Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In the News - We Are Pilgrims

Thanks to Jen Graves at The Stranger for the shout out about Annie's Bissett's show.  The Curtis Erlinger photographs she also mentions are on view just down the street at Punch Gallery in the Tashiro Kaplan Building.  Stop by and have a look here and there, then have a cup of tea at the Panama Teahouse next door. Antidote for the wind and the rain.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Day off, Collaborating with Julia

Fall has hit Seattle hard this weekend!  Big winds and lots and lots of rain.  I spent today both inside and out with my daughter Julia, who turned five this month.  We spent the morning on a 'wind walk' picking up fall leaves, then stopped by Top Pot for a doughnut, and the grocery store for more apples for apple pie.  Tonight, we got busy on some watercolors to use for Julia's birthday thank you notes.  We started each doing our own thing, but it got more interesting when Julia asked if she could work on my painting (sure!) and then suggested that I do the same on hers.  Collaboration.  I've been thinking about this quite a bit.  Wishing for more at times at the gallery since I am virtually on my own there.  Thinking of its place in the story of the rise of modern Japanese prints.  And wondering what would happen if more moku hanga artists were to collaborate.  Some of these thoughts perking in preparation for my presentation at the 1st International Moku Hanga Conference, in Kyoto and Awaji next June.  I am delighted that a number of friends and colleagues will also be traveling to the conference and contributing their thoughts to the discussion, including the Drachen Foundation's Ali Fujino, and both of Cullom Gallery's own Annie Bissett and Eva Pietzcker!  Hard to think of the warm summer days of June on a day like this, but the months will tick by, I know.  (Apologies for the poor photos - taken with Photobooth on my Mac.)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Annie Bissett at Cullom Gallery

I was so pleased to have Annie Bissett and her partner Lynn in Seattle for the opening of the show of her new series of woodblock prints, We Are Pilgrims.  Here are a few photos of the opening reception on October 15th, and Annie's talk and demonstration the next afternoon.  My thanks to everyone who came by.  I especially enjoyed listening to Annie's thoughts on Saturday and hearing about the historical discoveries she made over the course of the 2+ years it took to complete the suite of prints.  The complete show is up on line at cullomgallery.com along with Annie's commentary about the underlying facts behind each design.  We also have copies of Annie's very fine illustrated catalog, We Are Pilgrims.  Contact the gallery if you would like to order a copy. 


Saturday, October 9, 2010

Dorothy May Two Ways

A couple of days ago, I noticed that Annie Bissett had blogged about artist Sara Peters' show at Winkleman Gallery in New York, on view though today(!), October 9, 2010.  In black and white, cross-hatched drawings and bronze bust portraits, Peters delves into the experience of the pilgrims aboard the Mayflower, and as Annie calls it, the American creation story, in a very different way, but with one startling overlap: Peters' focus on the tragic death of Dorothy May Bradford. Here is Annie's post. It is really worth reading. And if you are in NYC today, go see the show at Winkleman Gallery, and tell me what you think. I wish I could myself. Woodblock Dreams: Artists On the Mayflower

Friday, October 8, 2010

Getting Ready for Annie Bissett

We are putting the finishing touches on Cullom Gallery's next exhibit - a new suite of woodblock prints by Northampton, Massachusetts artist Annie Bissett.  Come meet the artist and celebrate the opening of this beautiful and insightful show on Friday night, October 15, from 6 to 8 pm.  (Cullom Gallery, 603 S Main Street, Seattle map).  The Gallery will also host a talk and printmaking demonstration with Annie Bissett on Saturday afternoon, October 16, at 1 pm.  Both events are open to the public.  Come and bring a friend!

Here is some information about Bissett's series, taken from our press release, and a sneak peek at a number of the prints.  We look forward to seeing many of you at the gallery next Friday night!

