Monday, January 31, 2011


In 2010 Seattle street artists No Touching Ground, NKO and photographer Dan Hawkins, collectively known as the New Mystics, created a a 9,000-square-foot art installation called The Tombs in a former factory south of downtown Seattle. By design the project was hidden from the public in a building that the three artists entered illegally, though it it was decently documented by local writers and photographers.

The New Mystics now want to work together with the King County arts organization 4culture to recreate their installation in a way that is accessible and open to the public. They're looking for $2,000 to install this piece properly and have started a Kickstarter campaign towards that goal. As with all Kickstarter initiatives, any well meaning soul is welcome to go online and give any amount of money for a project that inspires them. The public installation is scheduled to open on April 4th, 2011 at Gallery 4Culture in downtown Seattle, and it will happen on time with our help. More about the Tombs project here.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Shigeru Ban

The Japanese architect Shigeru Ban is noted for his use of inexpensive construction materials such as paperboard, cardboard tubes, beer cases and plastic sheeting. While his designs for DIY prefab housing have been adopted by the UN High Commission for Refugees to house earthquake victims in Turkey and Rwanda, Ban has also used these lightweight but sturdy and relatively inexpensive materials to create breathtakingly beautiful homes, pavilions and churches. A documentary film on Shigeru Ban, called An Architect for Emergencies screens as part of the 47 Degrees North Film Series at the University of Washington. On Monday January 31 at 6 pm.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Children's Film Fest

The Northwest Film Forum opens their annual Children's Film Festival this Friday in Seattle. This year's 10-day extravaganza brings more than 125 films from 29 countries, a magical blend that includes animation, features, shorts, historical films and hands-on workshops. Highlights include a live performance from Casper Babypants; an all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast; a program spotlighting Chinese animation as curated by the acclaimed animator Joe Chang; and screenings of the rarely seen Mary Pickford silent film, A Little Princess, with a new live score.

The festival opens this Friday, January 28 - not coincidentally a day when the Seattle Schools are closed - and runs until February 6.

Get tickets here.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

John Grade

Seattle artist John Grade created a 10,000-pound ceramic sculpture that he and a crew of 150 hikers will be porting up the side of a mountain in the Cascade range later this winter. Once "Circuit" reaches the peak, the pieces of the artwork will be attached in the form of an elliptical ring around the top of the mountain, where it will spend more than a year while the wind, rain, snow and harsh temperatures elements erode it unpredictably. At the end of that period it will be taken apart and marched back down to sea level, reassembled and displayed in its weathered state. Stranger art critic Jen Graves has a story about the project here.

In the meantime, Grade has a piece called "La Chasse" or "The Hunt" slowly changing in a French forest and a nearby gallery that is well worth a look.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rides A Bike

Fun! Rides A Bike is an excellent photoblog of movie stars and other famous people on their self-propelled vehicles. Check out Sean Connery, the Beatles, and Sophia Loren! On bikes!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

New City New Year

For close to 30 years New City Theater has been a vital force in Seattle, creating dramas of great subtlety and powerful impact using - to say the least - limited resources. The company has been nomadic for much of its existence, producing their work sporadically in improvised places. In 2010 founders Mary Ewald and John Kazanjian received grants from 4Culture, and a nod of approval from new landlords, to take over a small storefront venue at 18th Avenue and Union Street on Capitol Hill.

For the first time in recent memory New City announced a full slate of productions for 2011. The season starts this week with David Mamet's political satire "November," opening Jan. 21; Elizabeth Kenny's world-premiere show "Sick" opens April 8, and Sam Shepard's "Curse of the Starving Class" runs from May 20-June 12.

In the fall, New City will debut a new work by Seattle playwright Curtis Taylor, and present Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest." In addition New City will host a late-night poetry-performance series, curated by agent provocateur Seanjohn Walsh and a short run of a new piece by Seattle author Rebecca Brown.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Black Man Talks of Reaping

a poem for Martin Luther King Jr. Day by Arna Bontemps.

I have sown beside all waters in my day.
I planted deep, within my heart the fear
that wind or fowl would take the grain away.
I planted safe against this stark, lean year.

I scattered seed enough to plant the land
in rows from Canada to Mexico
but for my reaping only what the hand
can hold at once is all that I can show.

