Five Women Artists in the Collection: Helen A. Loggie

Helen A. Loggie; Hemlock Forest, ca. 1955; Etching. Whatcom Museum no. 1976.8.1

The Whatcom Museum is featuring five women artists from its collection throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month—in conjunction with the #5WomenArtists campaign, organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. This is the final week to celebrate and we highlight Helen A. Loggie, whose work was last exhibited in the Whatcom Museum’s 2016 show, Just Women, as well as in the 2010 exhibition Show of Hands: Northwest Women Artists, 1880-2010.

Helen A. Loggie (1895–1976) was best known for her etchings depicting the Pacific Northwest landscape of the early- to mid-twentieth century, and particularly the trees that occupied her immediate surroundings. Loggie’s family settled in Bellingham the year she was born to operate a lumber mill at the mouth of Whatcom Creek. Surrounded by the lumber industry and the colossal forests of the Washington Coast, trees became central to Loggie in her later work, but her initial interests in art centered on portraiture.

Portrait of Helen A. Loggie, 1913. Whatcom Museum no. 1995.0010.000013.

In 1916 she moved to New York City to study at the Art Students League where she took her first formal courses in drawing and painting, and where she learned the etching process that would later become the basis of her life’s work. Travels and interest in Renaissance art took her to Europe numerous times throughout the 1920s where she sketched bustling city scenes with a focus on capturing the complex architectural details. But the Pacific Northwest called her home, and it was back to Bellingham where she settled in 1927 and found what she called “a clarity of vision” within the landscape and culture of her childhood.

Her practice was to draw outdoors from nature during the spring and summer months, on Orcas Island, where she spent most summers, or in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. Using her drawings as her source imagery, she worked on her etchings during the fall and winter months in her studio in Bellingham, though it was not uncommon for her to draw in nature even in the coldest months. Many of her images are of specific places and even specific trees, which she infused with anthropomorphic qualities. For instance, a gnarled and twisted juniper tree she often depicted, which was located on a small island off the coast of her Orcas Island home, was called “King Goblin.” A version of Goblin resides in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Hemlock Forest was one of the last etchings that Loggie completed before her death and took three to five years to complete. The dense, overall composition and areas of beautifully scribbled, calligraphic marks and vertical texture make it one of the more abstract works of all her etchings and conveys a certain spiritual quality. As in this and many other works, Loggie’s trees are both intimate portraits and elaborate cathedrals of the natural world.

-Compiled and written by Amy Chaloupka, Curator of Art

Five Women Artists in the Collection: Gail Tremblay

Gail Tremblay (b. 1945); An Iroquois Dreams That the Tribes of the Middle East Will Take the Message of Deganawida to Heart and Make Peace, 2009; 16mm film, leader, rayon cord, and thread.

The Whatcom Museum is featuring five women artists from its collection throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month—in conjunction with the #5WomenArtists campaign, organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. This week we highlight Gail Tremblay, whose work was last exhibited in the Whatcom Museum’s 2016 show, Just Women as well as in the 2010 exhibition Show of Hands: Northwest Women Artists, 1880-2010.

Born in Buffalo, New York in 1945, Gail Tremblay is an artist, writer, and activist of Onondaga and Mi’kmaq ancestry. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of Oregon and has taught English, Native American Studies, Art, and Art History at Evergreen State College for more than thirty-five years. Tremblay continues to write poetry, curate, and create contemporary artworks in the Pacific Northwest and resides in Olympia, Washington.

Gail Tremblay. Photo from Froelick Gallery.

Since the 1980s, Tremblay has been weaving film baskets made from scraps of 35mm and 16mm film culled from a variety of sources including old movie trailers, and outdated educational documentaries. To add variations of pattern and color, Tremblay incorporates leader film, which is often of a white, black, blue, green, or vibrant red tone. The titles of her works reference the original film sources that she uses. Of this series the artist writes, “I enjoyed the notion of recycling film and gaining control over a medium that had historically been used by both Hollywood and documentary filmmakers to stereotype American Indians. I relished the irony of making film take on the traditional fancy stitch patterns of our ash and sweetgrass baskets.” Employing the skills and visual language of her ancestry, Tremblay retains tradition through process while proposing a contemporary critique through her media which often reflects issues of appropriation and misrepresentation.

