"Parallel Universe" is an artist-curated show at Seattle's Grey Gallery and Lounge that reveals atypical or seldom-seen sides of 19 local artists.
In a parallel universe, I make visual art.
Instead of staring at a computer monitor at midnight, with a glass of wine nearby, I’m staring at a canvas or a broad sheet of Arches paper. (Although I probably still have the wine). Somehow, I’m going to end up saying something. Whether my statement is perceptible to the public, my friends or just me — and whether that matters — we’ll see.
Well-known local artists — including Gretchen Bennett, Claire Cowie, Jeffry Mitchell and Joey Veltkamp — are showing works from their own parallel universe, one put together by professional artists and teachers Francisco Guerrero and Joseph Park, who curated Grey Gallery’s current show to reveal atypical or seldom-seen sides of 19 familiar artists.
Not every piece works in this context. Some would be unremarkable in any. But the ones that succeed are delightful, especially when thinking about them as private projects from the studio.
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Grey and its next-door neighbor Vermillion continue to do Capitol Hill a service by integrating high-quality art with a grown-up-sexy bar scene. The entry piece to Guerrero and Park’s “Parallel Universe” is a playful piece called “The Same Story” by Claude Zervas.
The artist creates wondrous sculptures with LEDs but normally doesn’t place the lights into a trio of bear heads, which he chain-saw carved from salvaged pear wood. Their luminous eyes wink from magenta to plum to gold above Grey’s low leather chairs and to passers-by on the drizzly street.
“Their eyes are programmed to change color and brightness, corresponding to the letters in a very short story about fishing with my father,” says Zervas.
Each “Parallel” piece represents a unique artistic universe, to be sure. Dan Webb’s forlorn graphic birds; Dawn Cerny’s “Owl,” “Heart” and “Rabbit” totems; and Leo Berk’s honeycomblike resin formations hint at a few.
A standout is Victoria Haven’s “There’s No Place Like Home.” Worlds away from her geometric abstractions — at times austere on paper, always brilliant in metal — “Home” is simply a blown-up J-card (the paper card in the plastic storage case of audiocassettes). Haven made a facsimile of its track list in pencil. Sonic Youth’s “I Love Her All the Time” gives the mix an identifiable 1980s punk context, but I was dying to know what made it so special.
The tape turns out to be a treasure. Subtitled “That’s Why I Left,” it was given to her by Charles Peterson and Mark Arm the night before she returned from a life in London in 1986. The photographer and musician, whom she grew up with, signed it on the other side. Haven only recently discovered that her husband helped compile it too, but was too shy then to sign his name.
“I think I lost the actual cassette the same year I got back, which is part of the reason the cassette jacket reached such talismanic status for me,” says Haven.
“That and the fact that it is a perfect snapshot of a moment in time that describes an energy that was indescribable — a very specific moment which held and shaped the future for me and others who shared it.”
As creative paths continue to merge and diverge in our city, and artists continue to find inspiration and create personally meaningful work, it’s a treat to have the occasional alternate view into their worlds.
Rachel Shimp: email@example.com