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BAM’s new exhibit explores healing power of art

  • Written by Deborah Stone

Dietrich Wegner, Playhouse
Dietrich Wegner’s “Playhouse” combines the ominous shape of an atomic bomb’s mushroom cloud with the lighthearted safe haven of childhood. Courtesy photo
Society has seen its fair share of suffering in the recent past, from natural disasters such as devastating hurricanes, earthquakes and tornados, to brutal wars, civil unrest and crippling worldwide recession.

We react and deal with these events in a myriad of ways.

Some of us openly share our thoughts while others actively look for conduits of change.

Still others choose to silently grieve alone.

Artists, in particular, often utilize their art as a vehicle to express their emotions and to externalize them in a cathartic and therapeutic manner.

This spring, Bellevue Arts Museum presents “Making Mends,” one of the first museum exhibitions in the Northwest to explore the healing power of art.

In media ranging from painting, photography and sculpture to ordinary table salt, the exhibit brings together the works of nationally and internationally known artists, who come to terms with traumatic experiences through the act of creation.

Featured artists include: Debra Baxter, Ben Diller, Cynthia Giachetti, Joey Gottbrath, Margot Quan Knight, Catherine Grisez, Lynne Saad, Vik Muniz, Donna Sharrett, Ehren Tool, Paul Villinski, Anna Von Mertens, Barb Smith, Dietrich Wegner, Motoi Yamamoto, Jennifer Zwick and the Combat Paper Project.

“For these artists, the very process of making, as well as the communicative, communal nature of art which allows them to share their stories with others, becomes an outlet for their emotions, and the foundation on which healing begins,” says BAM Curator Nora Atkinson. “What is produced in response is honest and compelling, exhibiting traces of their own fears and uncertainties alongside elements of catharsis, resilience and occasionally humor.”

Anna Von Mertens, for example, creates quilts of extraordinary depth and complexity.

In the body of work, “As the Stars Go By,” she depicts the movement of the stars as might have been seen during certain violent occurrences in American history such as the Civil War Battle of Antietam, the deadliest battle with the greatest one-day loss of life in the country’s history, and the initial bombing over Baghdad which began during the second war between the U.S. and Iraq.

Von Mertens describes her work as acting on many levels: a memorial, a perspective from a specific moment in history and as a documentation of a natural cycle that is unaware of the acts of violence happening below.

Barb Smith’s work draws attention to the trivial things, the inconsequential traces people leave behind, which she sees as symbols of loss and disintegration, as well as markers of life’s moments. In an untitled piece, dryer lint has been made into a small brooch which has been placed on a sweater. Another shows hair, which has been collected from clothing over the course of a week, as an embellishment of jewelry on a garment.

Dietrich Wegner’s “Playhouse” combines the ominous shape of an atomic bomb’s mushroom cloud with the lighthearted safe haven of childhood.

The piece gives rise to thoughts about fears, innocence and the decisions governments make to ensure the safety of their populace.

Ceramics are the medium of choice for artist Ehren Tool, a marine in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, who creates cups stamped with an endless vocabulary of war images and insignia. A display of 200 of these cups sits on a series of shelves against one of the walls in the exhibit.

It’s important to note that the cups Tool makes are not for sale.

He gives them away with a message: “Once a person has witnessed war, they are forever changed.”

Each one is meant to be touched and used, and serves as a day-to-day reminder of the realities of war and its lasting consequences.

Jennifer Zwick’s “Repaired Leaf,” is a photograph of a broken leaf that the artist decided to repair by stitching it up. She created the piece in response to her mom’s breast cancer treatment, mirroring her feelings about the dynamics that take place between the methods of prevention and restoration.

Catherine Grisez’s images are uncomfortable to look at, as they project vulnerable people in pain.

Her project, “Lick,” features sculpture, photographs and narrative components that document both physical and emotional wounds.

A professionally trained jeweler, Grisez creates objects that are ornamental and then creates photos of them embedded in the body within various open “wounds.”

The wounds are shown encrusted with jewels made from vintage earrings, rose quartz and coral beads that seem to ooze out of the sites.

They repulse, yet captivate the viewer, appearing as relics that perhaps possess mystical healing powers.

One of the most fascinating installations in the exhibit is Motoi Yamamoto’s untitled piece, a labyrinth of salt.

Mountains of salt spill over and spread out across the floor into rivulets and form small pools or ponds.

Maze-like, the work speaks of an endless series of paths that humans embark on in their search for meaning, for acceptance and for healing from life’s losses.

Yamamoto constructs his labyrinths over a period of days or weeks and once they have been displayed, they disappear after the exhibit, returning to the mineral state from which they were created. It is apparent that each of the artists featured in this exhibition has chosen to use the process of making art as a way to personally grapple with grief, loss and tragedy. They have chosen not to lose hope nor to disengage, but to be vocal and courageously put their feelings and thoughts on display for all to see.

