July 26, 2023
Summer Exhibitions at the Whatcom Museum Feature Coastal Landscape Paintings, Site-Specific Installation, Still-Life Photos

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 9, 2023; Bellingham, WA— This summer, three new exhibitions are opening at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building. The shows will feature both traditional painting techniques, as well as contemporary expressions in a variety of media. “Coastal Views: California and the Pacific Northwest,” “Susan Murrell: Sift / Shift,” and “Let It Shine: Photographs by Mina Afshari” will all be on display June 24 – October 29, 2023. 

Coastal Views from California to the Pacific Northwest

Featuring coastal landscape paintings from Northern California to Washington, spanning the 1880s to the present, “Coastal Views” highlights the work of many well-known artists from both regions and several under-recognized in their day. Visitors are invited to examine the similarities and differences in style in the works from these two regions. Many artists featured shared common values about the land and drew inspiration from the wilderness or the misty, fog-filled mood of these coastal terrains. 

Artists featured include William Ritschel, Armin Hansen, Warren Chang, Olive Ayhens, Jess Cauthorn, E. Charlton Fortune, Evelyn McCormick, Isabel Hunter, Granville Redmond, Arthur Mathews, Kenneth Callahan, John Cole, Morris Graves, Helen Loggie, and Vanessa Helder, to name a few. Works exhibited include paintings in oil and watercolors, etchings, and prints.

 “We are excited to be presenting these works,” commented the executive director of the Whatcom Museum, Patricia Leach. “I have been asked frequently if the museum would ever showcase paintings similar to the 2012 California Impressionist exhibition we did. This exhibition differs in that we are presenting work that highlights many well-known California and Pacific Northwest artists together, hopefully stimulating inquiry about the similarities and differences in style and subject matter. It has been a rewarding project, and I hope people will enjoy it.”

Art Installation in the Lightcatcher

Susan Murrell’s works are meditations on passageways, life transitions, and the constancy of matter. For her installation “Sift / Shift,” she will create artwork specific to the Museum’s Lightcatcher gallery. The immersive work employing sand, painting, and sculptural elements will explore our human proclivity to be co-creators of the landscape as we assign value to materials, excavate and harvest, delineate, and build. 

“We live in a place where various cultures have long negotiated a beautiful, fertile, and difficult landscape in hopes it will sustain us,” says the artist. “I’m interested in how the prevalent philosophies and priorities of our time sculpt the physical environment and how this place is more porous, interconnected, and transitory than we often realize.” 

Murrell’s practice has been supported by the Ford Family Foundation and the Oregon Arts Commission. She has been awarded international artist residencies and has exhibited in museums nationwide. Her work has recently been collected by the University of Oregon and the United States Library of Congress, Prints Division. She is a professor of art at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, Oregon.

Still Life Photographs

The Museum will showcase California-based artist Mina Afshari’s photographs for her first museum exhibit, “Let it Shine.” Afshari is a young Iranian woman who longed for freedom from the oppressive regime of Iran and prolonged family trauma. After arriving in the United States and experiencing the wind of freedom in her hair, she has found beauty and healing in allowing herself to open up to the expansiveness of her new home. The photographs in “Let it Shine” were created in her Carmel, California, apartment, using a single light source—a window—to illuminate farmer’s market produce and flowers. She captures the beauty of the contrast between darkness and luminous light.

About the Exhibitions

The paintings in “Coastal Views: California and the Pacific Northwest” are drawn from the Whatcom Museum’s collection, the Monterey Museum of Art, Monterey artist Warren Chang, and the private collections of Phil and Mary Serka of Bellingham, Wash., and Paula and Terry Trotter of Trotter Galleries in Carmel and Pacific Grove, Calif. “Coastal Views” is curated by Patricia Leach, executive director of the Whatcom Museum, with assistance from Sarah Clark-Langager, retired director of the Western Gallery at Washington University Gallery, and Amy Chaloupka, curator of art at the Whatcom Museum on the selection of Pacific Northwest artists. Learn more about the exhibition at www.whatcommuseum.org/exhibition/coastal-views/.

Learn more about Susan Murrell’s art installation, “Sift / Shift,” at www.whatcommuseum.org/exhibition/susan-murrell/, and about Mina Afshari’s work in “Let it Shine” at www.whatcommuseum.org/exhibition/let-it-shine/. All three exhibitions will be on view in the Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora Street, June 24 – October 29, 2023.

Exhibitions Programming

In addition to the three exhibitions opening at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building this summer, visitors can take advantage of several engaging events. Docent tours of the “Coastal Views” exhibit will be offered on most Thursdays and Saturdays, providing visitors with the opportunity to learn more about the featured coastal landscape paintings from Northern California to Washington. For those interested in a more in-depth exploration of the exhibit, curator tours will be offered on July 21 and September 29. And on June 24, visitors can attend an artist talk with Susan Murrell, whose unique art installation “Sift / Shift” will be featured at the museum. These events are designed to enhance the visitor experience and provide deeper insight into the artworks on display. For the most accurate tour schedules visit our website https://www.whatcommuseum.org/explore/docent-tours/.

About the Whatcom Museum

Located in Bellingham’s cultural district, the Whatcom Museum, a non-profit organization operated jointly by the City of Bellingham and the Whatcom Museum Foundation, offers a rich variety of programs and exhibitions about art, nature, and Northwest history. The Museum’s collections contain more than 200,000 artifacts and art pieces of regional importance, including a vast photographic archive. The Whatcom Museum is accredited nationally by the American Alliance of Museums and is a Smithsonian Affiliate.

The Museum has two buildings with public hours: Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St., and the Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora St., Wednesday-Sunday, 12:00-5:00 p.m. The Family Interactive Gallery, located inside the Lightcatcher, is open Wednesday-Saturday, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m., and Sunday, 12:00-5:00 p.m. Admission for Museum members is free; $10 general; $8 youth (6-17)/student/senior/military; $5 children 2-5; under 2 free.