Brightly colored artworks draw in and engage visitors in Kalina Wińska’s art studios. She works in a sunny room in the Equinox Building in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood and focuses on larger installation projects in a studio in Capitol Hill. In each of these spaces, Kalina’s colorful artworks create imagined worlds that explore our rapidly changing climate.
Kalina begins by pouring brightly colored media and water on yupo paper on the floor of her studio. The free-flowing quality is essential, as the media dries naturally, leaving beautiful patterns. Kalina covers areas with blocks of flat color in gouache, creating a juxtaposition of organic forms and hard edges. Kalina then begins a labor intensive and time-consuming process of layering small handmade marks. Through this meditative process, the marks accumulate to create larger shapes that resemble clouds or imagined landforms.
In creating these imagined worlds, Wińska explores how climate change is impacting our weather and adding unpredictability. She works to make this invisible concept visible for viewers, through her swirls of color and obsessive layering of marks. The tiny marks began as concentric circles of targets and have evolved into the repeated chemical symbols for the greenhouse gases methane (CH4) and carbon dioxide (CO2). The symbols are repeated thousands of times within a single work, creating larger shapes that resemble clouds, toxicity, or pollution. Each work unfolds into something unpredictable, as Wińska allows the materials to speak for themselves and develop their own layers of meaning.
See artworks by Kalina Wińska in person or online at SAM Gallery. Her work will also be on view at Meta Open Arts and the San Juan Islands Museum of Art later this summer. Learn more about SAM Gallery on Instagram by following gallery manager Erik Bennion at @atSAMGallery.
Most visitors to Seattle artist Joseph Steininger’s Pioneer Square studio are mesmerized by his walls of spray paint. On one wall, the full cans are sorted by tone and color in an organized grid system. On the opposite wall, empty cans fill open spaces, surrounding completed works. Like Joseph’s artworks, the studio’s colors are vibrant and draw attention.
Steininger’s artistic process begin with a photograph. All of his paintings originate from photos he has taken in cities around the world. Many capture landscapes in Seattle and New York City, but others include scenes from cities such as London, Florence, and Portland. For his next big trip, Joseph plans to travel to and photograph Tokyo, Japan.
Once he has decided on a photograph, Steininger digitally designs stencils based on his selection. Each artwork typically requires 14–24 stencils. He digitally color matches the stencils, prints them, and cuts them by hand with an exacto knife. Cutting the stencils is time intensive, taking up an approximate 95% of time it takes to complete a single canvas. He spray paints the stencils on panels, one layer at a time, to build an image with depth and intricate detail.
Steininger’s work is inspired by street art culture and his background in printmaking. He began his art career as a relief printmaker and implements these methods across his artworks. His art often shows urban scenes, including graffiti, infrastructure like bridges and water towers, and rail yards or train stations. Up next for the artist? Commissions for the Washington State Convention Center and Avenue 55. Plus, he’ll be participating in the celebration of SAM Gallery’s 50th Anniversary in November 2023.
Check out his artwork in person or online now at SAM Gallery and discover more featured gallery art and artists by following @AtSAMGallery on Instagram.
One of the most influential Black American artists of the 20th century, Jacob Lawrence spent the latter years of his life living and working in Seattle, serving as a professor at the University of Washington’s School of Art. In 1977, seven years after his move, Lawrence painted The Studio, depicting himself in the attic of his Seattle studio. The Studio narrates Lawrence’s artistic journey of growing up in Harlem, moving westward, and his subsequent artistic development. Outside the window, Harlem tenement buildings scatter the view, connecting his relationships between Seattle and New York. In a 2000 interview, Jacob Lawrence spoke about this painting:
Yes, that’s my studio here, in Seattle. Not in this apartment, but it’s Seattle. And this is what my studio looked like going up the steps. And my neighbor, our neighbor is an architect. And these buildings back here bring somewhat of the tenements of New York. In reality, this is an empty wall. So I decided to put that back, to use that as a sort of symbol of my thinking of the big city, of New York.1
Lawrence grew up in Harlem after his mother relocated the family there in 1930 when he was thirteen years old. Wanting to encourage her son’s creative expression, his mother enrolled him in an after-school arts program shortly after their arrival in New York. Due to financial hardships, Lawrence was unable to finish his high school education. Yet, he continued to take classes at the Harlem Art Workshop, where he was mentored by the painter Charles Alston.