Like her visual art, Tremblay’s poetry speaks to modern indigenous experiences of isolation and loss when lands and identities are overwritten. For example, in her poem Meditation on the Dalles Dam, she reflects on the disappearance of the history, peoples, and ecology of Celilo Falls. A once-bustling fishing and cultural hub, and the oldest indigenous settlement in North America, Celilo Falls and village were flooded to make way for the construction of the hydroelectric dam.

Meditation on The Dalles Dam
for Lillian Pitt

Electricity is humming in a spider web of lines
as copper wires cased in rubber cross the land;
what sorrow builds in this sound that only whines

Where the thunder of water no longer combines
with a wild rush of salmon so close at hand?
Electricity is humming in a spider web of lines.

Where fish runs were rich, everything declines.
No one explains how a body can withstand
The sorrow that builds in this sound that only whines.

Fishermen stood on scaffolds amid the steep inclines
of rock; water foamed before the flow was dammed
so electricity could hum in a spider web of lines.

Rocks watched while men made strange designs
To swell the river to places no rush of water planned.
What sorrow grows when the new sound only whines?

The bodies of old ones wash out of ancient shrines—
how can the spirits of the dead learn to understand
the electricity that hums in a spider web of lines.
What sorrow builds in this sound that only whines?

 

-Compiled and written by Amy Chaloupka, Curator of Art

Five Women Artists in the Collection: Tabitha Kinsey

Foot logs provided by nature across fir bordered trout brook, 1926. Photo by Darius Kinsey, hand-tinted by Tabitha Kinsey, Whatcom Museum #1981.53.10.

The Whatcom Museum is featuring five women artists from its collection throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month—in conjunction with the #5WomenArtists campaign, organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. This week we highlight Tabitha Kinsey, whose original hand-tinted work is currently on display in the Old City Hall exhibit Kinseys in Color.

Tabitha May Pritts was born in Waverly Mills, Minnesota, on May 24, 1875, the daughter of Samuel and Elizabeth (Berg) Pritts. She and her five siblings came west with their parents, who homesteaded in Nooksack, Whatcom County, Washington.

In 1896, Tabitha married Darius Kinsey, a commercial photographer who taught her the darkroom techniques of developing negatives and making prints. While Darius Kinsey’s exceptional camera work has a deserved and prominent legacy, Tabitha’s role was just as vital to the 45-year business that they ran together. They were a husband and wife photographic team.

While Darius took the photos, it was Tabitha who processed the black & white negatives, created the prints, including burning and dodging, and made the critical aesthetic decisions on final quality. The clarity and detail that the photographs are known for came from making contact prints off large negatives, including glass plates up to 20 x 24 inches.

Studio portrait of Tabitha Kinsey by Darius Kinsey, c. 1896 / Photo by Darius Kinsey, Whatcom Museum no. 1978.84.3763

Page from Kinsey sales catalog. Collection of the Whatcom Museum.

The distinctive hand-written caption and Kinsey name on the bottom of 11 x 14 prints is Tabitha’s handwriting. Written in black ink on the front of nitrate negatives, it would appear as white script on each subsequent print.

It was also Tabitha who introduced the option of custom-tinted pictures; a process in which a black & white, fiber-based photo is meticulously painted with “the best quality of water colors” to create a color photograph. Her extra work doubled the print’s retail value. Each hand-tinted photograph is a unique work of art. Even prints made from the same black & white negative, once tinted, will not be exactly alike.

The luminous effect of tinting tends to be more idealized than realistic, vacillating between intense and subdued. Some describe them as dramatic, others say romantic. It was documented that Darius preferred darkened tones, while Tabitha sought to brighten the mood of photos.

You can read more about Tabitha and Darius Kinsey and view a selection of Kinsey photographs in this online virtual gallery.

-Written by Jeff Jewell, Photo Archives Historian

Five Women Artists in the Collection: Helmi Dagmar Juvonen

Helmi Juvonen; Untitled (Eskimo Adam & Eve), Tempera; 13″ x 10″. Gift of Ron Kellen.

Helmi Juvonen, Vantage, circa 1975-1976; Gouache on rice paper. Gift of Dr. Ulrich & Stella Fritzsche.

The Whatcom Museum is featuring five women artists from its collection throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month—in conjunction with the #5WomenArtists campaign, organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. This week we highlight Helmi Dagmar Juvonen, whose work was last exhibited in the Lightcatcher in 2015.

