Thursday, April 28, 2011

Add Your Voice - Free Ai Weiwei

Please join me in signing this online petition calling for the release of Ai Weiwei.  If you are unfamiliar with the events of Weiwei's recent detention, here is a description courtesy of "On April 3, internationally acclaimed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei was detained at the Beijing airport while en route to Hong Kong, and his papers and computers were seized from his studio compound. Ai’s whereabouts remain unknown and due process under Chinese law has been denied him.   We members of the international arts community express our concern for Ai’s freedom and disappointment in China’s reluctance to live up to its promise to nurture creativity...."

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Washington Project - Days 6 & 7

(A series of posts from Cullom Gallery booster, and avid Northwest outdoors man, Joe Kaftan, who is escorting Eva Pietzcker on the next leg of her sketching trip for the Washington Project.)

Day 6
After a ferry from Edmonds to Kingston, we had lunch in Anacortes, then drove the few miles to the coast to Salt Creek Park at Crescent Beach. The tide was at a two-month low and the creek was barely wet. The beach was expansive, and stretched beyond the small island in the bay. I had never seen that before. We walked over jagged rocks that are usually under water to the line where sand and gravel begin.  I pointed out geoduck and horse clam holes.  On the sand we inspected the manila clam siphons. Eva walked back and forth in front of the stranded island, pausing and looking. She said she would like to work here.  She sat down on the clear sand, and got right to work.  I nodded off then woke up to Eva exclaiming that the tide was taking our beach back. We jumped up, I grabbed the gear while Eva stood in the rising surf, and finished her composition.  She looked over at me holding the blanket and bag, and said, "This is exciting, we almost got caught!"

In the late afternoon we drove around Crescent Lake.  Cars passed as Eva looked over the road edge and through the trees, waiting to feel the right spot. She spoke about the importance of finding beauty in a scene, but the need to not grab at the most obvious compositions. "That's the job of a postcard" she said. About a mile before The Lake Crescent Lodge, on Hwy. 10 1 west, Eva said, here. The spot was on a hairpin turn with no shoulder or guardrail to keep us from driving into the lake. So we went to the next pullout, turned around.  I stopped and Eva jumped out and flung herself over the guard rail, with gear, onto the wooded lake edge. She worked for some time, and I drove by every 10 minutes to check.  When Eva jumped back in the car, she was delighted. She said she had found a classic composition, but one that was subtlety compelling.

Salt Creek, Olympic Peninsula, WA
Day 7
Woke up at a lodge in the mountains then quickly headed for the northwest corner of the state - Cape Flattery.  On the way, we talked about why I am excited for Eva to experience this part of the country.  I told her that I am drawn in particular to places where land meets water, and this state has so much of that, and it comes in such surprising and stunning forms.  For me, Eva's work gets to the essence of the beauty of an outdoor scene.  When I look at her work, I realize I may not have ever seen the place she is representing, but I have felt it many times. 

We arrived at Cape Flattery and scouted out the 5 or 6 view decks.  Eva stood at each looking, moved around, sat down at different parts of each deck.  At the farthest point, she declared that this was a stunning view: a large island and several small cliffy islands in close, and dramatic bonsai-like trees growing from the rocks in front of us.  But after a long look she could not make a composition that included all these elements, so we kept looking.

She moved to the only deck that faced north, and started painting a series of branches in front of rocks in the water that were surrounded by swirling bull kelp. Curved cliff faces rose behind the rocks, looking like so many ship bows in a line. Eva worked quietly as one group of hikers after another stopped to take in the view, and to peek at what she was working on. As time passed, it became colder and windier. At one point Eva said, "this is too big, too much to look at, I need a second sheet."  She asked me to hold her pad, as it fluttered in the wind, and she placed a fencing sheet above it and made markings to show were each element of the composition crossed from the original page to the new one. Then she secured to old sheet in her canister, and the new one to her black board. She worked in the chill a good time more, and then wrapped up her work, saying, "maybe it was too much, you could work all week on such a view."
We paused for a break on our walk out and I noticed Eva was sitting in the sun on the edge of a cliff, facing the slender rock islands just to the south of the point.  I realized she had already begun another sketch.  When she finished she sat next to me on a log and said, "You see, I need to come to a place, walk around it, maybe nap a little in it, breath it in, be with it, then I start to know if there is a composition there for me."

