You might have noticed from your now only occasional visits to downtown Winslow that our galleries are closed. Most have artwork in the windows, their exhibits postponed until an unknown date. However, galleries and organizations are finding new ways to deliver art experiences, including on First Fridays.
The Roby King Gallery is opening a solo show of artist Kathe Fraga on Friday, June 5, from 6-8 p.m. The show will spotlight Fraga’s “color drenched paintings featuring layers of bright flowers.” The gallery will limit the number of people allowed in at any one time and open by appointment thereafter.
While most gallery websites are idle, the Jeffery Moose Gallery offers their First Friday exhibition as an online event. It livestreams on their Facebook page during the First Friday hours of 6-8 p.m. Their current exhibition is Suquamish artist Gerry Lonning, on display through June 30. You can view six of his large acrylic paintings on the gallery’s website.
Winslow Art Center is downright booming with online offerings of artist talks and classes on styles and techniques. I counted over 30 such offerings in June alone. Our Bainbridge Island Museum of Art (BIMA) is increasing their online offerings, and Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network (BARN) is offering a few online writing workshops, cooking tutorials and a “Virtual Slow Stitch Tuesdays” Zoom gathering.
All of these organizations have one root: artists. While artists’ potential to sell their work is precarious at best these days given the pandemic, the question is, how are they doing “these days?” Artists may be driven to create, but they are going through these stressful unchartered times like everyone else. Some won’t be working on art at all, instead caring for family or feeling uninspired, their spirits dampened by the multiple sources of chaos coursing through our society these days. Some are reflecting on these contemporary situations and infusing their observations into their art. Others are settling into it all by going outside and taking in their sense of place, nature, as if trying to reconnect their nervous systems to the universe again. Some, like textile artist Caroline Cooley Browne, find themselves experimenting with new materials, formats and styles, but are not yet ready to share.
When his teaching in local schools was curtailed, painter Michael Pontieri found the “extra” time he gained filled with home schooling. But now that his new schedule has settled in, there is more time for art. He has been working outdoors with watercolors more than usual, whereas he usually paints with oils in his studio. He has also found himself creating paintings of his recent trip to Italy, his usual practice altered. Instead of transcribing a photo into a painting, he is approaching it with a different meaning. He recalls how it was beautifully normal there at the time of his visit, a stark difference to the days when the virus was so bad there. The contrast of subject is abstractly jarring. Consider “Florentine Wedding.” Such a lovely moment captured slightly before COVID-19, in contrast to the vacancy that followed in one of the most powerfully hit countries in the early days of the pandemic.
Conceptual artist Eileen Wold’s time and energy has been limited with juggling schoolwork with the kids, moving her summer semester online for students and economic worries. Wold has a sculpture show planned for this fall at Unison Arts in New Paltz, New York, for which she has been “frantically getting materials together.” [“Owning Earth,” September 2020-August 2022] She has felt “pressures to respond to this crisis through making art … as a way to make sense of a world that does not make much sense.” “Square Meter,” an environmental art project of hers ten years in the making, has recaptured her attention to continue it with new meaning. “One square meter represents the carbon sink equivalent to a gallon of oil burned but also references the rate at which we are deforesting mature rain forests near the equator,” Wold said. The “project has taken on a more meaningful broader understanding since you could argue the COVID-19 crisis has us similarly struggling to understand our individual role in a larger global crisis that moves slowly like climate change and yet is rapidly spreading.” In addition, Wold has also been painting another long continuing project, flags, which she describes as a “comfort sport.” While a simple “representation of a complex idea,” Wold commented, “the making of them is quite meditative.”
Wold is also featured as part of an online exhibition, “Fragility 2020,” curated by Large Art Studios Gallery on Day Road. Large Art Studios was founded in 2019. This exhibition is showcasing 23 artists with over 40 easily accessible artworks.
The further we go into crises, artists will definitely respond in their own time and in their own way. BIMA will be a great place to watch for regional artists in the coming year or two, who will reflect upon these current multiple crises in their work. Our local galleries will show art in windows, maybe by appointment, maybe more online. All three of our visual arts institutions will offer more and more classes and lectures online and eventually in person. Regardless of how we approach it, physically practicing the “making” of a poem, story, object, drawing or painting will help address the stress we are all feeling and help our souls recover.
I, too, have been in my studio. Here is a current sculpture in progress — a yet unnamed young woman, hopefully looking pensive. She has been hammer formed from brass sheet (face and hair) and fabricated together. Much more of her is yet to be formed and constructed. Going into my studio is extremely comforting and a place where I can escape, much like meditation.
Be well, be safe, be compassionate, be patient.
Check out these organization’s websites:
BIMA #BIMAfromHome and the brand new “Art Speaks Festival” here BARN on Facebook and here and Winslow Art Center here
ABOUT BILL BARAN-MICKLE: 2020 Island Treasure Awardee . Recently, Bill has enjoyed exhibiting in several international art biennial exhibitions. Of the three in which he has participated, he won Third Place for Sculpture from the European Confederation of Art Critics in the Chianciamo Biennale, at the Chianciano Art Museum in Italy in 2011, and First Place in Applied Arts in the London Biennale of 2013. In 2013 alone, he will have participated in eight exhibitions: from London to a two-person exhibition near home. In addition, Bill was asked to be a representative for CCAC’s exhibition celebrating 100 years of the Metals Department, and a mix of group shows in New York City, Miami, Seattle and Las Vegas. Bill is the designer of the 10 foot Equitorial Bowstring Sundial located at the Richie Observatory in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island, WA and completed in 2015.