One of the greatest strengths of art is its ability to get you thinking about everyday objects or themes in a new light. As we head into the fall, art museums and galleries across the Seattle area invite visitors to step away from their busy lives, pause and consider anew the world around them. Some efforts take a closer look at the region, turning reclaimed local driftwood into an astonishing swell or showcasing the legacy of Indigenous and indie folk artists from the Pacific Northwest. Other exhibitions offer a new way to look at the world as a whole through existential paintings or the lenses of two of the best living photographers. Here are a few of the most thought-provoking visual arts options to check out this fall.

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“Fight Like a Girl”

If you missed Humaira Abid’s work at the Seattle Art Fair, here’s your second chance. Greg Kucera Gallery will be home to an exhibition of Abid’s work this fall, highlighting her detailed sculptural work that can turn carved pine into a series of protest signs that almost look like they were made from cardboard instead. Abid’s fantastic wood work also features eyes looking back at you through a rearview mirror in her “Tempting Eyes” series, made of carved and stained pine wood.

Through Oct. 29; Greg Kucera Gallery, 212 Third Ave. S., Seattle; gregkucera.com

“Soft Services”

Throughout Seattle’s Volunteer Park, you’ll see a series of 14 stone benches spread out — either single benches or in groups of up to three, each engraved with artist-written text. With “Soft Services,” artist Chloë Bass, known for her work in performance, installation, text and social practice, creates spaces that are both meditative and social as she connects to the history of Volunteer Park as a site for AIDS activism by exploring what true care really is and what care is deemed essential and what care is determined to be optional, or “soft services.” This installation was commissioned and organized by the Henry Art Gallery as part of its Henry OffSite program.

Through August 2023; Volunteer Park, 1247 15th Ave. E., Seattle; henryart.org

“New Art and Sounds from the Pacific Northwest: Indie Folk”

Featuring an intergenerational group of artists from throughout the Pacific Northwest, these works in Bellevue Arts Museum’s exhibition blur the line between aesthetic and functional. The exhibition highlights works utilizing salvaged materials that are more makeshift and improvisational in nature alongside the intricate work of woven baskets. Central to these handmade works is a tradition of passed-down knowledge and the sense of identity that comes from small towns and rural communities in the region. Alongside the exhibition will be a playlist selected by Portland’s Mississippi Records to shine a light on the region’s indie folk artists.

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Sept. 16-Jan. 29, 2023; Bellevue Arts Museum, 510 Bellevue Way N.E., Bellevue; bellevuearts.org

“SALVAGE”

It’s hard to encompass the scale of Seattle-based artist Alison Stigora’s upcoming sculptural installation at MadArt Studio in South Lake Union. Stigora’s work will combine reclaimed driftwood from Puget Sound with light and sound compositions. The pieces of discarded driftwood, some the size of whole trees, will be constructed into a floor-to-ceiling curving wave. Beyond this will lie a translucent, glowing sculpture that is built off of the studio’s skylight. Through this work, Stigora asks visitors to contemplate how areas of resistance in their lives can be transformed and how what can be seen as an obstruction can be turned into something beautiful.

Oct. 4-Nov. 23; MadArt Studio, 325 Westlake Ave. N., #101, Seattle; madartseattle.com

“Same Old Song”

Portland-based artist Srijon Chowdhury receives his first museum solo exhibition at the Frye Art Museum this fall. Six large new paintings focused on the senses featuring eyes, ears, nose and a 30-foot-long mouth will be central to the exhibition. Chowdhury’s work is both highly stylized and startlingly realistic as he juxtaposes the beauty of everyday life with apocalyptic angst. Alongside smaller images sampled from Chowdhury’s previous work, the exhibition captures Chowdhury’s exploration of existential themes and contemporary twists on genres like biblical scenes and family portraiture.

Oct. 8-Jan. 15, 2023; Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave, Seattle; fryemuseum.org

“Body Language: Reawakening Cultural Tattooing of the Northwest”

This exhibition at the Burke Museum will combine photographs, cultural belongings and contemporary art to explore the history and artistry of Indigenous tattooing in the Northwest. The exhibition is co-curated by Dion Kaszas, a Nlaka’pamux tattoo artist and scholar who works in oil, watercolor, graphite, mixed media collage and video. “Body Language” will show how disrupted and banned traditions are reawakening thanks to efforts from Indigenous artists.

Nov. 6-April 16, 2023; Burke Museum, 4300 15th Ave. N.E., Seattle; burkemuseum.org

“Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue”

The work of two renowned photographers is making its way to the Seattle Art Museum. Dawoud Bey is known for his portraiture, focused on chronicling the histories of underrepresented communities. Weems, who became the first Black woman to have a retrospective at the Guggenheim in 2014, uses her photographs to explore topics of race, gender and class inequality. This special exhibition featuring selections of works from both artists explores their overlapping efforts to reflect the experience of Black people and issues around systems of power. 

Nov. 17-Jan. 22, 2023; Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., Seattle; seattleartmuseum.org