MiA: Top five Seattle artworks

I've been in the Boston area for nearly 3 months, and I began making a list of my favorite Seattle art before I even left Seattle.  It never made it to print (web), but now I've unearthed my top seven (goodbye Michael Heizer and Buster Simpson) five most meaningful works I saw in Seattle before I moved here.  These are works that inspired me to think deeper, try harder and care more about art in my midst.  They're also by artists that aren't written about nearly enough (if ever).

This is not a definitive list but an unapologetically partial one.  I have my preferences in art.  So boo-hoo, it's my blog, let me do what I want.  The work I chose for this list stems from my typical questions.  Did the work dare to address something specific with relevant materials?  Did it genuinely stand up for its message without abstracting the message into nothing?  Did it choose content over pleasure?  Did it choose sincerity over safety?

Here they are in no particular order.

1. Ryan Fedderson, A Little Color in the White House
A lot of color
Ryan Fedderson, a 20-something Cornish student created a coloring book representation of the White House - with a dozen-course meal made out of smelted Crayola crayons.  The concept was well-timed with Obama having just won the presidency.  The opening reception, during the BFA exhibitions at Cornish, was packed with people smearing food all over the White House.

I start the list with this piece because it is the piece that inspired me to start this blog, because I wanted people to know about young artists who were making work this smart and this labor intensive.  Nobody, I mean nobody, wrote about this work.  I realized it was on us, another generation of artists, to start writing about each others work.

2. Kristen Degree, Contents of a Dumpster

Not nearly as smelly as before.
Kristen Degree, now an MFA student at the University of Iowa, is a dirty girl.  She silkscreened the contents of an entire dumpster; chicken bones; dubious Ziploc baggies; a moldy, half-eaten sandwich; everything.  I was there in the print lab when she dragged sacks of refuse to be printed.  She and the print tech, the late, great Larry Sommer, developed an entirely new method of printing.  Using gel medium they coated the objects, placed a silkscreen over the objects and ran ink over the top.  This created a transfer, an x-ray like image, on the screen that could be printed with a dry squeegee onto paper.

3. Britta Johnson Heat Transfer
Heat Transfer is coin operated fire barrel in Pioneer Square, Seattle's district noted for street populations.   Pop in a quarter and a projection of fire flickers on the screen above the barrel for a few seconds.   Proceeds benefitted DESC, a local shelter for the homeless.  Johnson's work addresses a social issue in a poignant and appropriate way: not only does her work directly benefit the subject in a tangible way, her materials reflect the technology gap that often exists between uber-tech public art and the lives of those living who live around public art.

4. Karen Orders Pitcher Picture
Why did I cry when I saw this image?  I inexplicably teared up when I saw it and I'm still figuring out new reasons why that happens.  Is it the anthropomorphization of the vessels of water?  The growing stain of water on the picture?  The distance felt between the two vessels?  The picture (in the picture) that separates rather than ties the two vessels together?  Or is it that we often deal with representations of one another instead of who we really are?

I'm typically not the kind of person who reads more into the work than is given.  Often each viewer sees something different from another viewer and even from the artist.  Sometimes a headstrong critic or curator takes this a step further and dictates how we should feel about work.  I don't mean to impose my view on any one (Karen herself has told me that she doesn't see any of the metaphors that I see), but that is why I cried and that is why it's on the list.

5. Arun Sharma, Untitled (Coffin & Ants)
Sharma's hybrid of a coffin and ant farm could be making a sharp comment on the materialism involved in funerary practices.  Combining two objects with completely different sets of connotations, we're left with a new way of seeing each.  Will you ever look at a coffin the same?  Will you still have the same relationship you had with your ant farm?

The coffin, lit from the inside, glows with a sickly yellow pallor.  Yet this warm feverish color also references the solar powered ecosystems that ant-farms duplicate and abstract for us in miniature.  Sharma's work, in a synopsis, is all that we are: life and death, creator and destroyer, in one solid thought.