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Moving Water

Moving Water

When this retired surfer left southern California, I thought of San Francisco as the far north. Everything we owned was in that coral orange and ivory VW bus, two small kids, books, and a record collection. We took Highway 101 out of San Francisco, camped in the Redwoods, and finally navigated to the then new interstate highway, I-5, which we found was still under construction north of Seattle. Between Grants Pass and Seattle it was a nice ride, divided, wide, new, and smooth. It was during that beautiful time of year in the Pacific NW, August, known for long daylight hours and a special kind of light. When we approached Olympia, we saw the popular Tumwater brewery alongside the interstate. This was at a time when the slogan, It’s the Water was well known in popular culture. I have since learned that the Washington State Fishery had a hatchery at the falls next to the brewery and was a popular rest stop for travelers. 

Several years ago, I began regular visits to this roadside attraction at various times of the year, especially in the autumn when the salmon were spawning. During the summer months the Deschutes River flows gently, the complex of fish ladders is clearly visible. When the rains return the river rises steadily and forcefully cascades down a series of falls until it levels out near the old brewery. When the winter storms bring so much water that rivers reach flood stage, the interstate is occasionally closed further south because it is under several feet of water. During these torrential rains, the power of nature is stunningly on display at Tumwater Falls. 

I have assembled a few photographs taken at this location over the past years. This autumn I wanted to see what the falls look like before the rainy season returns, and I wanted to continue this series of images using the force of nature as a paintbrush. And as many of you know, I am fascinated by repeated visits to locations to better understand, see and record changes in time, of physical space and light. One element missing in this set of images is the roar of the river as it courses and winds its way to the Puget Sound.

 

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Milwaukee Art Museum

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Walking in the Loop

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The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection

The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection

After being able to start going again to museums and galleries this summer, first in Chicago and Milwaukee, it was exciting to return to the Pacific Northwest in time to see a beautiful exhibition at the Tacoma Art Museum: The Kinsey African American Art and History Collection. In its final week, the exhibition closes on December 5th before going on to its next venue Pepperdine University in early 2022. This is an extremely beautiful and powerful show from the private collection of Bernard, Shirley, and Khalil Kinsey.

Their collection of paintings, sculpture, prints, photographs, and historical documents is personal – art that speaks to and resonates with them – and it’s universal as well, speaking to all who have the opportunity to view it. It is a testament to the Kinsey’s generosity that they are sharing these magnificent works with the public, that for some months they are being separated from these deeply moving artworks and documents.

Among the many art works of note is a portrait of Charles White in front of his mural in 1943 by acclaimed photographer Gordon Parks (born this day in 1912). Another portrait is Elizabeth Catlett’s exquisitely drawn portrait of Jackie, a black and white lithograph from 1985. Close by is a lithograph by Robert Blackburn, a noted print artist who shared his love of and knowledge about printmaking via opening his NYC studio to all.

Mixed in with the artworks are letters, poetry, and books. One poem is Dinner Guest, Me, typewritten and signed by Langston Hughes. A letter from Malcolm X to Alex Haley in 1963 talks about getting together in hopes of finishing the book they were working on. The Autobiography of Malcolm X was published in 1965, the year that Malcom X was assassinated.

In the adjoining gallery are many early photos, documents, books, that record “the achievements and contributions of black Americans from before the formation of the United States to the present times” – and also how they were enslaved and then brutally discriminated against across this nation. One document, a page of the 1801 New York census, records a voter as one person if free, 3/5 if a slave; it is difficult to find words to describe this, to see it, and to comprehend that this was accepted practice. Another wall presents covers of The Crisis, the official magazine of the NAACP; the accompanying wall text describes the beginning of the NAACP.

 

 

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Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change and The MacArthur Fellows at 40

Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change and The MacArthur Fellows at 40

While in Chicago this summer, I was fortunate to be able to see parts of the multi-site project, Toward Common Cause: Art, Social Change and The MacArthur Fellows at 40, curated by Abigail Winograd, organized by the Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago, in collaboration with other Chicago institutions.  Some of the exhibitions are open for another few weeks, others continue longer.

Here I will share with you two that are in their Dernier Jours. Carrie Mae Weems: A Land of Broken Dreams, at Logan Center Exhibitions through December 12, 2021, is an especially powerful installation. At the Smart Museum, a group show by the same name as the entire project features compelling, pivotal artworks or installations by 12 of the 29 artist fellows. These and other of the Toward Common Cause exhibitions I saw were dense, profound, and inspiring. It is always uplifting to see works by artists one admires, works one is familiar with and works not seen before, something like seeing old friends and meeting someone new. Seeing these new works by someone you’re familiar with brings a new level of admiration. The large-scale drawings of Toba Khedoori were especially memorable – she is an artist I look forward to seeing and learning more about.

I’m sharing a few photos from my iPhone of Weems’ installation and hope they will inspire viewers to visit the exhibitions and websites for detailed supporting background information, on this installation and the other artists and venues.

 

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