Back in the car we drove through Neah Bay passing Hobuck Beach to stop at Shi Shi Beach.  This would be a new place for both of us.  An hour-long walk through gnarled woods, over miles of muddy puddles, a few hundred yards down switch backs, and we slipped out of the thick woods onto a bright sandy beach. Immediately we noticed several house-sized sea stacks just to the north, but what caught our eye was a skyline-like set of sea stacks a mile or two away on the south end of the beach. The waves were crashing, the sun was sparkling on the water, and we both lay in the sand and relaxed, enjoying our arrival at this gorgeous place. We discussed how low the sun could get before we would need to turn back into the woods. We wanted to walk to the southern stacks, but that wasn't possible. Instead Eva zig zagged the beach we were on and settled in front of a huge weathered log and worked until the sun hit its mark.  Eva wrapped up her work, and we ascended to the jungle, lumbering through the puddles back to the car. It was fine ending to a full and exhausting day.

Eva Pietzcker at Cape Flattery, WA
Shi Shi Beach, WA
Eva Pietzcker, Shi Shi Beach, WA at sunset

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Washington Project - Days 4 & 5

Day 4
Tuesday was spent getting back to Seattle for an evening event at the gallery -a show and tell of Eva's sketches from Eastern Washington, completed prints from her 2010 summer trip to Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands, and a chance to share ideas forming around this project.  Eva and I received a lot of good feedback from our audience, specifically that revealing the process of making this series of prints is in fact, interesting.  So that was good, a hunch confirmed.  Some questioned whether the political boundaries of Washington State were too come-lately and arbitrary when dealing with landscapes that were shaped over vast geologic time and by natural cataclysmic events, like the Missoula Floods.  Maybe it's about the Northwest in broader terms, and about commonalities and differences shaped by these natural events.  Others suggested that we expand the project: more artists, and more documentation, maybe a documentary?  All this makes my head spin.  It's exciting to imagine a much bigger scope, but how to grow the project and get the work done that this would require?  A huge thank you to everyone who has participated, in person and in blog comments, in this first stage of The Washington Project.  Everyone of you is part of the process.  Your comments and feedback have been so valuable.

Watching some video clips
Eva shows sketches of Eastern Washington

Day 5
Eva was scheduled to leave for the Olympic Peninsula, but gallery friend, Joe Kaftan called late on Day 4 to say that he was in bed, sick with a recurring bout of strep throat! We regrouped and #1 Gallery Volunteer, Mark Minerich offered to escort Eva to Paradise, at the foot of Mt. Rainer for the day. Another huge thank you to Mark, who kept the project going (and provided Eva with wool and rubber to keep the deep chill away as she sat sketching on 19 feet of snow. Based on the sketch I saw this morning, there is no question that Eva's handling of an iconic location is in no danger of looking cliche. I can not wait for this print. It is going to be really something.

Eva Pietzcker at Paradise, Mt. Rainier, WA

Sketching Mt. Rainer in clouds - a quintessential view

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Washington Project - Day Three

Day Three
12:04 pm, Soda Spring, just east of Rimrock Lake and at the southern foot of Goose Egg Mountain. There is a throng of sound from the frogs’ chorus; of course not one is visible. The winter cattails are silver beige in the middle of the spring, amazing clear water reflecting everything. This is the B-side of the view from Reflection Lake, a view we will probably not see. This makes me think about one of the main questions of this series: if and when to look at iconic views. Our sense of the landscape of Washington is replete with our pride of these views. What to do with them? They are really undeniably commanding of our attention. It seems stupid to ignore them, the way a teenager’s affected disregard is for something that is so clearly amazing. Do we go to Paradise, to Chinook Pass, to the Columbia Gorge? (I already know we will do this today.) [P.S. 7:15 pm and no, we will not make it to the Gorge; keep reading.] and where on the Gorge? Do we look for the ‘most Washington’ Washington? Yes, we will do some of this probably, though it's a walk on a tight rope of potential clich├ęs. So far though, we are going to places like Little Soap Lake and Soda Spring. There is an essential Washington in these places too. And interestingly, Eva is not always aware of what in the landscape is the essential Washington, rather it all seems essential to her. How much of my native sense of the State do I divulge? Is that helpful information?

Before Eva decided that we would stop and sketch here, we talked about lodgepole and Ponderosa pines vs. Douglas fir trees. Why one grows largely on one side of the state, the other on the other side - and the dividing line you could almost walk at the top of the passes. As a kid of the West Side, I know the Doug firs too well. The pines seemed like Martian trees on the rare visits we made to the tinder-dry side of the state. After two days of wide spaces and big rock, today, I was looking to show Eva the transitional places between the basalt and shrub-steepe and the forest. I didn’t think we’d find it at a marshy spring.

