The Duwamish Residency: Process and Artifacts

We are excited to announce that Sharon Arnold of LxHxW Gallery and Roq la Rue Gallery will be our guest curator of The Duwamish Residency: Process and Artifacts. This group show will encompass interpretations by Residency artists of the Duwamish River and Valley, including the Georgetown Steam Plant, at the 4culture Gallery in Pioneer Square. We hope you can join us at the opening on First Thursday, March 5 beginning at 6 pm.

Guest Tom Reese

We had the pleasure of photographer, Tom Reese‘s company for a few hours during the Duwamish Residency this year. He stopped by for our opening tour in Herring House Park led by naturalist, Jim Demetre, who did a fabulous job by the way. Tom has been photographing the Duwamish River for years and has a great depth of knowledge and a keen eye. Check out Project for Hope on his website.

During his visit with us to the Georgetown Steam Plant, Tom honored us by photographing our group. Here is a link to the images. (Please note that Jessica Dodge and David Kane are not pictured). We tip our hat to Tom. Thank you.

Political Correctness, Salish Legend, and Making Art

Day 4

August 8, 2014

The Salish people may have been the first in America to acknowledge that some people are “differently enabled”. According to the legend Her First Basket(as told by Vi Hilbert), a girl who in our times would be considered “disabled” becomes the first among her people to learn the art of basket weaving. She is able to hear the voice of the Cedar Tree, who teaches her how to weave its roots into a tightly coiled basket. But it takes four tries before the girl is able to make a basket that holds water without leaking.

Every year it seems the Duwamish River is trying to teach me how to make art. Confronted with an environment that assaults the senses—and not just the eyes—I struggle to create. I’ve tried the method of drawing the same scene four times. Am I getting it right by the fourth time? I haven’t heard any voices say so, but I notice that each drawing takes less time than the one before.

I think the girl making her first basket found that too.

After the fourth, successful time, the Cedar Tree told the girl to decorate her basket. “And wasn’t it smart of you to listen and to take it apart four times and never give up? So, for a design, just look around you. Take what you see and make it yours.”


Juliet Shen

Duwamish 2014 Day 2.

If you take from the River, give something back.

Today I was drawing in Herring’s House Park where there’s a pebbly beach with a big weathered log lying perpendicular to the shore, and the remnants of a brick wall, both good for setting your stuff on while you draw.

The first settlers at Herring’s House were the Duwamish Indians, who occupied seven long houses along the shore and built a huge potlatch house about 21,600 sq ft in area (not a typo!). After the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliot (ratified by the Senate in 1859) those tribe members who remained in the area lost title to their land and the next wave of settlers built sawmills, grain elevators and other buildings. Perhaps our brick wall dated from that era.

I propped my supplies on the big log and Sue Danielson set up on the brick wall. Between the log and the wall were some bushes, and there I found a bit of hemp netting stuck to a rock. I carefully pried it off the rock and put it in my box to try out later for a pressure print.

After finishing my first drawing, one of my brushes managed to roll off the log where I had laid it, onto the ground strewn with dry reeds, where it was so perfectly camouflaged that 5 minutes of intense scrutiny failed to differentiate it to my eyes. Philosophically I accepted that I had to give the River something for the netting I had removed from its hiding place.

Sue came back from a brief break she had taken in the shade of the trees back away from the shore. She spotted my brush among the reeds, so I thought, “Hmmm. This time I didn’t have to leave something for the River spirt after all.” I was mistaken. At the next drawing site I moved to, I discovered that one of my watercolor pencils was missing from my kit. Okay, the River and I were even again.

Later in the day I learned that while Sue had been among the trees practicing chi gong, she had put down her phone and sunglasses and then left them there. By the time she went back, they were gone. But before the day was over the person who had picked them up called her and arranged to come back to Herring’s House Park the next day and return them.

The River spirit wants a fair exchange, but It’s not greedy.

