The Eye Travels Along the Paths Cut Out (Blue-Orange)


What a fun experience it was to collaborate with Nicholas Strobelt a couple weeks ago at Strange Coupling– an annual collaborative project between University of Washington seniors and graduate students with local working artists. Nick is a senior in Photomedia, with boundless energy and smarts. He’s been making photos like this (these are from a series called Self-Tracing):

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I love how his photos are both austere and playful, messing with perception and the thin line between flatness and a sense of depth. I especially enjoy his photos where the devices are laid bare (say, the threading at the end of the mop handle used as a leg of a trapezoid and an imagined triangle.) My current obsession, though it has been rolling out in folded paper, drawing and painting, has been geometry. For years, I’ve been using it, and now my mind is trained on it as a subject for more focused contemplation. I’ve been looking at and reading and thinking about the ways that geometry has been a philosophical and even theological/spiritual tool for centuries. Nick and I enfolded our mutual interest in geometry, and my current teaching in color theory, to make an interactive stage of slowly shifting color fields. People were invited to come aboard and watch their shadows shift from teal to magenta, from green to gray to white. One of my favorite sections of the piece was the “box of light” where we positioned a pedestal on a cinder block to catch in its void a shifting color field abstraction. It was an ideal abstraction until you moved a little closer and the shadows of flyaway hairs or the crescent of your ear would invade. To me, it became a picture of our modernist ideas of perfection being dirtied up by the less-than-ideal figures of life lived in real spaces. And, of course, I find those less-than-ideal parts the most compelling, when it comes down to it.


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A Building for Breathing

Processed with VSCOcam

Processed with VSCOcam

I spent a day one time learning the basics of manuscript illumination. The instructor was an immersive teacher, reading psalms to us and playing monastic chants as we worked. The day had a long, slow cadence that involved layering and waiting, eating together and discussing the symbolic aspects of, for instance, breathing warm air onto the adhesive before floating a thin skin of gold leaf over the surface. When I got into a car at the end of that time, I was overcome by the panic of speed. The movement seemed too great compared to the low slow pace I’d been keeping. The project “A Building for Breathing” with Serrah Russell has felt a little like this oasis of stillness and contemplation. Serrah invited me to contribute writing to an exhibit she was preparing at Gage Academy, and this evolved into a book project.

The process began with our discovery that we’d both been reading Gaston Bachelard’s “Poetics of Space,” and we began discussing the ways that his book had been influencing us. We shared thoughts about the domestic space as a psychological and oneiric stage, about the ways that buildings (especially houses) both echo and double our own bodies and about the idiosyncratic approach Bachelard felt free to use in this text. Serrah’s work was a wonderful jumping-off point for me, since it is evocative and visually sophisticated, but open ended. I find, in her work, the hush between sounds. The awareness of an edge before you arrive at an object fully formed and named.

The books we had published are embellished with handmade collages and drawings on vellum, so each is unique. This was another interesting level of collaboration, since I did not want to distract from the visual subtlety of Serrah’s work. Above, you can see one example of my pared-down approach. The exhibition (which is viewable at Gage Academy until November 15th) includes additional text written on the walls and Serrah’s work displayed on vellum. More to come on a closing reception and documentation of the exhibition!

If you are interested in purchasing one of the edition of 10 ($100 plus shipping), write to me at

A Building for Breathing Cover.indd

Vessel Gallery Show, Oakland, CA

Last year, I stopped by this beautiful space in Oakland, CA, and admired both the tension-filled graceful sculptures by John Ruszel and Joanne Hashitani‘s delicate, intricate wall pieces.

This coming Thursday…

Vessel Gallery (photo from Allyce Wood’s blog)

Concerns for the Environment
EXHIBITION: July 18 – August 24, 2013

Group show including artworks by William Harsh,
Carol Dalton, Jon Gariepy, Gala Bent,
Walter James Mansfield, Iris Polos, Cyrus Tilton, Allyce Wood

Thursday, July 18, 2013, 6:30-8PM, Private Reception, You’re invited! Music Performance by Haydn Enthusiasts, performing Part 1 of Haydn Strings Quartet.