Lawrence’s upbringing in Harlem was one of the most formative periods of his life, and he frequently referred to those memories and experiences in his work, regardless of his geographical location. He specialized in scenes from Black American life and culture, taking inspiration from the stories of elders within his communities and transferring them into his paintings.
While best known for his paintings of workers from various professions, The Studio offers a glimpse into his work as an artist and teacher as he welcomes the viewer into his own studio. Lawrence referred to his style of painting as “dynamic cubism,” inspired by the colors and shapes of Harlem. The Studio showcases his use of vivid colors, bold linear movements, and mastery of geometric form.
– Kari Karsten, SAM Emerging Museum Professional Curatorial Intern
“But [Cascadia Art Museum curator David F.] Martin…said he’s had issues getting major museums to accept Nomura’s work, always getting the same response: that the paintings would better fit in a Japanese historical museum. This bothers Martin, who views Nomura as an American artist. ‘He was integrated in the art society here,” he says. “Why should I separate him by his ethnicity?’”
“Although each shop shares its sensibility—and its profits—with the larger institution it is attached to, many of the smaller and funkier museum shops stuff their shelves with eccentric trinkets that echo the museum’s aesthetic more in spirit than in substance.”
Computer-generated liminal spaces and objects are familiar to video gamers—and maybe more so to those who are just not very good at video games, flailing halfway between a corner, or punching through a character that is more background than plot. These virtually possible in-between spaces become perceptible at the moment a player engages with the limits of a game’s designed environment. In Seattle-based artist Gary Hill’s video installation series Liminal Objects, however, it is within the absence of a designed environment where the computer-generated objects themselves interact, and with disregard for each other’s limits.
Each work in the series shows two black-and-white unrelated computer-generated objects on a 14-inch Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) monitor that has had its housing removed. One object is still, while the other moves back-and-forth and around, indiscriminately slicing the stationary object. In Liminal Objects #5 (1996), it is a stationary tree and a swinging chandelier. Through these shadowless animations, “Hill has avoided the spectacle of computer art and instead embraced the simple fact that the ‘program’ doesn’t care if objects penetrate each other’s solidity.”1 It’s a bit absurd, and in the case of #5, perhaps a touch romantic.
Placing the work among other video art and time-based media of its era, Liminal Objects’ sculptural presence stands out. During the 1990s, contemporary art saw a “cinematic turn,” with a proliferation of large-scale video projection within the gallery space. Video art “forged a link with cinema and its giganticism” as projected images began to engulf entire walls.2 This was a departure from the previous decade, where CRT monitors—the small boxy televisions so different from today’s large flat LCD screens—were the norm (and sometimes only option) for displaying video art. But in the 1990s, many artists sought to loosen video from default connections to sculpture and the domestic in favor of the more immersive experiences that newer technologies could support.
Hill’s Liminal Objects series doubles down on the sculptural qualities of the CRT monitor while also disengaging it from connotations with the domestic: first, by removing the monitor from its casing, thereby “exposing the circuit boards and cathode tubes, and rendering them dangerous and vulnerable sculptural objects;”3 and second, as in Liminal Objects #5, by placing the monitor vertically atop its small steel table. All of these works would originally use laser disc to play the video loops, a common format for video art at the time due to laser disc’s accuracy for synchronization and potential higher quality as compared to tape-based formats.
Engaged in a silent loop, the tree and chandelier of #5 act as ghost-like semaphores: “a compositional practice of electronic linguistics.”4 But in thinking through the considerable questions for how to continue to display such time-based artworks in the future, another riff on ‘liminal’ comes to mind. “[L]iminal or borderline states are anywhere that something is about to undergo a phase transition or turn into something else.”5 As we all know, formats will become obsolete and technology will fail (just look to your smart phone). CRT monitors are not as easily sourced today and the laser disc has long been eclipsed by the digital file.
