Every autumn, when pumpkin-spice lattes befall us, nerdy memes and essays circulate about the difference between simulated experiences and the real deal. I’m in the camp that says there is no substitute for seeing art in person.
Faced with a huge painting or a tiny photograph, we feel the immensity or intimacy created by the artist. Up close with a sculpture, we gather the nuances that texture and dimensionality create. And installations that offer spatial and sensorial immersion? Well, our bodies need to actually move through those.
Art can generate humbly grounding or transcendent experiences, and sometimes both at the same time. And then there’s the whole intellectual side. Some of the best conversations I’ve ever had have been in museums and galleries.
One of my favorite ways of thinking about the term “aesthetic” (before it became shorthand for cool Tumblr collages) is that it contrasts with “anesthetic.” Art quickens our sensations and enlivens our spirits.
Here are some great possibilities for local encounters of the aesthetic kind:
If you haven’t taken the ferry to Bremerton lately, this fall is a great time to make the trip. Just a short walk from the Bremerton ferry dock, a charming old house doubles as cogean?, an experimental art space. Homeowners Ben Gannon and Joey Veltkamp are concluding their two-year project of hosting exhibitions with an energetic package of events and ceramics (vibrantly colored, gnomelike creatures) from Brooklyn-based artist Lulu Yee. Nov. 1-Dec. 15; 833 Cogean Ave., Bremerton; free; cogean.weebly.com
“Refract: The Seattle Glass Experience” is a brand-new festival for creative glass in the Pacific Northwest. Hosted by Chihuly Garden and Glass, Refract will bring together more than 50 artists and art organizations to showcase Seattle’s world-class glass community. Oct. 17-20 at multiple locations including open studios where you can see artists at work; prices vary; refractseattle.org
In conjunction with “Refract,” the Center on Contemporary Art (CoCA) will host “Ceci N’est pas une Pipe d’un Homme,” featuring the work of femme-identifying glass artists from the Pacific Northwest. Oct. 3-Nov. 23; 114 Third Ave. S., Seattle; free; cocaseattle.org
It’s always a good sign when new commercial galleries open up. Housewright, from designer Tim Pfeiffer and architect Steve Hoedemaker, is a homey (but very stylish) showroom in Georgetown, combining curated art exhibitions with furniture and interior objects. Housewright’s inaugural show is ambitious: A celebration of art from the legendary “Northwest School” — including ceramics, paintings and works on paper by modernist masters such as Paul Horiuchi, Mark Tobey and Margaret Tomkins. Through Oct. 26; 6107 13th Ave. S., Seattle; free; housewrightgallery.com
The J. Rinehart Gallery, which opened online this year, has quickly established itself in the art community by representing super talented local artists such as Jazz Brown, Shaun Kardinal and Lakshmi Muirhead. In October, owner Judith Rinehart will open a physical gallery in Pioneer Square with a group exhibition aptly titled “Introductions.” Oct. 3-Nov. 9; 319 Third Ave. S., Seattle; free; jrinehartgallery.com
The Burke Museum (aka the Washington State Museum of Natural History and Culture) is reopening with a gorgeous new building by Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig. The new Burke inverts the typical museum layout, revealing its holdings and research rather than squirreling them away from public view. Located on a corner of the University of Washington’s campus, the Burke has a strong collection of Northwest Coast Native arts. The grand opening is Oct. 12-14; 4300 15th Ave. N.E., Seattle; $22 adult, $20 senior, $14 non-UW student and youth, free for children 3 and under, and for UW students, faculty and staff; first Thursdays free; burkemuseum.org
MadArt in South Lake Union has also been committed to public access, letting us view large-scale art installations in progress. From Sept. 23 to Oct. 16, you can step inside an immersive system of fragmented and overlapping passages as it’s being constructed by artists/architects Jennifer Newsom and Tom Carruthers (who collaborate under the name “Dream the Combine”) and artist/engineer Clayton Binkley. The finished installation, which they describe as a “looping circulatory system,” will be on view until Dec. 7. Sept. 23-Dec. 7; 325 Westlake Ave. N., #101, Seattle; free; madartseattle.com
At the Frye Art Museum, “Donald Byrd: The America That Is To Be” should be a dynamic exhibition blending archival performance footage and ephemera with live, in-gallery dance performances, all of which highlight four decades of innovative, civic-minded work by Seattle-based choreographer Byrd. Oct. 12-Jan. 26, 2020; 704 Terry Ave.; Seattle; free; fryemuseum.org
Last but not least, a different kind of physicality will be on full, glorious display at the Seattle Art Museum in “Flesh and Blood: Italian Masterpieces from the Capodimonte Museum.” This is a very rare chance to see 40 Renaissance and Baroque works of art from a large Italian art museum. The list looks very promising, with paintings by Artemisia Gentileschi, Raphael, Titian, El Greco and more, in an exhibition that, according to SAM, embraces “the human body as a vehicle to express love and devotion, physical labor, and tragic suffering.” Oct. 17-Jan. 26, 2020; 1300 First Ave., Seattle; $29.99 adult, $27.99 senior, $19.99 student, free for SAM members and children 14 and under; first Thursday reduced-ticket prices; seattleartmuseum.org