Yet what I sowed and what the orchard yields
my brother's sons are gathering stalk and root;
small wonder then my children glean in fields
they have not sown, and feed on bitter fruit.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dinner With Wallace

Essayist, playwright and actor Wallace Shawn will be in Seattle on January 20 to present his new book of essays, called simply "Essays." Shawn wrote the strange and stirring plays The Designated Mourner and The Fever, but is probably best know for sitting across the table from Andre Gregory in the art-house staple My Dinner With Andre. Local journalist and musician Sean Nelson will be hosting a conversation with Shawn at the Sorrento Hotel as part of their Penthouse Symposium series. A $40 ticket includes dinner by the Sorrento chefs and a copy of Shawn's new book. On Thursday, January 20 at 7 pm. Tickets available here.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jeffrey Simmons

Jeffrey Simmons is a Seattle artist who creates paintings of glowing beauty. While his materials are as traditional as possible - he uses primarily watercolors and acrylics on canvas - there is nothing traditional about the results. Simmons applies layer upon layer of weakly diluted transparent pigments to create effects that simply baffle the eye. His abstract images can reveal smooth ripples of color like a drop of pigment in milk, or glimpses of otherworldly illuminated objects.

A large show of Simmons' paintings, watercolors and etchings hangs at the Greg Kucera gallery in Seattle until February 19th. The image to the left is from the current show, but it can't do justice to the subtlety of his painting. See it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Deep

A new stop motion film from world class animator PES!

...and in a related development, Sea and Spar Between is a poetry generator using words that come exclusively from Emily Dickinson’s poems and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The generator defines a space of language populated by a number of stanzas comparable to the number of fish in the sea, around 225 trillion. Each stanza is indicated by two coordinates, as with latitude and longitude. They range from 0 : 0 to 14992383 : 14992383.

For example, this is the poem at coordinates 6995, 548

One air one art one art one world
     another! dying!

how to enjoy the webjay course
     then guileless is the sun

Sound complicated? Try it!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Vivian Maier

Vivian Maier, evidently one of America’s more insightful street photographers, has at last been discovered, more than 2 years after she died.

Ms. Maier was born in New York in 1926, lived in France, and returned to New York in 1951. Five years later, she moved to Chicago, where she worked for about 40 years as a nanny, principally for families in the North Shore suburbs. On her days off, she wandered the streets of New York and Chicago, most often with a Rolleiflex twin-lens reflex camera. Apparently, she did not share her pictures with others. Many of them, she never saw herself. She died in 2008, leaving behind hundreds of undeveloped rolls.

John Maloof, a 29-year-old Chicago real estate agent, acquired a boxful of negatives at an auction in 2007. They had been in a commercial storage locker whose contents were seized for non-payment. Maloof was looking for Chicago scenes for an illustrated history of the Portage Park neighborhood for Arcadia’s Images of America series.

He didn’t find any pictures of Portage Park. Indeed, he wasn’t exactly sure what he had found. “I didn’t know what ’street photography’ was when I purchased them,” he wrote on his Vivian Maier blog. Eventually he posted the images to the Hardcore Street Photography group on Flickr, and watched as the responses poured in.

He is now about one-tenth of the way into the task of scanning and archiving 100,000 negatives of hers in his possession, and he has yet to develop several hundred rolls of black-and-white film and about 600 color rolls. Another large collection — including 12,000 negatives and 70 homemade movies — is in the hands of Jeff Goldstein and his collaborators at Vivian Maier Photography.

Maier is currently being honored with a one-woman show, “Finding Vivian Maier,” at the Chicago Cultural Center. A documentary film, also titled “Finding Vivian Maier,” is in the works.

If you've been slow to discover this emerging phenomenon, as Gurldoggie has been, take some time simply to look at her remarkable photos.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Song of Tent City

Since November 27th Seattle Poet Mimi Allin has been living as the Poet In Residence at Tent City 3, one of Seattle’s migratory homeless encampments. Tether Design Gallery volunteered their gallery space for an exhibit based on the experience. The show includes an installation of Mimi's tent, poetry and handwritten journal entries written by homeless people living in Tent City, and audio recordings of Tent City residents.

The opening takes place tonight, January 6th, as part of the First Thursday Pioneer Square art walk. The show runs until January 20th. Read more about Mimi's experiences at her blog Song Of Tent City.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Blu Buffed

Italian street artist Blu was recently invited by Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary art (MOCA) director Jeffrey Deitch to contribute an outdoor mural to the museum’s upcoming “Art in the Street” show. The artist flew to Los Angeles in early December to paint the mural, an anti-war statement depicting rows of coffins draped in dollar bills. He was nearly done when the director, seeing the mural for the first time, ordered its immediate removal. The museum issued a statement explaining that the decision was prompted by concern that the mural’s imagery could offend the museum’s neighbors, a war veteran’s hospital and a memorial to Japanese American soldiers.

An incensed Blu blasted the decision on his blog, indicating that he would not accept the museum’s invitation to paint a new mural over the erased one. He commented on the debate raging online as to whether the decision was "censorship" or a "curatorial choice." "In fact," he wrote, "it is a curatorial choice that involves the censorship of a mural."

