Fabric of the American Dream (the book)

Posted on January 16, 2018

In 2015 Chatwin Books published Fabric of the American Dream, a combination monograph (of my Manet covers) and meditation on some of the recurring themes in my work. Chatwin co-founder Annie Brule, who had been a tenant of my ’57 Biscayne studios from its inception, and I had been wanted to collaborate for a long time, and this seemed like the perfect project. Annie is an illustrator, map-maker, and book designer who specializes in art books. She and Arundel Books owner Phil Bevis founded Chatwin a few years ago; Fabric of the American Dream was the first in their artist series.

On Phil’s advice, we produced the book in two editions: a clothbound limited edition, and an unlimited paperback edition. Both versions have identical content inside. I wanted the books to reflect my psychedelic homespun aesthetic in their form as well as their content. When I hear the word “clothbound”,  I’m not picturing some tasteful, plain, dark, smoky, brown number. I’m thinking more along the lines of something I’d use in a painting. The problem with vintage fabric is the difficulty of finding a sufficient supply to do all fifty covers. (Besides, I need it to use in my paintings.) After some searching, I managed to find some brand new fabric that gave off the right mid-century vibe, so I snagged what was left of the bolt.

I consulted with some crotchetty old guys in the midwest who had been binding books for forty years and knew their stuff. They initially tried to scare me away from the idea of using just any old cotton cloth to bind my books, but after I badgered them a bit to tell me what exactly real bookcloth is, they relented and allowed that I could add a stabilizer to the back of the cloth and it would probably work just fine. They were a bit tight-lipped about what that stabilizer would be, so I badgered some crotchetty old ladies here in town who had been in the crafty-fabricky world for just as long, and they, along with some younger artist bookbinders on the internet, recommended an iron-on product called “heat-n-bond”.

Due to some delays and miscommunications at the bindery, we nearly didn’t have any books for our projected opening. The production binder who bound the softcovers and the innards of both editions was unable to add the cloth covers, let alone print titles on them. Some panic ensued, but we found a smaller house to do the binding, and I decided to tackle the titles myself.

I burned a screen in the same typeface that Annie used on the printed softcover. Screen-printing the front cover was easy enough, if a little nerve-wracking. I had exactly 50 of the cloth books to work with; I was committed to having 5o perfect (non inkstained) books when I was done.

To print the title on the spine, I came up with a little contraption on the fly, cutting a book-width slit in a board and adding some book-height legs to it.

Slide the book in, lower the screen, squeegee the ink across it, and presto!










Earlier in the process, when cutting out the bookcloths, I had been very, very careful to use every square inch as economically as possible so I’d have some cloth left over. I spent the day of the book release at home in my sewing room, being just as frugal with the remainder of the cloth, and I managed to squeeze out a dress. Because if it is at all possible to match your publication, why on earth wouldn’t you?

The hardcover edition is entirely sold out, but the delightful Brule-designed softcover is available through my brand-new store page.

“Making Our Mark” at the Bellevue Arts Museum

Posted on October 17, 2017

Making Our Mark, which opens November 10 at the Bellevue Arts Museum, commemorates the 40th anniversary of Pratt Fine Arts Center, a mainstay and incubator of the visual arts in Seattle. It was named for slain civil rights leader Edwin T. Pratt.

I got my start as a teaching artist at Pratt Fine Arts Center, and taught there from 2006 until 2015. I met so many artists there, colleagues and students, who went to to become lifelong influences and friends. I also worked there as a model in the 1990’s, notably for Drake Deknatel, who became a professional mentor, studio-mate, and friend. (I made sure work from his estate was included in this show.)

At Pratt, I taught lots of beginning drawing and painting classes for adults, but I also learned to be a mentor myself, working with advanced painters who were on the verge of breaking out of the world of art classes and ready to start painting in their own language. Another perk was being able to use Pratt’s printmaking facilities, expanding my own practice to include screen-printing and etching.

There are 250 artists in the show; I will have a piece there from my Floor Plan for the American Dream series. The show runs through April 2018. There is a preview party on November 9 from 6:30-9:30 PM, free to members, $10 for non-members.

Above: a giant collaborative master copy (Honore Daumier) by one of my Pratt classes.

A demonstration painting from my Pratt “Pattern” class.

