Indigenous pregnant woman standing on a rocky shoreline looking out at the ocean

Five Women Artists – Matika Wilbur

During the month of March, we are highlighting five women artists. The project is inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ “Can you name #5WomenArtists?” campaign. Our final artist of this series is photographer Matika Wilbur.

Seeds of Culture by Matika Wilbur

Indigenous pregnant woman standing on a rocky shoreline looking out at the ocean

Temryss Lane, Xeli’tia, Lummi Nation, Washington, 2020. Photo by Matika Wilbur for Project 562. Courtesy of the artist.

Matika Wilbur, from the Tulalip and Swinomish Tribes, is a critically acclaimed photographer and social documentarian.

Wilbur has spent the last several years photographing more than 400 federally recognized Native American tribes as part of Project 562. The project, which launched in 2011, aims to change the way we see Native America.

Now, Wilbur is sharing a selection of her photographs in the exhibition Seeds of Culture: The Portraits and Stories of Native American Women. On view in the Lightcatcher building through June 13, 2021, the exhibition features photographs of Native American women along with interviews, written narratives, and a compelling sound-scape of voices and original music.

The exhibition offers a glimpse into the lives of Native women from across the country.

On her Project 562 Instagram account, Wilbur writes: “In my ten years on the road these women have befriended, taught, and inspired me. They are down-to-earth, complex, fulfilled, suffering, knowing, vulnerable, real women.”

She states she invites viewers “to experience them as I have, beyond stereotypes, fetishes, and historical and societal reduction, worthy of immense appreciation for their essences.”

Seeds of Culture features portraits from among the thousands she has taken over the years. It also includes a new special selection from area Tribes.

In 2020, Wilbur photographed Temryss Lane, Xeli’tia, of the Lummi Nation in Whatcom County. The image shows a pregnant Lane standing along the Salish Sea shoreline. Other additions are photographs of Karleigh Gomez of Port Gamble S’Klallam, and of Wilbur’s mother Nancy and daughter Alma Bee Wilbur Manansala.

This exhibition is part of the Whatcom Museum’s ongoing effort to work with more Indigenous artists to celebrate contemporary voices, perspectives, and contributions to art.

Wilbur’s background

Matika Wilbur earned her BFA from Brooks Institute of Photography with a double major in advertising and digital imaging. After starting out in fashion and commercial work in Los Angeles, Wilbur went on to receive her teaching certificate.

While working in education, Wilbur found the “representation of First Peoples in traditional curricula and the media as ‘leathered and feathered,’ dying races undermined her students’ sense of identity and potential,” her website states.

It was out of that experience that Project 562 was born. The goal is to create a repository of imagery and oral histories that accurately portrays contemporary Native Americans.

Throughout the multiyear project, Wilbur has traveled hundreds of thousands of miles to visit all 50 states. Along the way she captures images of Indigenous Peoples from many of the country’s 562+ federally recognized Tribes.

As of 2021, there are 574 federally recognized Tribes, according to the U.S. Department of Indian Affairs.

Wilbur’s work has been exhibited extensively, including at the Seattle Art Museum, the Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, the Tacoma Art Museum, and others.

In addition to Project 562, Wilbur also co-hosts the popular podcast All My Relations. The podcast explores relationships and what is means to be a Native person today.

Seeds of Culture was originally shown at the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University.

Read more: Native photographer is ‘rounding the corner’ on Project 562

You can find more blog posts from the #5WomenArtists series here.

Glass work by Nancy Callan

Five Women Artists – Nancy Callan

Glass work by Nancy Callan

Nancy Callan; Cherry Red Droplet, 2020; 18.5 x16.5 x 16.5; Blown and etched glass.

During the month of March, we are highlighting five women artists. The project is inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ “Can you name #5WomenArtists?” campaign. Next up is artist Nancy Callan, who works in glass.

About Nancy Callan

Nancy Callan is a renowned Seattle-based artist and a key player in the vibrant Northwest glass community. Born in Boston in 1964, Callan went on to earn her BFA from Massachusetts College of Art in 1996. Shortly thereafter, she moved to Seattle to immerse herself in the discipline of glass.

Because of the complexity of the process, glassblowing often requires that artists work in small teams, with defined roles. This is also a mentoring opportunity for artists learning technique. Callan’s high level of training comes from 19 years as a key member of maestro Lino Tagliapietra’s glassblowing team. She continues to work collaboratively with many artists, including Mel Douglas and Katherine Grey.