Juliet Shen

Choice Picks: Steve Macfarlane

Steve MacFarlane is a talented printmaker with enviable draftsmanship skills that are reflected in his astutely observed drawings and prints. His imagery often blurs the line between realism and abstraction, and loaded with expressive marks and color. Personally we love his ingenious sense of humor and wise observations about the landscape along the Duwamish River. It’s the type of place where anything might happen, from the sudden appearance of a swat team to a jumping salmon. Steve gives good commentary both off and on the picture plane.
Steve’s primary focus while working along the Duwamish River is, well, the landscape. He often works in charcoal to create drawings that he translates into monoprints once back in his studio. During an exhibit last fall at the North Seattle Community College Gallery of Residency artists’ work, Steve treated us to a demonstration of his process by displaying a series of sketches, drawings and proofs, to finished monoprints of single images.
 Kellog Island Bend Full Tide copy
Here is what Steve had to say about joining the Residency:
When I was asked to join a Residency on the Duwamish River, I instantly said yes.  Not only was it an intriguing idea, to spend a week creating art in an area unfamiliar to me, but also a chance to work alongside other artists, seeing what energy and interpretations they would bring to the experience.  I had no idea what this was going to be like as I am used to working in the pretty controlled environment of my studio.  On the river, I would be subject to the vagaries of weather, light, access to sites and the physical constraints of how to actually create artwork outside of the studio in potentially awkward spaces.
My work also typically focuses on the human figure and now I had this whole industrial landscape to work from – very outside my comfort zone.
Having said that, I am pretty passionate about looking at our landscape and seeing what kind of an environment we as a culture have created.   There is a certain fascination for me with what we have done in trying to control Nature for our purposes.  There is an almost awful beauty in the industrial structures and by products we have made in efforts to “advance” our living standards.  Although we have come to see many of these things as indicative of our abuse of the environment, there is a certain solidness and monumental quality in these structures.  Almost as a counterpoint, what I found particularly intriguing was how Nature continually erodes the control and structure we try to impose on it.  
There are stretches of the river, once heavily channelized and industrialized, that are surprisingly beautiful – areas where natural forces are reclaiming the riverbanks.  What I hope to capture in my work are indicators of the inevitability of Nature’s power to break down our insistence and drive to control our environment through the dynamic, ever-changing way it advances, regardless of, and even despite, our efforts.
Duwamish Pumphouse copy
The Duwamish River Residency, now my third year of participation, has been an incredible journey of creativity and exploration.  I credit the other participating artists in no small way for making this happen.  The camaraderie and challenge extended by all the participants has made this one of the more dynamic projects to have been a part of.
12 Ave South
Posted by Sue Danielson

Choice Picks: Ethan Bickel

You’ll often find Ethan Bickel with a camera hanging around his neck, or a large sketch pad on his lap full of expressive landscape drawings. In each case he creates images that are perceptive and clear. In the unique light offered both in and outside of the Georgetown Steam Plant last year his evocative photographs truly capture the haunting beauty of this historic structure.  Along with his unique vision, Ethan brings a wry sense of humor to the Residency that is equally appreciated. He’s just fun to hang out with. We are very glad he’s come along with us for the past two years.

Ethan on his experience in 2013:

Exploring the old power plant was a highlight of this year’s residency, though at first it felt very disconnected to the Duwamish River itself.  In a historical context, however, the river used to flow right by its doors, and the power plant must have been a prominent marker on the Duwamish landscape.  It was thrilling to explore the interior space of an industrial building in a landscape that has been so changed by industry and commerce.

Here are Ethan’s choice picks:

Bickel 2

Photograph by Ethan Bickel.

Bickel 5

Old pump house on the shores of the Duwamish River. Photograph by Ethan Bickel.

Bickel 4

Photograph by Ethan Bickel.

Bickel 7

Georgetown Steam Plant. Photograph by Ethan Bickel.

Bickel 3

Light rail bridge (left). Photograph by Ethan Bickel.


Posted by Sue Danielson