100 under $100 Closing Soiree

Posted on October 16, 2017

The show I co-curate every year, 100 under $100 at ’57 Biscayne, has been extended until Friday. We’re having a little soiree to give folks a last crack at the lovely pieces that are left. I love everything about this show: the artists bringing their work to pile up in my studio, getting together with Dara Solliday (and Lindsay Peyton this year) one morning with a lot of coffee to see what we got; dividing it into themes that strike our fancy (this year it was by color); then setting to work with hammers, levels, and lots and lots of little nails. But the most fun part is selling all this work for the artists. Every time there are buyers who have never bought art before—this year we also had an artist I’m certain has never sold before, too: she’s eight, and her piece got snatched up within seconds of the (metaphorical) opening bell.

This year I’m showing some little collages I had made as preparatory drawings for a painting, that ended up having very little to do with the painting, except for the color palette.

The event is Friday, October 20, from 4:30-7:30, and we’ll have cocktails, conversation, and some fun art to take home.

110 Cherry Street on the Second Floor.

Four shows this week, maybe five, I lost count

Posted on September 5, 2017

This Thursday, several shows I’ve organized for other artists are opening in my building (and environs). Next Saturday, September 9, another artist is presenting my work at her gallery. Let’s hear it for artists helping artists.

Thursday, September 7, from 5-9 PM at 110 Cherry Street, ’57 Biscayne will hold our fourth annual 100 under $100 show, featuring lots of take-home-able work by dozens of artists. Dara Solliday & I curate this event every year, and I do believe that overall quality of the work this year is the best ever. Stuff will be flying off the walls.

As a bonus, we’ll be serenaded by the always-fabulous Victor Janusz on the piano while people snatch up lots of fun and unexpected art.

Elsewhere in the Good Arts Building, the shiny new Cherry Street Coffee House in-house gallery will have its soft debut, with C.Y., a show I’ve curated of abstract works by ’57 Biscayne artists. The gallery will feature bimonthly shows, and I’m lining up some exciting guest curators to partner with me in the venture. NOT your average coffee house art, let’s just say.

Downstairs in the new Arcade, guest artist Fernando Sancho is installing a pop-up show of his photographs, African Dream Academy, while new resident artists Gina Grey and Ieva Ansaberger will be showing paintings, photographs, and mixed media works in their studios–in-progress and in the hallway gallery.

Down the street at Arundel Books, Original Hits by Original Artists, fake album covers by approximately 33-1/3 real artists, is being remounted, will be open for First Thursday, and viewable throughout the month of September.

Saturday in Georgetown, artist Tammy Spears, who has been for several years hosting really cool, once top-secret, art shows in a gallery carved out of her charming Georgetown home, will be featuring my work along with that of Tia Matthies. That is at:

Guest Shed Gallery
739 S. Homer St.
Saturday, September 9, 6-9 PM : Georgetown Art Attack
& Sunday, September 10 1-5 PM


Neon Dreamer and American Dreams

Posted on August 2, 2017

My great-grandmother, Mary Gulish, immigrated from Slovakia to Youngstown, Ohio early in the last century. She’d heard some rumors that prospects were better in Cleveland. After first sending her eleven-year-old daughter on a scouting mission, she showed up in Cleveland one day with eleven kids in tow, knowing not a soul and very little English. The family got off the interurban train in a mixed immigrant neighborhood on the West Side and walked up to a random house. Mary knocked on the door. It was answered by a lady who spoke Slovak. The lady took in this stranger and her eleven children (and presumably my great-grandfather, but he’s never made it into any of the versions of this story that I’ve heard). She encouraged Mary to buy a house, advice she followed, eventually housing a rotating cast of generations of relatives and getting the family through the Depression. Hence my obsession with the American Dream.

A few months ago, a young artist from Prague, Edita Pattova, found me on the internet and sent me an email asking if I might have space to host her traveling exhibit. With much of Good Arts Building in flux, I didn’t know where we’d put her but I figured we could come up with something. Edita showed up on my doorstep last week and, while I was lacking in the traditional gigantic plate of cold cuts with which my people traditionally welcome their guests, I did welcome her and her art into my building. Naturally, she turned out to be Slovak. Her mother is from the same region as my mother’s family. It was as if Mary Gulish herself had sent her. As Edita is only traveling and not immigrating, I haven’t badgered her about buying a house yet, but there is still time.

This Thursday, the Good Arts Building welcomes Czech artist Edita Pattova, presenting Neon Dreamer, an interactive painting and video installation, on the first stop of its West Coast tour. Neon Dreamer will be up for one night only, Thursday, August 3, from 5-9 PM in the under-construction Good Arts Arcade at 108 Cherry Street.

Inspired by the neon lights of Times Square on a visit to New York, Edita created a grid of nine oil paintings depicting an imaginary American city. On it, she projects an original video game, inspired by Pac-man, which visitors can play singly or competitively, becoming the dreamers chasing their dreams, beer, money, and each other through the neon-lit painted city streets, while dodging the authorities and other hazards. I intend to play, even though I’m pretty lousy at PacMan. Please stop by if you are out for First Thursday and Seattle Art Fair.

