- Wendy Armstrong (Armstrong Gallery)
- Amelia Wynn Bistro (260-451-4965)
- 390 Winslow Way E.
- Bainbridge Island, WA
- [Some works are available to view at Amelia Wynn Bistro, and others may be seen by appointment.]
Well, First Fridays Gallery Walks are not happening as we begin May, but optimism is not completely gone. Construction work is easing back into active status. The month of May could see more activations and reopenings. This pandemic has washed over all of us, and artists have been as affected as everybody else. Hopefully, many can work through this situation, and I presume many are also reflecting the pandemic in their work.
Artist Wendy Armstrong closed her Armstrong Gallery at the end of 2019 just as the Amelia Wynn Bistro got up and running. She had been out of town when the epidemic arrived on our shores. She and her husband, Paul, came home to the sad tasks of closing down their bistro and letting staff go. Within days they came up with a new menu, new protocols and new processes to be able to offer take-out service. Once the bistro had stabilized as much as possible in this new situation, Armstrong could return to some of her other occupations: gardening (some of her vegetables are used in the bistro) and art. But things were different. While away, she had done what she often does – travel sketching – and this time, those sketches were pastels of the Grand Canyon. But how could she return to her usual art work?
It is often a bit daunting for an artist to return to the studio after a break and begin again – they find themselves experiencing a tabula rasa. Armstrong had painted abstract landscapes, bridges, coastal scenes and a variety of fowl (with a special love of roosters). All were wonderful, but the world was different, our society a drastically changed landscape. She had returned home to local stores emptied of toilet paper and cleaning products. The requirements of staying safe by cleaning and distancing from everyone made for emptiness around town – everywhere. The epidemic had become a pandemic. Armstrong felt life seemed more precarious than ever, and she felt a need to reflect it in her art. However, she did not want to document this new world quite as dark as it felt, with daily statistics, daily “briefings” and news stories from around the world. Armstrong’s new content reflects our current societal situation with a modicum of humor but not so much as to lose the seriousness of our predicament.
Only a few weeks into her new artistic content, she was on a roll. The first of her TP series, “Precious,” is a charming, intimate up close portrait of a couple … not of “The Fam” but of our precious TP. Then there is “Caught Unprepared,” a tall painting of a thin, leaning tower of TP. The tower’s integrity depends on one roll, about a third of the way up on the outer right side. That particular roll is almost used up … and the tower will soon collapse. A twin painting, “TP Social Distancing,” displays a large pyramid of TP standing in the forefront. As you look around, there are other pyramids of TP placed in the landscape, like a farm field with haystacks placed at appropriately (socially) distanced locations.
Taking a cue from her brother-in-law, a doctor and hospital administrator, Armstrong painted a swimming pool. His concept about the various pandemic rules was that “having some states lock down and some states not lock down is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool.” Enough said.
Armstrong doesn’t “want to forget how tenuous life is, like a different sort of earthquake, a virus, hitting us all.” She feels fortunate to be living on Bainbridge Island and lucky to be going through all of this in this community.
Just as the Amelia Wynn Bistro has had to change with the times, so too has Armstrong. She’s been planning new ways to present her art and art classes. For years she offered “paint and sip” community painting in the Armstrong Gallery and is designing new ways and locations for presenting them again. So watch for these possibilities, and please stay safe.
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.