OPEN DAILY | 10AM-6PM | FREE ADMISSION
Rachel Feferman Gallery
March 12 - June 05, 2016
A group show addressing ideas and experiences surrounding personal journeys. Themes range from travel and fantasy, to personal loss and other life changing events and processes. Artists: Marita Dingus (Auburn)Denise Harris (Bainbridge Island)Steve Jensen (Seattle)Phillip Levine (Burien)Susan Lowrey (Vashon Island)Ann Morris (Lummi Island)Steve Parmelee (Poulsbo)Kay Walsh (Bainbridge Island).
Listen: Executive Director & Curator Greg Robinson discusses the Spring 2016 exhibitions.
My work takes various forms – sculpture and/or paintings, often using found objects such as portals, or found pennies, or personal belongings from – and reminders of – my loved ones. I work through my ideas and tell stories by creating physical objects – through visual art. My ideas pull me towards certain materials and solutions – I am suddenly out to sea, on a journey.
My current work is an attempt to immerse myself in life, and of course in the process – transitions and death. We’re all involved in a journey – or various journeys – to the “other side.” It almost doesn’t matter what or where we think that might be – because it just is, or will be. What has been for me cemented in sadness and fear has now evolved into a personal form of awareness. That doesn’t mean that all of my questions have been answered, but I like to think that I’m absorbing more answers…
My best friend Sylvain, while he was suffering from AIDS, did a drawing of a boat. He gave it to me and asked if I would make a carved boat for his ashes when he passed. He died one month later, and I carved a boat as close to Sylvain’s drawing as I could. I had helped him with his personal care and cut his hair even when he died – somehow I kept a locket of his hair – I don’t know exactly why – but now that is part of his boat.
My mother Pat came to Sylvain’s funeral and was so moved by the boat that she wanted my father’s remains placed in a similar vessel when he passed. Since he was a Norwegian fisherman and boat builder we buried his boat at sea, like a Viking funeral. Over the course of eight years I lost my best friend Sylvain (from AIDS), my father Norman (from suicide after facing a debilitating illness), my mother (from a broken heart and other ailments), and my partner John of twenty years (largely from alcohol). So I continued to construct “death boats.” My mother’s boat contains her wristwatch – it was still running when I affixed it to her boat – but since then it too has stopped, or died – it’s just another way reality sinks in, another awkward step or stage in the transition, or journey.
Since then I have created a “death boat” that contains my dog’s ashes, and one for me – my name is etched in reverse on the underside, so when I’m gone and inside I can read my name… I strive to both experience the moment and to prepare for the inevitable.
I created the boats in this series about the same size as the actual boats used in burial for cremated ashes. Carved in wood, painted or sculpted, this work is the direct result of these experiences. Death is the one thing we all have in common. The universal image of a boat in many cultures and civilizations symbolizes a voyage, perhaps a voyage to the “other side,” or the journey into the unknown.
I am a sculptor and draughtsman, working primarily in bronze. For over fifty years I have created figurative sculptures that are humanist in nature, including over fifty public and private art commissions.
The human figure is the basic element of my work. Over the years as I gained an understanding of the figure and the capabilities of bronze, my sculpture emerged representing certain themes. Often there has been an overlapping or compounding of themes in any one sculpture. This exhibition includes work with themes such as man/machine, social commentary, interrelationships, figure/structure – throughout my artistic career the human figure has been my core concern and interest.
Several years ago, while putting together a slide show of my work, I began sorting through 650 images of sculptures I had completed in the past fifty years. I had always thought of myself as an “intuitive” artist – but I realized that certain themes were consistent in my work. I began to see that my work was really based on my life experience, intelligence as opposed to intuition, society, and my personal interests – all of these influences combined to make a wholeness that allowed me to make sculpture. I became aware of how myths (storytelling), memory, and imagery had influenced me.
I grew up on Vashon Island, where I live today. I also lived and traveled through Europe, Latin America and Japan where I had the opportunity to view and study art. I feel fortunate to have been exposed to diverse ideas and broad forms of art in interesting places.