We Are Pilgrims is a suite of fifteen Japanese-style woodblock prints that centers on the lives of the earliest settlers of New England.  The suite is both a personal exploration of Bissett's legacy as a Mayflower descendant and a critical look at the contemporary impact of the pilgrims' arrival in America almost 400 years ago.

Annie Bissett employs the Japanese woodblock printmaking method known today as moku hanga, which is characterized by Japanese papers, water-based inks, self-carved blocks, and hand-printing, to complete the series. All prints were realized over a two year period in 2008 to 2010; the artist has also recently published a full-color 72-page catalog that illustrates all 15 prints and in an essay by Bissett, weaves historic facts that she uncovered with her thoughts on the  farther-reaching implications of the pilgrims' actions, beliefs, and institutions.

In her essay for the catalog, Bissett notes that the Mayflower was a small ship, estimated to be only 113 feet long.  Traveling at a rate of 2 miles per hour across 3000 miles of the Atlantic it reached the eastern shore of America in 66 days.  Several prints in the series consider both the hope and desperate anxiety felt by the pilgrims aboard the first ship, as recorded by Plymouth governor William Bradford.

Dorothy Bradford Comes to America.

With a Prosperous Wind.

In the catalog's cover image, "They Looked Behind", Bissett has carved a quotation from Bradford's ship diary in which he recalls, "If they looked behind them, there was the mighty ocean which they had passed and was now as a main bar and gulf to separate them from all the civil parts of the world."  Just two months earlier on the morning of their departure, Bradford had noted that they left under "A Prosperous Wind," the title chosen by Bissett for her twin views of the Mayflower under a starlit sky.
In one of the most dramatic prints in the series, "Dorothy Bradford Comes to America", Bissett has imagined the  accidental or suicidal drowning of William Bradford's wife, Dorothy May, as the ship sat anchored in Provincetown Harbor and Bradford was ashore on a scouting mission.

Honey I'm Worried About the Kids. 

Themes of corruption also weigh heavily throughout Bissett's series.  In another pair of prints, the artist uses the same carved block for a group of pilgrim men, women and children, overlaying it across two different backdrops.  In "No Friends to Greet Them" the group walks cautiously though a moonlit night; in "Honey, I'm Worried About the Kids" bare branches and shadows are swapped for a concrete wall covered with the balloon letters of graffiti tags.  Moral corruption trades places with the physical ravishes of disease in "10 Little 9 Little Indians."  In a nod to the seal of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, a central Indian figure stands with an arrow pointed down in a symbol of peace as the words, "Come over and help us" float overhead.

Bissett's version however replaces the seal's circular outline with the rosette of a smallpox virus, a disease that had been spread by even earlier European immigrants, and by the time the pilgrims arrived in 1620, had killed an estimated 90% of the local Wampanoag tribe, as she notes in her catalog essay.
God Blesses John Alexander and Thomas Roberts.

Still other prints in We Are Pilgrims look at the impact of institutions - educational institutions, and the institution of Christian marriage and its presumed heterosexuality.  Bissett's print, "Caleb and Joel Went to Harvard, 1665", imagines a portrait of the first two native graduates of Harvard Indian College.  Their bare chests show through gossamer versions of the pilgrim black frock and white collar and cuffs, behind them, a naive rendering of the college's original buildings.  Another print considers the historic and contemporary legacy of sexual bigotry as revealed through court records of the trial of John Alexander and Thomas Roberts, lovers who in 1637 were found guilty of homosexual acts with each other and each variously sentenced.  As Bissett notes, Alexander was whipped, branded, and banished from the colony;

Roberts was whipped and, as an indentured servant, returned to his master, and barred from ever owning land.  Bissett's gentle and familiar portrait of the two men posed with hands touching and one's arm over the other's shoulder, as well as the title of the print, "God Blesses John Alexander and Thomas Roberts, 1637" defies the image's red hot S-for-sodomy iron that reaches from the sky and the bigoted comments carved like wall paper behind the men, text the artist gathered from letters and emails sent to the Episcopal Church Diocese of New Hampshire in 2003 when the openly gay priest, Gene Robinson, was elected bishop.