Perhaps in doing this, they can also help others mend.

“Making Mends” runs through May 27 at Bellevue Arts Museum. For more information: (425) 519-0770 or www.bellevuearts.org.

‘Expressions in Light and Shadow’ New works in watercolor by Kay Barnes

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

This exhibition of original transparent watercolors by local artist Kay Barnes is a show rich in color and textures and subject matter. Kay tries to look at each project she wishes to paint and decides on an approach based on the subject’s very unique qualities. Sometime the background is washed in first, other times it is the final touch.

Kay says,” I let the subject dictate the approach. Light is the focus and the foundation for the art. Without light there is no contrast, no color, and no vision. Without light there are no shadows, depth and dimension. This is the primary element that takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. Color is a way of imbuing art with more interest and life.”

Kay uses her masterful skills to translate her vision into a unique original piece of art that touches the viewer.

This exhibit will display a cross section of her recent work that covers a broad array of landscapes, florals, still lifes and a wide range of approaches to painting in this challenging medium.

During the last decade, Kay has developed a special approach to painting in this flexible medium of watercolor that allows her to create textures and movement in a semi abstract image. She then further refines this abstraction to allow a realistic image to emerge. One of these images has been selected for publication in a prestigious art book which showcases the top 100 contemporary watercolor artists. Splash 13, Alternative Approaches, by Rachel Ruben Wolf (editor of American Artist Magazine) is the thirteenth in the series which began in 1991. Splash books contain carefully chosen works gleaned from thousands of entries from all over the world submitted annually. This book is to be released in the summer of 2012.

You will find Kay’s paintings at the Kaewyn Gallery on Main Street in Bothell. Her solo exhibition will open with an artist’s reception from 5-8 p.m. on Thursday, April 13.


You can see Kay’s work and get more information on her teaching schedule at kaybarnes.com.

Loyal Qdoba customers praise restaurant

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Qdoba second
Winn and Jason Griffin enjoy another meal at Qdoba Mexican Grill. Photo by Deborah Stone.
Two and a half years ago, Winn Griffin was introduced to Qdoba Mexican Grill in Woodinville via a friend.

He liked the food so much he brought back his family, wife Donna, son Jason and daughter Jerramie Joy, who also gave the restaurant an enthusiastic two thumbs up.

Since then, Griffin has visited the local restaurant nearly 400 times, usually in the company of his son Jason.

He always orders the same dish, the gumbo, which he describes as a cross between tortilla soup and the fixings for a “naked” burrito.

“I love it because it tastes really good, really fresh,” says Griffin. “But, it’s also one of the few dishes out there that I can order that doesn’t raise my blood sugar.” He explains: “I am an adult diabetic and like most diabetics I have problems with carbohydrates. I can’t eat the burrito wrap or the rice, so with the gumbo I can order extra black beans with the chicken and they add Pico de Gallo, some cheese and cilantro and it’s perfect for me.”

Griffin frequents the Qdoba in Woodinville five out of seven days a week, coming in late in the afternoon for an early dinner.

It’s become his routine and he often spends an hour or two in the establishment after eating his meal.

“I read stuff on the computer and catch up on my email,” he comments. “I’m a publisher. I run Harmon Press, so I use the time to do some research.”

Griffin’s son Jason, who consistently dines at the restaurant with his father, also utilizes the time for his work as a blogger.

He is a creature of habit, too, ordering the gumbo just like Dad. “I really like the dish,” he says. “It’s filling, low-carb, healthy and reasonably priced. I never get tired of it. Plus, I can get free refills on the iced tea, which is really nice.”

He adds, “Everyone here is very friendly and the service is good.”

The staff at the local Qdoba knows the Woodinville men well and as soon as they see them, they begin preparing their orders.

General Manager Armando Resendiz, who has been at the Woodinville location for the past six years, was not really surprised to learn that the Griffins had made almost 400 visits to his restaurant.

“They’re here a lot,” he remarks, “which makes me very happy. It tells me that my staff and I are doing a good job. It’s great to have such loyal customers and we have a number of them, but I know for sure that the Griffins are at the top.”

Resendiz has helped to make the Qdoba in Woodinville a welcoming place.

He strongly believes in making Qdoba a part of the community.

After every WHS football home game, for example, the restaurant serves the entire team and its coaches a free meal.

This has been going on for the past six years. Additionally, he gives free drinks to all WHS students when they purchase a food item and show their school I.D.

“It’s a way to support the kids,” he says. “We participate in a variety of ways to show we care. I see it as a way to give back to this community, which has always been good to us.”

‘Gauguin and Polynesia’ dazzles the senses, provides food for thought

  • Written by Deborah Stone
Tahitian_Flower_High
“Tahitian Woman with a Flower” Courtesy photo.
Seattle Art Museum’s “Gauguin & Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise” is the talk of the town.

It’s been dazzling visitors since it opened last month to rave reviews.