That time-based artworks can potentially inhabit future hardware, software, and display mechanisms without losing their inherent meaning, highlights a certain liminality too. How will artists like Hill and tomorrow’s conservators imagine the “phase transition” of these works into the future?
– Mia Ferm, SAM Project Manager, Historic Media Collection
1 Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Gary Hill: Selected Works and Catalogue Raisonné (Cologne: DuMont, 2002): p. 196.
2 Laurenson, Pip, “Developing Strategies for the Conservation of Installations Incorporating Time-Based Media with Reference to Gary Hill’s Between Cinema and a Hard Place,” Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, Vol. 40, No. 3, 2001, pp. 259-266: p. 261.
3 Laurenson, Pip, “Developing Strategies for the Conservation of Installations Incorporating Time-Based Media with Reference to Gary Hill’s Between Cinema and a Hard Place,” Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, Vol. 40, No. 3, 2001, pp. 259-266: p. 261.
4 Quasha, George, An Art of Limina: Gary Hill’s Works and Writings (Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafa, 2009): p. 90.
5 Quasha, George, An Art of Limina: Gary Hill’s Works and Writings (Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafa, 2009): p. 219.
Nequette approaches her work from a background in sculpture, installation, and architecture. Her current body of work, Sea Change, focuses on the rapidly increasing displacement of people in coastal cities worldwide that are considered at high risk. She thinks about all of the people who live at the sea’s edge, and how water levels are now expected to rise, and where will those millions of people go? and how? She has long been concerned about “where we humans are headed regarding climate change, from forest fires to coastal flooding, from collapse of agricultural lands and practices to collapse of necessary species, oceans, and safe drinking water, etc. The power of water is something that many people underestimate, and only those who have survived a flood or hurricane have some idea of what that might be like.”
The idea and the initial list of cities for Sea Change came from an article in TheGuardian in 2017. It included interactive maps of Shanghai, Hong Kong, Osaka, Rio de Janeiro, Miami, The Hague, and Alexandria that showed the grave danger these cities face, given their high population numbers (Shanghai at 34.8 million in 2015) and/or precious agricultural land (Alexandria and the Nile Delta). She works abstractly, primarily in paint and collage. If she has been to the city depicted, she relies on her experience to create a color and texture palette from paper on which she draws and paints. If she has not been to the city, she reads about the city and travels via Google image, and Google satellite maps looking at the city from above as well as from the street, to get a feel for what it is like. As she works, she imagines a city that has become inundated, though not completely underwater. Each of these works is titled with the population figures from governmental sources for the metropolitan areas and the works are named for the people, their cities, and the year the population number was last updated, i.e., ‘Shanghai, China, 39.4 million in 2015’.
– Pamela Jaynes SAM Gallery Coordinator
 The three-degree world: the cities that will be drowned by global warming, (Friday, November 3, 2017) Josh Holder, Niko Kommenda and Jonathan Watts (updated May 28, 2018).
Bangkok, Thailand, 14.6 million in 2010, Anne Marie Nequette, Collage on canvas. Keihanshin (Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe), Japan, 19.3 million in 2010, Anne Marie Nequette, Collage on canvas.
Check out the October SAM Gallery show, Mapping the Grid before it closes October 31! Nina Tichava is one of four artists featured, all of whose work responds to maps, grids, and geometry. Tichava uses painting and printmaking techniques, to interweave drawing and collage with a variety of media, including paint, charcoal, ink, tape, ballpoint pen, canvas, and metal. She is a process painter, who creates paintings without a set plan or narrative.