My great-grandmother, Mary Gulish. I come by the pattern thing honestly.

An art birthday party for a dear collector

Posted on July 13, 2017

Earlier this year I had the fabulous opportunity to create an art-filled birthday party for a friend and collector. Troy-Skott, who with his husband JR had bought this painting

The Magazine Women Believe In

back in 2008, was giving himself a Paris sabbatical for a big (we won’t say which) birthday. He planned to  taking the time and space to immerse himself in the art and history of Paris and to make some art himself while he was there.

Beret is essential!

He wanted to include his circle of friends in the experience, so he invited them to a send-off party at which they could experience a taste of his upcoming art sabbatical. This is where I came in. He’d observed that modern art often intimidated the uninitiated, and wondered if we could do some kind of presentation and activity to make it more accessible. Together, we came up with a plan: I would give a very rapid and VERY opinionated overview of modern art history—wait, let me back up: cocktails were served first!—and then distribute canvases, paints, brushes, and one still-life object per table, give them a method to proceed, and finally let them loose making a cubist painting.

Why a cubist painting? Well, I started with the birth of modernism in the visual arts: Impressionists and their immediate forerunners were beginning to be surrounded by photography, mass printing, and other technologies. Artists became more self-conscious about the difference between an object and their own perception of it, as well as the difference between their perception of something and its representation. This begat a certain self-consciousness about looking at representations (particularly among those making the representations). The Cubists were arguably the first to represent that self-consciousness itself. The difference between the flat representation that you’re looking at and the object being represented was the subject of the painting. And the Cubists were among the more theoretical and wordy of the modern pioneers (although the Surrealists later gave them a run for their money), so they left behind pages and pages of theory that no one reads anymore, yet come in handy for teaching this stuff. Artists like Picasso found that the theory got old fast, but his early dive into those Cubist experiments made his later work possible.

I happened to have a goat skull laying around, as well as a toy accordion, both of which seemed like appropriately Cubist subjects. To keep the palettes reasonably coherent (and cubist) I pre-mixed the paint in gradations of brown, orange, green, and blue-grey. I briefly gave them a mission: Look for the shapes that represent the various planes of the three-dimensional object and outline them in black. Move one chair over. Repeat. Fill in the outlined shapes with tonal gradations of the same color.

The group’s skill levels were all over the map, time was short, my instructions even shorter, and cocktails were being served, but the results were nonetheless respectable.


Tessellation Row

Posted on July 7, 2017

Elements of Pattern class starts 7/13 in my studio.

I took the photo of a Moorish tile pattern, above, at the Alcazar palace in Sevilla during a visit to Spain several years ago. The Moors created a lot of their patterns by connecting the centers of a bunch of circles, basically dividing them into sixths, and forming a complex overlapping pattern of stars and interlocking hexagons. The hexagon theme pops up a lot in patterns both manmade and in nature. A hexagon is one of the few basic shapes that can tessellate, that is, it fits together with a bunch of its hexagon buddies with no spaces in between them.

This turtle (RIP) is sporting a pattern of interlocking hexagons, squeezed a bit to fit into his or her oval shape, complemented nicely by a fetching border pattern:


The starfish (also RIP), if you look closely, has hexagonal pattern in the skeletal structure supporting it, lines radiating from the center of each one and interconnecting the whole thing, similar to the Moorish tile design.

starfish structure

However, if you look from the top, the structure modifies itself a bit to reflect the radial 5-pointed shape of the animal:

starfish closeup


This pattern of interlocking hexagons is found in many molecular structures, too. Some British designers in the early 1950’s ran with the idea, producing crazy home-furnishings textiles based rather literally on specific molecular structures. How about a dress of boric acid:

Wallpaper - Boric Acid 8.34(images: Victoria & Albert Museum)

Or perhaps insulin, in which the hexagonal molecules, rather than interlock, are arranged in a half-drop pattern:

Wallpaper - Insulin 8.25

These designs and others like them were inspired by the new technology of x-ray crystallography, and were displayed at the 1951 Festival of Britain, a kind of post-war atomic-age art and science fair. You can see how they eventually gave birth to the more free-form “atomic” style.

Design by Michael Miller.

Oh look, here I am wearing it. (photo: Jo Moniz)

Elements of Pattern will dive into these matters in a hands-on way, where we’ll learn these underlying structures and use them and vary them to create original patterns. The possibilities are infinite, but you’ve got to start somewhere! Sign up HERE or contact me for more information.