Callan has also instructed several workshops and classes at the Pilchuck Glass School in Stanwood, as well as at other institutions across the globe.

Callan has been exhibiting her work for more than 20 years. Her sculptures reside in national and international collections, including the Shanghai Museum of Art in Shanghai, Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, and the Museum of Northwest Art in La Conner. A number of galleries across the country represent Callan, including the Traver Gallery in Seattle.

While glassblowing has traditionally been a male-dominated field, many trailblazing women like Joey Kirkpatrick, Flora C. Mace, Sonja Blomdahl, and Callan have made their mark. Callan once said in a 2011 TEDxTalk, “I take my visibility as a glassblower very seriously. I want to inspire women and men to see that you don’t have to be a big guy to [be] working glass.”

Her Work

Woman wearing orange and gray long-sleeved shirt looking and smiling at a black with white striated pattern blown glass snowman on a black countertop

Nancy Callan; Smoky the Snowman, 2019; Blown glass; 34.5 x 17.5 x 17.5 in. Photo by Russell Johnson. Courtesy of the artist.

A large part of Callan’s practice is rooted in experimentation. In her artist’s statement, she says, “I am amazed at how much there still is for me to explore in the material.”

Her practice involves using traditional glassblowing techniques to create new and modern works. By doing so, Callan stays true to the traditions of the material while expanding the possibilities for what glass can do, “which are indeed infinite,” she says.

Whatcom Museum Curator of Art Amy Chaloupka states, “Callan’s forms are playful and iconic—tops, clouds, dancers, and snowmen give her opportunity to use the bumps and ridges of those shapes to highlight and accentuate the surface design.”

Callan’s piece Smoky the Snowman (2019) is a three-tiered glass snowman with a stylized “carrot” nose. It is made of three hand-blown black glass orbs with white swirling lines. She creates the surface pattern by rolling a bubble of glass on rods of colored glass (called “cane”) that stick to the surface and melt into the bubble as she shapes it. A video of Callan and her team creating the snowman, made by Museum of Glass in Tacoma, can be found here.

Smoky the Snowman will be on view in the Whatcom Museum’s upcoming exhibition Fluid Formations. The exhibition will run April 10 through Oct. 10, 2021.

You can see more of Callan’s work on her website.

Sources: contempglass.org/artists/entry/nancy-callanTEDxEast – Nancy Callan – 21st Century Glassblower, Glass Break: Visiting Artist Nancy Callan’s “Smokey” the Snowman, Nancy Callan’s website

Lotus Eaters painting by Fay Jones

Five Women Artists – Fay Jones

Lotus Eaters painting by Fay Jones

Fay Jones; Lotus-Eaters, 1993; Aquatint; 31.5 x 43 in. Gift of the Washington Art Consortium through gift of Safeco Insurance, a member of the Liberty Mutual Group. Whatcom Museum Collection.

During the month of March, we are highlighting five women artists. The project is inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ “Can you name #5WomenArtists?” campaign. Next up is Fay Jones.

Life and Career of Fay Jones

Born in Boston in 1936, Fay Jones went on to receive her BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1957. Later, she married fellow artist Robert C. Jones, and they moved to Seattle in 1960 with their young family.

While raising four children, Jones carved out a studio practice and nurtured a successful career, painting large-scale canvases in her living room.

In a video for the Russo Lee Gallery, Jones explains how she came to work with acrylics.

“I had a fairly traditional art school training, and that was oil painting on canvas,” Jones says. “And I could never make it work; I was much too impatient. The buildup of oil paint always turned to mud for me.”

She says she felt fortunate that acrylics came into the picture.

“I could paint over and over and over things and it didn’t turn to mud.”

Over the years, her works have been shown throughout Washington, Oregon, and California. The Portland Art Museum, Seattle Art Museum, and the Tacoma Art Museum hold many of her works in their collections.

Major exhibitions include a 2007 retrospective at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in Salem, Oregon, and a 1997 traveling retrospective with the Boise Art Museum, among others.

In 2005, she was the recipient of the Twining Humber Award for lifetime achievement.

Lotus-Eaters

In the early 1990s, Jones began working with master printer Marcia Bartholme to develop limited edition prints, which includes Lotus-Eaters.