It is now 1:10 pm. Soda Spring looks like a sheet of mica you peel with your fingernail. The clouds are quintessential cotton puffs against a cornflower blue sky. The breeze that has not stopped since we arrived is blowing the 5-inch pine needles on this stand then this one. This feels like an iconic view. I don’t think it's the wrong thing to train a gaze upon. Reminds me of a conversation I listened in on last month between Deborah Paine (Curator, Mayor’s Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs) and Seattle art critic, Suzanne Beal, as they traded opinions about the existence of a Northwest aesthetic. Suzanne said undeniably there is one. Deborah wasn’t so sure. Suzanne sited instances of artists who had focused on various subjects prior to relocating to the Northwest, and who after a few years here, began to all incorporate the land somehow into their work. Is this self-important talk? Do all artists who live in a particular location train their eyes on the land around them? How does the location affect the art? What is Eva – German born, living in Berlin – seeing here? Will she, as I hope she will, show us a new vision of our state, or is that too much to ask of someone only beginning to look. Or do the first impressions give us something that cuts to the essence?

2:08, still Soda Spring. Sun changed to cold and clouds and it just snowed briefly. Eva is still sketching. Now the sun is back full. I am listening to Glen Gould in the car, clearly not made of the same metal as Eva. It is so cold outside that the pavement, which has absorbed some small amount of energy from the bright sun, is sending up head ripples, when it meets the 30 -something degree air. Never have seen this.

6:50 pm, Hause Creek Campground. The Japanese phrase, “it was all Yaji and Kita” was true for Eva and me this afternoon, again. We busted it up to this spot, late in the day after naps for both of us at Tieton, got turned around leaving Tieton (I know. How do you get turned around in Tieton?) then after not quite remembering the place we’d scouted out this morning, finally found our way here. The late afternoon/early evening light looked so different that we spent 45 minutes stumbling around with our heads pointed up, looking for The Pine Tree from this morning. Eva is now lying on her back, her sketching board raised over her chest. The sun is going down and she has many, many pine needles to figure out. The creek is saying its never-ending prayer. Otherwise it is very still. Reminds me of childhood days camping. The end of the day, the smell of dinner cooking and the promise of its warmth, and the promise of more warmth when we crawled into sleeping bags in the dark, to listen to the murmur of our parents voices barely audible over the texture of the creek, and then to fall asleep to inner visions of the majesty of the land we had witnessed.

7:15 pm. Eva just got up, thinks it won’t work. I ask if she can still try. This will be the last sketch of this leg of the Project. Maybe it will bomb and she will have spent some serious energy, mental and muscular on a failure. But maybe it will be a new design, an unusual iconic tree. I hope she can go for it and not be steamed at me for asking her to keep going. This will be touch and go. Another hour I’d say at least. She may be really mad and exhausted at the end.

Six minutes later, 7:21. Eva says, “I stop.” No more video clips, no questions from me. I think we are going. Yes, we’re going.

Soda Spring, WA
Eva Pietzcker at Soda Spring, WA
Eva preparing  to sketch The Pine Tree
The Pine Tree (that was not to be), Hause Creek, WA

The Washington Project - Day Two

Day Two

There is no theme today, at least not yet and it's already 4:20 p.m.. We are on a slope up from the east shore of Little Soap Lake.  Eva and I had our mornings alone after staying up late again talking all-things-art. I walked around Tieton in the early morning and stopped to talk with Ed Marquand, who was already at his shop and office, Marquand Books, on the main square of town. We talked about the state of galleries in Seattle and the missing piece in the ‘art ecosystem’ as he called it, which these days is the buyer. Also traded some good ideas about messaging and marketing, or more to the point of what Ed and I require with our micro-niche arts enterprises: finding the specific audience for our special fields.

When I explained what Eva and I are doing based on my still-forming ideas and hunches, Ed cut past the fat to wonder aloud something like, “I don’t know how much people are into knowing about the process, especially if they don’t yet know what the end result is.’ Yes, and ouch. Something to think about (as I type about thinking about it.) I don’t know yet. Like I said, this is a hunch. So, are you interested in the process? If the buyer knows more about the process is he or she more likely to buy a work of art? Do buyers feel like they are a part of the art process? I hope so. I want them to feel that they are.

We passed through some of the Channeled Scablands today. Saw fields strewn with rocks that look like dinosaur eggs left there by the cataclysmic Missoula Floods that raced across parts of Eastern Washington during the last ice age, 15,000 to 13,000 years ago. I am realizing that Washington has a truly weird geologic history and tattoo. This strikes Eva too, though those aren’t always the things that encourage her toward a sketch. I watch and wait and drive the car.

We were on the way to Steamboat Rock (turns out its only 3, not 6 hours, away. But passing by Soap Lake, here are these massive carved cliffs that descend to the edge of the shallow and much smaller Little Soap Lake, just north of its larger namesake. The western sun was hitting the skim of water intensely, sending up silver ripples in shards, pushed along by a breeze from the north. Brown basalt scree topped by rugged horizontal striated cliffs across the water. New scrub brush is blooming in a spring green that looks like the moss Eva will see next week in the Hoh. We really aim to get to Steamboat. I feel pressure to keep us on task, but that’s not how this trip will go.

