BELLINGHAM, Washington — “I never want to be bad. I only want to do my best.”
That line, scrawled onto a small white board in child’s handwriting, is from a short film called “Please Understand,” which chronicles the yearning hopes of incarcerated youth. It’s one of nearly 80 pieces that will be featured in the Whatcom Museum’s fourth biennial juried exhibition Bellingham National, opening November 11, 2023. Both long-established and up-and-coming visual artists from across the U.S. will exhibit paintings, sculpture, textiles, video, photography, and more – all responding to this year’s exhibition theme, Acts of Healing and Repair.
Grace Kook-Anderson, the Arlene and Harold Schnitzer Curator of Northwest Art at the Portland Art Museum, is this year’s guest juror. She had the difficult task of carefully selecting the artworks for this expansive exhibition from the hundreds submitted for consideration. In addition, Kook-Anderson will announce three Juror’s Choice Awards, each with a cash prize, at a Whatcom Museum member reception November 11. In an exciting shift from years past, the first prize winner of this year’s biennial will also be awarded a future solo exhibition at the museum.
“Bellingham National shines a spotlight on processes and practices from contemporary artists nationwide,” said Whatcom Museum Curator of Art Amy Chaloupka. “We are grateful to all the artists who applied to be considered for the exhibition, and it was particularly heartening to see the ways they express and visualize the concept of healing.”
From reflections on the COVID pandemic, recovering from personal trauma, and self-care to centering critical social justice issues, the topics around healing are as varied as the artworks themselves. For example, in her powerful short film “Please Understand,” storyteller Lindy Boustedt gives a voice to incarcerated students – children – who share with us one thing they each wish we knew.
“The artists have addressed this theme with deep and raw honesty. To be able to witness that through the jurying process was a personally boosting experience,” adds Juror and Curator Kook-Anderson. “The act of healing is expansive, uplifting, and grounding. But repair also comes with rupture and the work of mending and nurturing. Breath, time, and motion are part of the healing process, and these attributes of resilience are reflected in the exhibition.”
Museum visitors can join Kook-Anderson at noon on Sunday, November 12, for a special juror tour of the exhibition. Visitors will also have a chance to pick an artwork that resonates with them: everyone who views the exhibition in person, which runs from Nov. 11, 2023 – Feb. 25, 2024 in the Lightcatcher building at 250 Flora St., can cast their vote for a People’s Choice Award. The artist who receives the most votes will win a cash prize, to be announced the last week of the exhibition.
Upcoming at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora Street:
- Bellingham National member reception: Saturday, November 11, 5 – 7 p.m.
(must be a Whatcom Museum member to attend)
- Bellingham National juror talk and exhibition tour: Sunday, November 12, 12 – 1 p.m., free with museum admission
- Docent tours: Most Thursdays and Saturdays, 1 – 2 p.m., free with museum admission
A press kit is available here with a list of invited artists as well as a selection of images approved for use by the media.
About the Whatcom Museum
The Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, WA, is an American Alliance of Museums-accredited museum and a Smithsonian Affiliate. Notable projects have included the 2019 retrospective exhibition Ed Bereal: WANTED: For Disturbing the Peace, featured in The New York Times, the touring exhibition Katazome Today: Migrations of a Japanese Art, and the co-curated, exhibition Many Wests: Artists Shape an American Idea, which is now on view at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.
The Whatcom Museum spans three buildings in downtown Bellingham: the Lightcatcher, Old City Hall, and the Syre Education Center. For more information about our exhibitions and admission visit whatcommuseum.org.