago. I live a smaller life now, but it’s a good life, and I’m doing what I love.
I couldn’t do it without Jody and the team at the SAM Gallery. They are so good at what they do that I struggle to keep up! I just focus on creating new work, and they handle everything else with ease and grace. Now if I could only figure out how to create faster! Budget, convenience, inspiration . . . all of these factors play into an artist’s ability to create. A home studio offers convenience, but a studio that’s part of a larger artist community can be a great source of inspiration. It turns out that for me, the best solution is a little of both. My husband Chris (also an artist) and I have work spaces at home, but we also share a small space at Equinox Studios in Georgetown, where we’ve found an incredible support system and a strong sense of community. One of my favorite things about Seattle is that a wide array of artistic trends are considered acceptable and cool. I’m surrounded by talent that reveals itself in a variety of shapes and forms and I feel encouraged to develop my own voice. Hearing that a painting of mine is the first piece of original artwork that someone has purchased is an amazing feeling. It is such a privilege and honor to be the catalyst for creating a new collector.
Making art is not just fun: I work longer hours now than I ever did as a marketer, and it’s hard work. As Seattle has become entrenched as a technology and e-commerce hub, our population has grown by leaps and bounds. I know some the challenges that this brings: as a perpetual renter, I’ve had to move further and further from the “popular” parts of town because they’re no longer affordable or accessible. But that population bump also brings more opportunities to connect and succeed as an artist. We live in a city where the possibilities are wide open.
In the 28 years that I’ve lived in Seattle I’ve witnessed dramatic changes to the city. Being a professional artist will always have its challenges. Gone are the days of cheap rent but now we see art walks in every neighborhood—there’s even a touring art bus—so I feel the community has come a long way in supporting local artists. Because of my subject matter, I miss the blue-collar economy of the past—airplanes, fishing, ship building. I miss the general surliness of old Seattle. But this new economy has done more than raise housing costs. It has enabled working artists to sell locally and be a part of a vibrant art scene. The days of the Northwest School seem very romantic but I’m sure that is hindsight. I know they struggled with rent and the cost of living too. There will always be the challenge of balancing earning a living and being able to afford living in the city.