Helmi Dagmar Juvonen (1903-1985), known in her day simply as Helmi, was a Seattle-based artist who found success capturing the culture of Native American tribes across the Pacific Northwest. She was a persistent artist who strove to create art in a time where being a female artist was tough. Even as she struggled with poverty and mental illness, Helmi continued to create art until her final days.

Drawn to Northwest Coast native culture, she developed a rapport with the Lummi, Swinomish, Makah, and Yakama chiefs, who invited her to participate in their ceremonies. Aboriginal art and ritual nurtured Helmi’s creative spirit, empowering her to transcend gender bias, poverty, and decades confined to an asylum for mental illness.

Mary Randlett, Photograph of artist Helmi Juvonen, 1983. Whatcom Museum #1986.0017.000001.

With an avid interest in anthropology, Helmi believed in the importance of documenting Native American spiritual life. As a result, she forged a unique style, merging Northwest aboriginal culture with modern art. The artist also conjured “imaginary things,” and many of her works reflect both the dark and light sides of the human psyche.

In many ways, Helmi was ahead of her time and her graffiti-like abstraction, mixed-media compositions, and paper cutouts relate to trends in contemporary art.

The Whatcom Museum’s collection of her work, which numbers 250 objects, includes some of her finest pieces, such as paintings of petroglyphs from Central Washington, watercolors of Lummi masked dancers, and linocut prints based on the Makah Wolf Dance experienced at Neah Bay. You can view a selection of her work in this online virtual gallery and read more about her life on the Museum’s blog.

Compiled from curatorial narrative and research by Barbara Matilsky.

Five Women Artists in the Collection: Lesley Dill

The Whatcom Museum is featuring five women artists from its collection throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month—in conjunction with the #5WomenArtists campaign, organized by the National Museum of Women in the Arts. The Museum highlights women artists whose artwork spans a variety of media, genres, and eras. We hope you will share our #5WomenArtists on social media, and celebrate the important contributions these women have made to the arts.

Lesley Dill; Shimmer, 2005 – 2006; Wire, metal foil, 12 ft. x 60 ft. x 15 ft. Whatcom Museum # 2015.17.1

Lesley Dill
Shimmer, 2005 – 2006
Wire, metal foil
12 ft. x 60 ft. x 15 ft.
Whatcom Museum # 2015.17.1

The work of contemporary American artist Lesley Dill combines imagery and language, fine art and poetry, and allegory and metaphor throughout her body of work. In this piece, entitled Shimmer (2005 – 2006), Dill uses metal and wire to create an allegorical sculpture that resembles human hair and incorporates imagery and poetry. The piece emerges from a body of work that explores the motif of waterfalls using materials such as wire thread, gauze, cut metal figures, and words that stretch across and down a wall.

Composed of two million, one hundred, ninety thousand feet of fine wire, Shimmer was originally inspired by the dazzling reflection of light on the Atlantic Ocean. Forming an immense, silvery curtain, a 60-foot-cascade descends from a fragment of a mystical poem by the Catalan poet Salvador Espriu (1913 – 1985):

“You may laugh, but I feel

within me, suddenly, strange

voices of God and handles,

dog’s thirst and message of

slow memories that disappear across a fragile

bridge.”

Artist Lesley Dill.

Nature and the divine mingle in the artist’s work, as does the link of the human form to nature. Dill fashions tiny foil figures that cavort among words of poetry spread across the wiry “falls” that stretch downward. Dill notes, “In its silver, Rapunzel-like way, Shimmer, the sixth and last in a series, emerged from decades of making white thread water fall pieces…it captures light, not gravity-bound, implies energy, and feminine virility-like hair.”

Shimmer was exhibited at the Museum’s Lightcatcher building in the show, Lesley Dill’s Poetic Vision: From Shimmer to Sister Gertrude Morgan, October 23, 2011 – March 4, 2012 and was curated by Barbara Matilsky. Learn more about this exhibition and read the Lesley Dill Exhibition Catalog.

About Lesley Dill:
Born and raised in Maine, Dill received her Master of Arts from Smith College in 1974, and her Master of Fine Arts from Maryland Institute College of Art in 1980. In pursuit of a career in painting, the artist moved to New York after graduation. Her eyes were opened to new modes of expression and she soon emerged prominently as a sculptor and multi-media artist. Her interest in language and allusions to strong feminine identity reflect her friendship with the late artist, Nancy Spero (1926 – 2009), who used text and depictions of the female form, often appropriated as classical goddesses, in her scroll paintings. Dill’s artworks are in the collections of more than fifty museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art New York, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. The artist lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.