Oakland Art Murmur Open, Friday, August 2, 2013, 6-9PM
Music Performance by Echo Twin

We are experiencing a shift in the environment; our weather patterns are changing, global temperatures are climbing, our oceans are acidifying, and our sea levels are rising. At this critical moment, these artists have taken a moment to not only comment on a wide spectrum of personal concerns for the environment, but also provoke deeper thought regarding the effect we are having, and allow us this opportunity to take pause, consider our actions – actions that profoundly shape our future – and this shared global place we call home.

I’m going to be there for the artist’s talk, which is Saturday August 10th, 2-3:30. Please come by if you’re in the area!

Garden Variety

16th century engraving envisioning the Hanging Gardens of Babylon

In her 1972 article, “A View of Modernism,” published in ArtForum, Rosalind Krauss describes the Modernist progression of -isms as a series of rooms in a line. Theorists and artists during the Modern period, she says, perceived each leap into a new ideal art as the entering of a new room, with the door to the previous room closing securely behind them.

No à rebours was possible, no going backward against the grain. The history we saw from Manet to the Impressionists to Cézanne and then to Picasso was like a series of roms en filade. Within each room the individual artist explored, to the limits of his experience and his formal intelligence, the separate constituents of his medium.The effect of his pictorial act was to open simultaneously the door to the next space and close out access to the one behind him.

When Krauss wrote this essay, however, she was standing in the swirling waters of what had been dubbed Postmodernism. The doors to all of the rooms had recently burst their hinges. Anything became fair game; any part of history was a sampler platter of possibilities. Looking at where painting, specifically, is right now, I have been picturing Rosalind Krauss’ line of rooms as walled gardens, like the Secret Garden Francis Hodges Burnett described in her book by the same name. Each room of painting ideas, as the door was closed, stood in its semi-neglected space, planted in the forms of its own ideals and quietly continuing to put down roots and send runners. The plants went to seed and produced new hybrids of their predecessors. Weeds grew up and some mealy or weak ideas were choked out. The neat form of the original garden became overgrown, but still full of life—there may have been some secret gardeners who snuck in to tend it periodically. If you look at exhibitions like Painter Painter, at the Walker Art Center currently, you can find the sprouts and vines of Arte Povera, Conceptualism, Expressionism, Abstract Expressionism, Geometric abstraction, Art Informel, Constructivism, Suprematism, etcetera. Look at the uncannily similarly named Painters’ Painters coming up at Saatchi, and you see another set of rooms airing out… all of the above, plus the more figurative rooms of Surrealism, History Painting, Appropriation, Pop and Photograph-based painting. Wooly and unkempt! But very, very alive.

Ajay Kurian

Ajay Kurian, an artist working in Brooklyn, caught my eye with another set of ideas relating to gardening as a philosophical tool. I wish I could have attended this talk at the New Museum:

Ajay Kurian will present a Proposition that suggests “the garden” as a new metaphor for time and space. Kurian is an artist and curator who has run the itinerant project “Gresham’s Ghost” since 2008. “The Persistence of Gardens—Nuclear, Digital, and Otherwise” will serve to workshop ideas for Kurian’s upcoming solo show at 47 Canal. Unlike previous Propositions where a speaker’s presentation is followed by a panel or critical response, Kurian’s talk will be interrupted by J0HN, a projected presence within the theater.