In the works from her Mapping Series at SAM Gallery, Nina says “I was able to source nautical maps of the Pacific Northwest sound, and I had two large, vintage maps of Washington State in my studio. I’m a constant and compulsive collector of vintage maps, papers, postcards, wallpaper, photographs, posters . . . it goes on and on. I’m always searching thrift stores, garage sales and vintage shops, especially when traveling. I also hunt for materials on eBay, mainly when I’m looking for something specific.” Many of the maps in her work at SAM Gallery feature Pacific Northwest locations, such as downtown Seattle, Gray’s Harbor, and the Hood River. As an environmentalist and conservationist, Tichava is also working to help protect the locations shown in her maps. Tichava sells works on her website to support environmental charities, such as the Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council. She was raised by hippy parents in rural New Mexico and Northern California and spent most of her adult life on the West Coast, where awareness of things like water conservation, clean air, and environmental impact are part of the culture and prioritized. She believes that “as climate change intensifies, and everyone is thinking about how to handle the complexities, I feel like it’s a small but tangible way I can participate and contribute to a solution.”
On top of the maps, Tichava applies numerous overlapping layers of stripes, painstakingly painted with a brush and individually applied strips of tape. “Reproduction and repetition being central themes, my paintings are responses to things mass-produced and processed to an ideal. My paintings are, by nature, imprecise and hand-made objects. Perfection is unattainable therefore each piece is unique—it is this inherent quality that continues to engage me in painting.” The Mapping Series was developed in collaboration with SAM Gallery and for many years was exclusive to the gallery. The idea came from a design project Tichava began in South Lake Union, and grew from there, encouraged by Jody Bento and the many collectors who have supported this series for years. See it for yourself!
Her project for the sculpture park’s pavilion began with a visit to see the Seattle Art Museum’s collection of African masks and the Art Deco architecture of the Asian Art Museum. Afterwards, she mixed in designs from textiles and inspiration from formal studies of leaves, trees, flowers, and animals; which she fit into a frame of bold, abstract shapes.
And all that’s before you get to the ghosts. Her wallpaper covers the interior of the pavilion and fabric canopies hover overhead, filling your eyes with visions of hidden characters who emerge from and then disappear into the walls and ceiling. Vernon has digitally combined photocopied drawings of ghost characters with a hand-drawn/collaged pattern of disembodied figures so that the ghosts are no longer visible—they’re masked. If it sounds layered, it is.
It’s a heady, expressive environment that Vernon hopes will “allow spectators to live in the world of the work rather than next to the work…”
When I met Sam, she was just coming from the sculpture park with Loide Marwanga, the graphic designer who worked with her on the installation. They had just spent their first day in Seattle overseeing the installation of Vernon’s wallpapers and canopies.
Even though it was the end of the day, Vernon was full of energy and enthusiasm (maybe her super cool black-and-white Nike sneakers helped her keep her pep). She said she couldn’t wait to see it all come together.
What’s it been like working on this installation, working with SAM, working with SAM curator Pam McClusky and consultant curator Erika Dalya Massaquoi?
From the project’s conception, I wanted to create an installation to highlight the stunning architecture of the space, stimulate the imaginations of all who enjoy the park and explore the proposition of disguise as a drawing technology. It’s been an honor to work with Pam and Erika—they’re innovative, open, and willing to deeply engage in the critical aspects of my work and practice. Bringing this project to fruition is truly a team effort and I can’t thank them enough for their scholarship, insight, and thoughtfulness.
I’m drawn to the way in which Pam and Erika have developed a challenging exhibition by including a diverse group of artists working in different parts of the world. We have varied conceptual ideas and unique subjective approaches addressing the past, present and future of disguise as it relates to the museum’s collection and contemporary media.
It’s exciting to be included in an international dialogue about this complex reality—it offers significant links between us and our perceptions of space and time. In this way the exhibition generates important questions about connectivity instead of converging answers for fluent coherence.
What do you think about the Olympic Sculpture Park? When you first saw the site, what did you think?
The Olympic Sculpture Park is breathtaking! I was immediately drawn to the views of the water and the works of one of my favorite artists, Louise Bourgeois.
Artist Sam Vernon and graphic designer Loide Marwanga
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