Welcome to On View, a new feature exploring current visual art offerings throughout the city and beyond.
Our first On View outing comes at a crossroads: With Vax Day in the rearview mirror, you might be ready to venture out of your yearlong quarantine and into an art gallery or museum. But maybe you still have a wait of many weeks before you’re fully vaccinated, or perhaps it all still feels a little too good to be true — with the end (hopefully) in sight, what’s one more week of kitchen-table puzzles and outdoor hangs with a trusted circle of friends?
In future installments of this feature, we’ll focus on in-person opportunities. But a strange moment of transition calls for respecting all comfort zones. So we’ve curated a mix of in-person and internet-based options to engage your eyeballs over the next few weeks, whether you’re taking in Daisy Patton’s bright, cerebral portraits at J. Rinehart Gallery or logging on for an art history lecture at the Frye. See you out there — or online. It’s up to you.
Daisy Patton at J. Rinehart Gallery
The inspiration for “To Help You Remember Me,” on view through May 22 at J. Rinehart Gallery in Pioneer Square, comes from an inscription artist Daisy Patton found on the back of a discarded photograph: “Dear Peaches, Just a little reminder to help you remember me and the good times we had Vera Ballinger 1942 [sic].”
In the photograph on the other side, a woman grins in a three-quarter portrait once sent to her friend. Both women are long gone, and Peaches’ face remains a mystery, but Patton has brought new life to Vera’s likeness, among others.
“To Help You Remember Me” features paintings like the one that inspired the show’s title. For each piece, Patton sources an abandoned family photograph from across the country and the world, digitally blows the image up to life-size, and paints adornments and bright splashes of color onto a newly revived portrait of a stranger. In “Dear Peaches,” the woman we assume is Vera wears distinctly midcentury lipstick, but Patton has also given her a crown of pink flowers and an aura of yellow leaves in what the artist describes as “devotional marks of care.”
Patton finds photographs through her own social networks as well as thrift stores and eBay. Through her analog-digital process and application of organic forms, she performs “a kind of re-enlivening, removing the individuals from their formerly static location and time” that allows them to be “‘reborn’ into a fantastical, liminal place that holds both beauty and joy, temporarily suspended from plunging fully into oblivion.”
There’s a weightiness behind all this color. In her artist statement, Patton asks: “What does it feel like to look at someone again directly, to see them present again as they look back at you? This exchange of gazes, looking across time and space, is meant to unsettle the ways we think about ourselves, those who came before us, and the performative ways we try to display ourselves to others.”
This overlap between whimsy and existentialism recurs in images like “Untitled (Woman with Yellow Flower Crown and Patterned Curtains),” featuring an image sourced from Lebanon via Los Angeles. The woman in it stands in a self-possessed posture, bright blue and magenta filling in for the colors she must have actually worn the day her picture was taken.
Of course, there’s no way to know what they might have been — Patton’s treatment simply fills in the gaps temporarily. But the gesture itself speaks to the particularity of people we’ll never meet — the specific idiosyncrasies in each person, the tiny, ordinary things people they loved may have known about them, details lost in a huge scope of collective humanity and the insistent march of time, or in the notes sent back-and-forth between Vera and Peaches.
J. Rinehart Gallery, 319 Third Ave. S., Seattle; open at 25% capacity 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and by appointment; 206-467-4508, jrinehartgallery.com
Dawn Cerny at Seattle Art Museum
In his 1965 sociological novel “Les Choses,” French author Georges Perec focuses exhaustively on the material surroundings of his two nominal protagonists, Sylvie and Jerome. The opening pages read less like a novel than a set treatment for a play, and they’re oddly resonant after a year spent inside, looking at our domestic spaces from every possible, imperfect angle.
This is the state of things Dawn Cerny‘s new show at Seattle Art Museum enters. It takes its name from Perec’s book, and as in “Les Choses,” the things in Cerny’s show are not just things but, according to the exhibition text, “embodiments of mindscapes” that “capture the spirit of the tentative and the in-between, conveying different psychological and emotional states.”
Cerny, the recipient of SAM’s Betty Bowen Award, creates objects out of ordinary materials like cardboard and wire. The resulting pieces look vaguely identifiable — they’re gestures at domestic spaces but in soft, organic shapes and a limited palette of yellow and white, with titles that nod glancingly, wryly at narrative (“The one about the woman who could never have nice things,” “The farm that was there and then not,” “Vase for the unending bachelor”). Like a space you know so well you may not notice it, the sculptures seem half-real and half-imagined, which is exactly what emotional landscapes are.
As with Patton’s work, the scaffolding of a story is there, but it’s up to the viewer to supply the rest. In a news release from SAM, Catharina Manchanda, Jon and Mary Shirley curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, described it this way: “At SAM, visitors effectively enter a stage where the sculptures become a cast of characters, each burdened by their imperfections, hopes, and desires. Tender and moving, they also allow us to reflect on this moment in time.”
Seattle Art Museum, 1300 First Ave., Seattle; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday, First Free Thursday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; $19.99 adults, $17.99 seniors 65 and older and military, $12.99 teens and students, free for SAM members and children 14 and under; 206-654-3100, seattleartmuseum.org
Design your own art history class
It’s impossible to re-create the experience of standing in a real gallery through a screen, and the best virtual art experiences don’t even try, instead lending fresh context through online artist talks and lectures (or in the case of the National Nordic Museum, a series combining cocktails with ideas for a home art practice). Though “art history lecture” may not top your to-do list, the pandemic has made these offerings newly accessible, and they can add to the experience of seeing work in-person, or make for more immersive at-home viewing than clicking tortuously through JPEGs.
On May 8, the Nordic Museum will welcome Hanne Sekokari and Anu Utriainen from the Ateneum Art Museum (one of several museums that make up the Finnish National Gallery) for a virtual lecture. Sekokari and Utriainen will walk viewers through the museum’s new exhibition, “Among Forests and Lakes: Landscape Masterpieces from the Finnish National Gallery”; the Nordic Museum is the only North American venue where you can see this show, but you can watch the lecture from anywhere.
Like the Nordic Museum, the Frye Art Museum has pivoted imaginatively to digital content, with a new series of online lectures from art historian Rebecca Albiani combining prerecorded talks with live Q&A sessions on everything from the provenance of Valentine’s Day cards to Niki de Saint Phalle’s massive tarot-inspired garden in Italy; all are archived and accessible through the Frye’s website. On May 13, Albiani will give a new lecture of the work of Oakland, California-born artist Robert Colescott, whose paintings lampooned iconic artworks and examined Black history through a transgressive lens. “Attend” these lectures now and you’ll emerge into life after the pandemic ready to engage with art in a whole new way.
“Among Forests and Lakes” curators’ talk: Saturday, May 8; free for members, $5 general admission; National Nordic Museum, nordicmuseum.org/product/5888
“The Serious Fun of Robert Colescott,” art history lecture series with Rebecca Albiani; Thursday, May 13; series pass $55 for members, $85 nonmembers; single tickets $6.50 members, $9 nonmembers; Frye Art Museum, fryemuseum.org