The piece entered the Whatcom Museum collection by gift of the Washington Art Consortium through a gift of Safeco Insurance, a member of Liberty Mutual Group.

Although open to interpretations, the title, which draws from Greek mythology, hints at feelings of apathy and indulgence as emotional components of an otherwise stylized scene, writes Amy Chaloupka, Curator of Art for the Whatcom Museum.

“Eschewing elements of perspectival space in her work, the depth comes from the complexity of characters and facial expressions outlined in bold line, graphic layers, and patterning,” writes Chaloupka. “The results are playful and dynamic narrative scenes.”

Want to see Fay Jones’ work for yourself? Lotus-Eaters is on view in the exhibition Anatomy of a Collection through March 21. The exhibition celebrates the works of art welcomed into the permanent collection since the Lightcatcher building opened 10 years ago.

You can learn more about a selection of works from the exhibition here.

Sources: Russo Lee Gallery, Whatcom Museum collection labels, Historylink, James Harris Gallery

Piece by Ellen Ziegler

Five Women Artists – Ellen Ziegler

Ellen Ziegler artist's book

During the month of March, we are highlighting five women artists. The project is inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ “Can you name #5WomenArtists?” campaign. Next up is multimedia artist Ellen Ziegler.

About Ellen Ziegler

Born in 1949, Ellen Ziegler is an award-winning multimedia artist who works in drawing, painting, sculpture, installation, performance, cyanotype, and assemblage. Her work connects the psyche with the physical world by her choice of unpredictable mediums. She calls this practice “sourcing the immaterial through the material.”

Raised by her mother who was a ballerina, Ziegler grew up with creative influence, inspiring her own artistic career.

“I didn’t go to design or art school, and the freedom this allowed me was both frightening and empowering,” Ziegler recalls.

Ziegler attended Ohio’s Antioch College in the 60’s. It was there she became familiar with the 20th century avant-garde ideals of thinkers like Jacob Lawrence, Elaine de Kooning, and Ruth Asawa. These artists taught at the experimental liberal arts school Black Mountain College, which was committed to the idea that the arts were essential to the learning experience. From there, she studied Indian classical music in India and California to learn the art of improvisation.

Currently based in Seattle, Ziegler began making visual art in 1995. She is a member of the artist-run gallery SOIL.

Her Work

Piece by Ellen Ziegler

Ellen Ziegler; Hypnagogue 1, 2009; Glass sculpture; Gift of the artist.

In her 25 years as an artist, Ellen Ziegler has worked in several different mediums and been shown in more than 25 exhibitions across the country.

“The sum of what I’ve learned has everything to do with juxtaposing one thing with another to get a third, and that risk-taking, mistakes and experimentation are a form of collaboration with the unknown,” Ziegler says. “And, for me, boundaries are not useful for innovation.”

Ziegler has created a number of handmade books that have been shown nationwide. One of her books was included in the 2015 exhibition Unhinged: Book Art on the Cutting Edge at the Whatcom Museum.

Her limited-edition book Exercises to Free the Tongue is a collection of 21 individual two-sided poem pages from poet Molly Tenenbaum. The book features images and ephemera from Molly’s grandparents, who were ventriloquists on the vaudeville circuit in the early 1900s. Photographs of vaudeville acts that performed in Bellingham in the early 20th century can be seen at the Museum through May 2021 in the exhibition Vintage Vaudevillians.

Among Ziegler’s other works, Hypnagogue is a series of 3D drawings made with mirrored glass, light, and shadow. The stenciled silver glass pieces are mounted against a wall, casting a reflection upward and a shadow downward. The piece evokes a sense of disorientation, hallucination, or wonder, according to Ziegler.

She drew inspiration from the mirror’s ability to induce trance-like fascination or self-consciousness. She named this series after the “hypnagogic state,” which is the period of consciousness between wakefulness and sleeping, where audio and visual hallucinations may occur.

The Museum holds the piece Hypnagogue 1 in its collection. See the work for yourself in the upcoming exhibition Fluid Formations. The exhibition runs April 10 – Oct. 10, 2021, in the Lightcatcher.

Sources: Ellen Ziegler interview, healthline.com, ellenziegler.com

Main image: Exercises to Free the Tongue by Ellen Ziegler. New York Public Library Artist’s Books Collection.