As the current national debate struggles with questions of what it means to be American and who gets to be American, We Are Pilgrims, explores the American creation story from many angles, imagining what the lives of these early immigrants might really have been like, and what their lives mean to us now, almost 400 years later.

Born in Springfield Massachusettes, Annie Bissett spent two decades as a professional illustrator, working for the Washington Post, National Geographic Society, and TimeLife Publications, before turning her attention to Japanese woodblock printmaking in 2005.  She is an active member of Zea Mays Printmaking Studio in Florence, MA.  Her work has been selected for numerous juried exhibitions and biennials including the International Print Center of New York's New Prints 2009/Autumn, the 2009 Robert Blackburn Printmaking Workshop Annual Exhibition, New York; the 2009 Los Angeles Printmaking Workshop Annual Exhibition; the Hunt's Prize at the Boston Printmakers 2009 N. American Print Biennial; the exhibition Violence at the Jundt Art Museum, Gongaza University, Spokane, WA; and Printed Matter at Giant Robot Gallery, San Francisco, CA.  Annie Bissett has been represented by the Seattle gallery, Cullom Gallery since 2007, where her first solo exhibition, Far Away Up Close, was mounted in 2008.  Annie Bissett is also a leading voice in the growing American moku hanga printmaking movement; Bissett's blog, Woodblock Dreams, which she began in 2005, counts over 9000 views and hundreds of regular readers.  Her prints are part of the permanent collections of the Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence KS; and the Jundt Art Museum, Gonzaga Univeristy, Spokane WA.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tanaka Paper Cuts Added to Two Museum Collections

We are delighted to announce that the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas in Lawrence and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art at the University of Oregon in Eugene have each selected a number of Tokyo artist Ryohei Tanaka's paper cuts for their permanent collections!  The Jordan Schnitzer Museum has said that Tanaka's work will hang in a survey of Japanese arts in the coming months.  We await news from the Spencer about exhibition of their new Tanakas.  A big congratulations to Ryohei for this important success! 

Images top to bottom:
The Zanies, The Great Pretender - Collection, Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Into the Dream, The Outer Space Man and the Plant Girl, Not Bad People - Collection, Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
All paper cuts by Ryohei Tanaka.

Exhibit Wrap Up - Eva Pietzcker

A big thank you to everyone who helped make Eva Pietzcker's show - Revealing the Root such a success!  Your response was tremendous.  We will certainly have Eva back to Seattle for future shows.  She enjoyed her visit to Seattle and even managed to tag on several days sketching views on Orcas Island in the San Juans before leaving for Maine to work on a collaborative project with the artist and recent Guggenheim Fellow, Daniel Heyman.  That project is scheduled for exhibit sometime next summer.  So between her time in Seattle, coastal time on Orcas and northern Maine, and a residency in Bozeman, Montana earlier this year, I anticipate a beautiful show of U.S. views a year or so from now.

If you haven't made it to the gallery yet to see Eva's prints, you have 2 more chances.  We are open late tonight, 10/7, until 9 pm for Seattle's monthly First Thursday Gallery Walk.  Otherwise stop by Saturday, 10/9 for the last day of the show.

Eva Pietzcker  River 1 (Rhein), 2009. Edition: 30, 9-1/2 x 26-3/8 inches

Eva Pietzcker River 2 (Rhein), 2009. Edition: 20, 9-1/2 x 26-3/8 inches

Eva Pietzcker Baltic Sea - Moving Trees, 2009. 9-1/2 x 9-7/8 inches

Eva Pietzcker kayaking Lake Union, Seattle
Eva Pietzcker with Beverly Pepper's Perre's Vantaglio, Olympic Sculputure Park
Opening night, Revealing the Root - Moku Hanga by Eva Pietzcker
Eva on opening night, Revealing the Root - Moku Hanga by Eva Pietzcker