On the ideas in his talk, Kurian writes: “Stromatolite is a fossilized record of ancient microorganisms that stretches back to the very beginning of life on Earth nearly 3 billion years ago. But does looking at this colorful rock really give you a sense of what has persisted and fallen away for so many eons? Does knowing the half-life of plutonium give you any sense of what the future will look like 14,000 years from now? How then can we legislate such stretches, let alone conceive of them? How are we to regard something that makes our finitude look squeamishly brief, especially when our focus tends towards those things that seem to persist not for eons but for mere seconds. The screen time that has come to dominate our lives can sometimes appear to be Narcissus’ pool, but as the larger objects of our planet begin to rumble – as the oceans rise, hurricanes hit, and radioactive waste is buried – our tiny kingdoms are beginning to feel the unwelcome shake. Through touring gardens both metaphorical and metaphysical, and speaking with J0HN, we will approach time as the persistence of things, emerging from objects rather than the reverse, and I will begin to reckon with my preoccupations: why does everything I think about recently exceed the human? And why does J0HN disagree with me so much?”

family jewels

{JewelBox Theater, image via}

Psst. Come to the JewelBox Theater in Belltown this Wednesday from 7-10pm and take a peek at short pieces by a group of Seattle artists who work in animation/video:

Latent Liminal Improbable Exuberance : Film night with Scott Kolbo, Gala Bent, Jennifer Zwick, Britta Johnson, Mandy Greer and Vis-a-Vis Society

Something old, something new, something odd, something blue. In process, foundlings, archived, favorites and brand new films by an exuberant collection of artists: Gala Bent, Scott Kolbo, Jennifer Zwick, Britta Johnson, Mandy Greer and Vis-a-Vis Society. Films will begin at 7pm and cycle throughout the evening. Drop in when you can. Delicious treats.

Mandy Greer

Jenny Zwick
Britta Johnson

“Women Take Over” (catch phrase from SAM)

Haruko Nishimura from P. O’Brien | G. Miller on Vimeo.

This season in Seattle is over-run by women in the arts– prompted by the Seattle Art Museum’s “Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou, Paris” that has recently opened. I’ll have work in two exhibitions that also celebrate women artists: Elles at SAM Gallery and Homage to Elles at G.Gibson. The “gender question” is a lot like the “race question.” Many would have us believe that all is well and that we are now in an age marked by an even playing field. This is wishful thinking, yes? On the other hand, it is heartening to look at my own influences and see how many intelligent and passionate women have been instrumental for my vision of what was possible. (The video above is a recent one!) This place for the female voice in public discourse is still relatively new, and I don’t want to take it for granted, no matter how problematic the idea of the feminine may be as a category in itself.

…woman… cannot be seen as a fixed, pre-existing entity or frozen ‘image,’ transformed by this or that historical circumstance, but as a complex, mercurial and problematic signifier, mixed in its messages, resisting fixed interpretation or positioning despite the numerous attempts made in visual representation literally to put ‘woman’ in her place. Like the woman warrior, the term ‘woman’ fights back, and resists attempts to subdue its meaning or reduce it to some simple essence, universal, natural and, above all, unproblematic.” (Linda Nochlin, from “The Myth of the Woman Warrior”)

Here’s to the complex, mercurial and problematic!

Kiki Smith

Openings for the two shows mentioned above:

Elles at SAM Gallery: This Thursday, October 25th, 5-7

Homage to Elles at G.Gibson: First Thursday, November 1st, 6-8

Neddy at Cornish

Lead Pencil Studio Non-sign II

Tomorrow is the opening for the Neddy at Cornish exhibition– a meaty reception, from 5-9pm! If you are in or around Seattle, come on down. The big prizes were awarded to Stacey Rozich and Eirik Johnson, but all eight finalists (listed below) will have work in the show. I’ll have four pieces– two new.

Work by Ned Behnke, the namesake of the award, will also be shown. From the Cornish site: “Additionally celebrating the arrival of the Neddy at Cornish, we are featuring a concurrent exhibition of paintings by the award’s namesake, Ned Behnke. Curated by Peggy Weiss, Reflections brings together a selection of paintings from multiple bodies of work, over the course of Behnke’s life”

Neddy in Painting: Gala Bent, Cynthia Camlin, Jeremy Mangan, and Stacey Rozich (Neddy Awardee)
Neddy in Open Medium: James Coupe, Eirik Johnson (Neddy Awardee), Lead Pencil Studio, and Susie J. Lee