Left Little Soap Lake and went around the corner, up the canyon past amazing basalt columns cantilevered over the road in humps. Past Lenore Lake and boom, there was Alikai Lake and three craggy geode-like aggregate rock humps, each one bumped above the surface of the small lake. White pancake hardened silt holding rocks and sage bits all along the shore. Symmetrically high bluffs on either side, making a reverse fisheye effect on the eye. It’s 6:01 p.m. now. I don’t know if we will make it to Steamboat, the Shangri-La of our trip so far. But what we are seeing is amazing and truly weird stuff. I grew up in Washington and know for sure that I have never made it up this road before today.

7:05 pm. We made it. Steamboat Rock. A vaguely formed thunderhead threatens to eat the last clear rays of the sun, but Eva is out of the car, sitting on the narrow side of the road with the full mountain of Steamboat in silhouette across the eastern stretch of the north end of Grand Coulee. It is another dramatic, monolith. How will it look as a print? Will it make it to print stage or be rejected by her for any number of reasons. I won’t know until Eva goes home, reads the notes she has added to all the sketches tonight, and considers what to spend the time on to hand-carve and hand-print and what to set aside as only a memory of these days. I can say that the process is tenuous and ruled by weather and light conditions that are out of our control. I for one am finding it very interesting to be let in on part of the process.

(Eva said some very interesting things in the car today. Things I can’t organize well enough to write about so I will need to train the video camera on her tomorrow.) 

Sketching Little Soap Lake, WA

Eva Pietzcker at Little Soap Lake, WA

Basalt Scree at Little Soap Lake, WA

Little Soap Lake, WA

Spring foliage at Little Soap Lake, WA

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Washington Project - Day One

After completing a residency in Ucross, Wyoming earlier this month, Cullom Gallery artist, Eva Pietzcker is in Washington State this week to begin sketching on location in places across Eastern and Western Washington in preparation for a new series of views of Washington State. The Washington Project, which began with a summer 2010 trip to the San Juan Islands, this month will take Eva to the canyons of the Tieton River, the Channeled Scablands, the Columbia River, the Hoh Rain Forest and Olympic Peninsula.  The April leg of the Project will be chronicled in a series of blog posts by myself (Beth Cullom, owner and director of Cullom Gallery) and Seattle graphic designer and gallery booster, Joe Kaftan (who will accompany Eva on the Western leg of the Project.)

Day One
We were caught in a bizarre karmic eddy this morning getting out of Seattle.  A maze of detours in the Sodo neighborhood as we tried to get to Daniel Smith Art Supplies for more paper and paints, led to my own detour over Beacon Hill and finally to Dan Smith.  Then a mundane trip to an AT&T store for a new SIM card for Eva and a phone car charger for me.  All so we could head into the silent spaces of Eastern Washington. Do we really need the technology? (as I sit in the car, 7:10 pm along the Tieton River, and watch blue clouds blot out the last orange rays of sun, notice that the breeze is noticeably colder, listen to the natural white noise of the river.)

After settling in at Ali Fujino’s condo in the apple warehouse in Tieton, WA (huge thank you to Ali and Matthew for being our housing angels for this leg of the Washington Project – couldn’t have do this without you), we’ve been scouting out spots, several, and all but this one striking out.  Eva has been talking about fore, mid, and background.  And how she likes light against the composition to allow carving of “the white spaces.”  Lots of the sweeping, monochromatic stuff of this landscape may not fit the bill.  Eva is a woodblock print artist, not a photographer, or an oil painter.  And the medium she works in may effect the subjects she chooses, I’m realizing.  (Gray basalt is turning to purple in places, nicely set off by the sage green of scrub covering the cliffs.)

The plan and the actual, that’s part of art making, I’m thinking.  I’ve been planning the places we'd go, albeit with some (my) geographic disabilities always there.  So today my husband called to ask if I knew that Steamboat Rock was over 6 hours away from Tieton  - someplace I’d hoped to take Eva.  Did I know this?  No I didn’t.  Did I also know that Eva and I would talk till 1 am last night, looking at her new sketches and prints from her 2 weeks at Ucross Foundation?  Nope.  Which also meant that I didn't know that our actual leave time would be 12 noon -  far from the plan of 9 am.  So here we are, only  a few miles from downtown Tieton, but the clouds are now that gray blue and peach pink.  The river looks like celadon milk glass.  Black and dead Garry Oaks are blending with the scars of dark basalt on the other side of the river.  7:50 now; also thought we’d have dinner with Ed Marquand and friends, but nope, we’re here instead.  We are here.

April 16, 2011, Eva Pietzcker sketching on the Tieton River, WA.

Eva PIetzcker sketching along the Tieton River, WA.