The exhibit, which will only be shown in Seattle and Copenhagen, is the result of efforts began years ago under former SAM director Mimi Gates. And it’s been well worth the wait.

Gauguin, who was a leading Post-Impressionist in the late 19th century, is best known for the art he created while living on the French colony of Tahiti.

His bold, bright colored paintings were inspired by the sights and people of Polynesia, as well as by their artifacts, which he first saw at the Paris World Fair in 1889.

It was a sculpture from Easter Island, in particular, that piqued his curiosity and intrigued him because of its enigmatic and spookily powerful essence.

Tahiti represented the Promised Land to Gauguin, a man with a restless soul and a perennial case of wanderlust, who yearned to live in an exotic, untouched paradise, far from the conventions of French society.

He found the island landscape and golden light enchanting and was fascinated by the local cultures, though he was surprised and disappointed to find the colony unfortunately altered by Western influence.

SAM’s exhibit contains nearly 60 pieces by Gauguin, including paintings, sculpture and works on paper, as well as an equal number of Polynesian artifacts that reveal the nature of the exchanges of Pacific Island Peoples with Europeans during the nineteenth century.

The exhibition is actually two shows in one, but the best way to look at is from a unifying, blended perspective that encompasses both, allowing one to gain greater insight into the relationship between Gauguin’s work and the traditional Polynesian pieces.

By placing the art alongside the artifacts, we are given a lens through which Gauguin viewed his surroundings.

Art and culture seamlessly merge, resulting in an exhibit with enhanced meaning and ethnographical richness.

There are numerous highlights of the show. The famed painting “Tahitian Woman with a Flower,” for example, is a compelling portrait of a young woman in Western attire. We are drawn to her beauty, which seems to defy the dowdiness of her missionary style dress — an influence from the Christian missionaries who imposed their views of modesty on the Islanders.

In “Women of Tahiti,” another well-known work, two women sit side by side on the sand. They are looking away, one downwards, the other staring at something off to her left.

There is an aura of melancholy exuding from them.

By evading our gaze, they elude our understanding and we are left wondering what they are thinking. This sense of mystery is prominent within many of Gauguin’s paintings and it continues to increase in depth over the span of his career. One of the artist’s most sensational images is “The Royal End,” which was inspired by the death of Tahiti’s King Pomare V in 1891.

The focus of the painting is a severed head resting on a platter in a room decorated with Polynesian artifacts.

In reality, there was never any ritualistic display of the king’s head. Gauguin, who viewed the death as a symbolic loss to Tahitian culture, imagined a scene that did not exist, incorporating into it his captivation with the fate of the biblical John the Baptist.

“The Sacred Mountain” is another eye-catching piece with its brilliant colors and seemingly bucolic scene. Here, Gauguin evokes a place of worship in a mountainous landscape setting. The foreground is a heap of flowers, perhaps offerings to the gods, but some appear as if they would be prickly and sharp to the touch.

Behind them is a wooden fence with small skulls. A primrose yellow hillside commands the viewer’s attention.

The yellow, according to some interpretations, could be feathers, which symbolize royalty in the Tahitian culture. Galleries alternate between compilations of Gauguin’s work and clusters of exquisitely carved Polynesian ancestor figures, headdresses, weapons, paddles and ornaments. Many of the objects have elaborate patterns on them and the illustrations of body tattoos are exceptional.

The pieces convey a strong sense of movement and radiate energy and vitality. Their influence on Gauguin becomes increasingly obvious as you go deeper into the exhibit and see greater incorporation of motifs from cultural items in the artist’s work.

One gallery,of note, is devoted solely to Gauguin’s woodcuts, which detail his account of his time in Tahiti. The technique used expresses his desire for a more primitive expression.

Gauguin eventually ended up in the Marquesas Islands, leaving Tahiti behind in search of a purer cultural environment.

He is buried there, ironically in the same Catholic cemetery he unwittingly painted in one of his final works, “Women and a White Horse.”

“Gauguin & Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise” runs through April 29th at Seattle Art Museum.

For more information: (206) 654-3100 or www.seattleartmuseum.org.

Hard Cider: returning to our American roots

  • Written by Woodinville Weekly Staff

From colonial times until Prohibition, hard cider was the beverage of choice in the United States. Records from 17th century Massachusetts indicate that yearly consumption approached 50 gallons per man, woman and child.Now you can learn about the entire process Saturday, March 24, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for Hard Cider Making & Orcharding with Gary Moulton at Ed’s Apples, 13420 339th Ave SE just off SR 2 in Sultan.

You’ll  learn how to grow and maintain your own cider orchard as well as learn the steps necessary to create a quality hard cider.

Cost for the workshop is $70 per person and includes a catered box lunch. To register, visit Brown Paper Tickets at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/210015 or download the form at www.snohomish.wsu.edu/ag/workshops/HardCider2012.pdf and mail with your check.

For information on the workshop, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (425) 357-6012.