The cultural watchdogs at Just Seeds wrote: "Blu’s impressive mural at MOCA deviated little from the majority of his work that critiques war and capital. His image presented war as a ruthless business enterprise where young men and women are sent off to battle (and sent home in coffins) while corporations reap massive rewards...Apparently, Jeffrey Deitch missed the memo that censoring anti-war images of coffins is something that democratic societies do not take kindly to."

More on the mural, and the controversy, in a million places. Including here, here and here.

Monday, January 3, 2011

B2o1oks 2

...and non-fiction.

Just Kids by Patti Smith. It's been widely praised and well lauded, and all for good reason. Smith's memoir captures a long gone time when she and Robert Mapplethorpe were young, poor and unknown, barely surviving in New York City and dreaming of better things. A personal and evocative look inside the private world of two unique young people who became stars.

The Bog People by P. V. Glob. A compulsively readable introductory archaeology course, taught by an eccentric and enthusiastic professor, about the ancient bodies discovered in Denmark’s peat bogs. Though the book is replete with archeological details, it is also rich with Iron Age poetry, mythology and truly amazing photographs.

Oranges & Peanuts for Sale Eliot Weinberger. An embarrassment of riches from a contemporary thinker and man of letters. In a few dozen essays, Weinberger offers a reassessment of E. B. White’s Here is New York, a manifesto for rudderless poets, a poetic assesment of Barack Obama's language and his election campaign, and a lush collage of impressions gathered during a trip on the Yangtze River. Like the State of the Union address delivered by a Confucian sage.

Despite Everything: A Cometbus Omnibus by Aaron Cometbus. Cometbus is a legendary zine, self-published irregularly for more than 20 years from locations around the world. This is an extensive retrospective collection, weighing in at more than 600 pages, featuring comics, interviews, low-budget trips through Europe, stories of hitchhiking, reviews of coffee, cereal, bookstores, and lots of punk rock adventures. Cometbus remains a testament to what can be done when an artist rigorously applies DIY punk ethics to his own life. Entertaining and inspiring.

The Photographer by Didier Lefèvre and Emmanuel Guibert. A beautiful and terrible book, part photojournalism and part graphic memoir, telling the true story of a group of French doctors and nurses who traveled into northern Afghanistan by horse and donkey train in 1986 at the height of the Soviet occupation. Using small sequential frames of photographs combined with drawings, the book details the damage done by war and the frantic struggle to mend the broken. It's a powerful and arduous story, with the misery of war presented so powerfully that it's impossible to look away.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


Without any attempt to list all the books I read this year, much less try to gauge the "best" of them, these are some of the books that I thoroughly enjoyed, or which had a strong impact on me, in 2010. In two parts.


Warlock by Oakley Hall. An absolutely epic novel which is ostensibly a morality tale set in the wild west, but which evolves over many pages into a deeply thoughtful meditation on good and evil. Not only a damn good story with many complicated characters, but also a cynical look at a national myth, ending as a damning report on human society in general. Riveting.

Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham. A tormented tale from the 1940's of a travelling carnival worker driven by ambition to become a manipulative mentalist. A gripping ride of a circus novel with many sidetracks into murder, addiction, lust and madness. Features several memorable scenes of geeks reduced by poverty and alcohol to a subhuman existence. Disquieting.

Nada by Carmen LaForet. A sad and beautiful coming-of-age novel from 1945 in which a girl, orphaned by the Spanish Civil War, travels from the country to live with her relatives in Barcelona. The luxurious house she remembers from her childhood has been reduced to a dark and dusty prison populated by her odd and unpredictable family, physically and psychologically devasted by the war. It would read like a gothic horror story if the details weren't so beautifully observed and historically accurate. "Cities, my child, are hell. And in all of Spain no city resembles hell more than Barcelona . . . A young girl in Barcelona must be like a fortress. Do you understand?"

The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis. An absolutely stunning collection of short stories, nearly every one of which can take your breath away. All the more notable for the fact that many of them are as short as a single page or even shorter. Sharp observations of moments of deep resonance in ordinary lives. I often found myself reading single stories again and again to understand what made the austere descriptions of friends and family relationships so powerfully affecting. I came up with no easy answers, I think it must be dark magic.

Sidetracked by Henning Mankell. I began reading this celebrated series in 2007 or so and have been going through them in order. This one, the 5th, is my favorite so far and while I have enjoyed them all, this is the first which really thrilled me. The compelling narrative is told from the points of view of both our trusty detective, Kurt Wallender, and from the deranged and methodical killer. The killer himself is an inspired creation, truly awful yet powerfully sympathetic.