My first exhibits were in 1975. My work was shown at the 4th Annual National Art Competition (Grand Galeria, Seattle), and at the 29th Annual Pacific Northwest Arts and Crafts Fair (Bellevue). These experiences early in my career were very encouraging. I have not shown my work widely, but instead have focused on drawing. Since the late 1970s I have completed over 300 drawings, and keep going. The drawings in the Journeys Exhibition, plus those featured in the Classroom Gallery here at BIMA, represent a range of my work dating from the 1980s to the present.
These drawings reflect my ideas about the human experience, with an emphasis on the body as the frame or structure for telling a story. I delve into many topics, some more serious or somber than others…yet I enjoy including humor in my work. I imagine what the viewer might be thinking, and hope they experience a combination of engagement and amusement. I usually have a specific idea in mind when creating a drawing, but sometimes it could mean more than one thing. I enjoy wondering what others might see in it – what life experiences they might ponder as a result of viewing my drawing… I like to imagine that dialogue.
I am challenged by trying to express as much as possible with simple lines, and letting the image or story emerge from the shaded background. I play with how distorted and simplified an image may become yet still recognizable and expressive. The results of an interesting image are often surprising... and thrilling. Nothing is as satisfying to me as finishing – or thinking I’ve finished – one of these thoughts through my drawings.
Crossings (Fiber Boats) - Crossings introduces boats made with cane, twigs, wasp nest paper, leather and varied natural materials that have come to me over the years, ending up on the shelves of my studio. Found materials, formed together become air-filled boats that can be seen through, hung or balanced on a finger. Though made on the same jig each boat assumes a unique form dictated by the individual materials.
For me, these boats are like personalities – funereal boats of life’s moods shaped to glide easily into the next realm – they carry traces of life around me floating off into a new dimension.
As Carolyn Wall says in Sweeping up Glass, “when they were finished they looked like something I’d wanted to say, but hadn’t found the words for.”
Bone Journey (Bronze Boats) - These pieces come from the forested land of mist and rain, where ravens rule and bones wash up on beaches. Here bones and plant forms come to me and from them I am given inspiration.
I have always been fascinated with bones. They are forms which grow. Bones are given form by the forces of each individual life and support it, but their beauty is invisible until after death. They are the synthesis of life’s function and form, death’s architectural remains.
Vessels or boats are expressive of journey. Their forms are pod like, suggesting nature’s verdant growth. They float. They shape and are shaped by water – life’s principal ingredient. Plants are one of life’s most abundant forms and provide us with the nourishment to continue life. Combining bones and vessels becomes for me a Bone Journey, a symbol of our own journey through Nature and Time. Each of our journeys is one of life and death. These vessels are its echo.
My lifelong interest in photography began when I was seven years old. My parents presented me with a Kodak Brownie camera and I was hooked.
With time and life experiences I began to experiment and eventually fine tune my work to be able to capture and truly convey what I saw behind the lens. I became less interested in representational art and instead wanted to create visual poetry. Like a poem, I believe a photograph needs to present an emotion, an experience or a thought, either abstract or literal.
I ultimately chose the black and white format, initially with film and presently with digital capture, because I believe that it distills the essence of the image to its implied emotional statement. What was I thinking when I composed the shot? How did the reality of the scene portray that emotional reaction?
My work is the art form of a patient seeker of drama. That patience was achieved during a prolonged period of my life as an ocean sailor. I would watch the drama in the sea and sky develop slowly, and sometimes not so slowly. Drama was my daily companion and entertainment.
Today I am drawn to the remaining vast open spaces of the earth’s landscapes, where I can truly feel the earth’s energy and power. I want my photographs to capture a sense of place and the spirit of the incredible vastness. I want the viewer to feel a connection to the earth, as I do. In this modern age of technology I think that connection is vital.
The undulating hills of the Palouse area of eastern Washington inspire me to create an abstraction of pure form and motion. The mid tide shoreline becomes a painting, the clouds become the palette for the wind. The falling Haida monuments become the life blood of the forest. I am always wanting to see how far I can take an image, balancing the inherent simplicity of form and emotion.
My photography compels me to leave the confines of my daily life and journey outward, seeking the unknown. I need to see and feel the air move, see the light transform the ordinary. I want to capture the moment and transcend its reality to create a timeless image.
John Kenyon Ellis Bistro
October 14 - February 28, 2018
October 14 - February 28, 2018