Ed Bereal

The making of “Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace”

Bold. Relentless. Provocative. These are some of the words that describe the exhibition Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace.

The exhibition opened in September 2019 and is the first museum retrospective for 82-year-old Bellingham-based artist Ed Bereal. The show spans six decades of art, from assemblage to radical street theater and oil paintings. Bereal’s more recent works examine racial inequity, gun violence, corporate greed, and political power.

RELATED: Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace

Although the idea for the exhibition had been floating around for a couple of years, it wasn’t until 2019 that it took shape. When Amy Chaloupka joined the Whatcom Museum as Curator of Art in January, she dove into planning the exhibition. She says it helped that she has known Bereal for two decades, ever since she took several of his art classes at Western Washington University.

So, how does a show like this come together? The carefully curated gallery in the Lightcatcher building is the product of months of effort. Here’s a peek at how it happened.

The process

Chaloupka says one of the first steps is having a conversation with the artist to identify key works. Fortunately, many of the pieces were in Bereal’s archives, but some proved difficult — or impossible — to track down.

She and others spent months going through art at Bereal’s Whatcom County farm. “We kept finding new work he didn’t realize he had,” Chaloupka says. To borrow other pieces, the Museum reaches out to potential lenders, including institutions and private collectors.

The next step is creating loan agreements for pieces that will be exhibited. Chaloupka says the Museum must adhere to certain standards for handling, lighting, and conservation in order to display the art. For works on paper, lighting must be below certain lumen and heat levels. “That’s why when you walk into the gallery it may seem like the lighting is a bit dim,” she explains.

Chaloupka then mocks up a map that shows where each piece will be displayed. She says the layout plays an important role in a visitor’s experience. “It’s about the way you want to tell a story and direct the flow of traffic through the gallery. All of that has to be considered.”

Ed Bereal exhibition challenges

Tracking down several key works from Bereal’s early years proved to be difficult. “Some works were lost or stolen, or sold to private collectors who we couldn’t locate,” Chaloupka recalls. “It was a bit of a scavenger hunt.”

They spent a lot of time reaching out to private lenders to convey the importance of the exhibition. One piece they were never able to acquire was Junker Ju, which was auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2014. Despite their efforts, they were unable to connect with the buyer. The piece was last on public display in 2012. Now, its whereabouts are unknown.

Another challenge was digitizing some of Bereal’s work. Photographers/videographers David Scherrer and Steve Johnson were instrumental in compiling clips and creating a video of Bereal’s street performances.

“A football team of volunteers made this exhibition possible,” Chaloupka says. “It was amazing how many people rallied to get this show installed.”

Bereal agrees. Many people had a hand in the process, from preparators to volunteers who assembled the art, painted words on the walls, contributed catalogue content, and more.

Part of Ed Bereal's Exxon: Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse"
A letter from Exxon: The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Working on Ed Bereal exhibiiton
Preparator Paul Brower (left) helps install a piece of art.


“Exxon: The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse”

On display for the first time, Exxon: The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse is a 40-foot-long installation that combines assemblage and projection. Five figures spell out the word “Exxon,” and each represents a horseman of the apocalypse.

Bereal has been working on the piece on and off for about eight years. Much of the work took place in his two-story barn in Whatcom County. “The reason it took so long was because I gradually let it come together; I didn’t force it. It was a true evolution.”

He says the narrative behind the piece changed over the years. He originally wanted to spell out “Texaco,” but that was slightly too long. “I thought about the statement I wanted to make and that’s where the idea of the four horsemen of the apocalypse came in.”

With four horsemen and five letters, he had to get creative. That’s when predatory capitalism became the fifth horseman.

To create the piece, Bereal found objects and scraps of metal. “The nice thing about assemblage is the world is your resource,” he says with a laugh. He scoured the county to find the perfect scythe for the “death” horseman, finally locating it in a rummage store in Ferndale.

When it came to installing the horsemen, it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The gallery’s high ceilings meant the team had to be strategic with lighting and hanging projectors above each horseman to illuminate holographic imagery.

Museum preparators Paul Brower and David Miller spent long hours assisting with the installation of the piece, as well as with the rest of the exhibition.

“We build so much of the work on site,” Brower says. “This work (The Five Horsemen) didn’t really exist in its entirety in his studio. We did a lot of adjustments.”

Looking back and looking forward

Ed Bereal admits his feelings about the exhibition are complicated. “It’s a bit overwhelming. I’m dealing with my history. I have an emotional reaction to each piece because I go back to what was going on when it was created. Some of those were not comfortable periods in my life. There’s no direction I can look to rest emotionally.”

Despite this, he says it turned out well, and he’s pleasantly surprised by the positive reception.

Chaloupka says Bereal’s work is especially important today. The exhibition provides an opportunity for people to directly engage with art and its messages. “Politics and social justice issues are front of mind for many these days. Ed’s compelling work provides a forum for provoking conversation.”

Bereal hopes visitors leave with the desire to think critically.

“You can’t accept anything on face value, and certainly not my work,” he says. “People are always trying to sell ideas, and people need to deconstruct what they’re being asked to buy. We live in a world where you’ve got to think critically.”

Painting words
Lesley Broadgate paints Ed Bereal's handwriting on the wall in the gallery.
Ed Bereal in the gallery
Artist Ed Bereal works to install Miss America: Manufacturing Consent: Upside Down and Backwards.

Featured image (top of page): Ed Bereal in his studio. Photo by David Scherrer.

Raya Friday glass flame sculpture

Spotlight on Lummi glass artist Raya Friday

“People of the Fire” by Lummi Nation glass artist Raya Friday glows as if it has a life of its own.

The glass sculpture was recently installed in the lobby of the Lightcatcher building at the Whatcom Museum, and it commands attention as soon as you enter the room. With a series of flames standing between 3 to 6 feet tall, you’re first confronted with its size. Next, you notice the faces.

Raya used sand casting to create each flame, then hand-carved faces into the surface. She says the piece represents the spirituality of the elements. “The thing I really wanted to explore in my own culture was this idea that everything in the natural world has its own energy, its own spirit,” she says.

She decided to explore that idea through the elements, starting with a smaller sculpture called “People of the Water” to see if her idea would work visually and functionally. Once she committed to creating a large-scale work of glass, she went all in.  

“I mustered my courage, took out all the loans that I could and just set out to do this thing,” she recalls. “It felt very much like swimming out into the ocean and seeing how far you could get without knowing if you could get back to shore.”

She credits Italian glass artist Narcissus Quagliata, whom she met at Pilchuck Glass School, with inspiring her to take on her project. His determination to see a multi-year project through prompted her to think of doing something bigger.

SEE ALSO: “People of the Sea and Cedar”

Raya Friday cleaning sculpture
Raya Friday cleans her sculpture after installing it in the Lightcatcher building.
Raya Friday cleaning glass sculpture
Raya Friday puts the finishing touches on her piece "People of the Fire."

The process

It took Raya about eight months to create the 2,700-pound sculpture of glass and bronze set into a pedestal of stone. She completed the piece in 2007. Raya says the piece took a small village to create. “There were a lot of meals for friends, six-packs of beer,” she recalls.

Raya was involved with each element, from mixing the bronze to cutting the stone to pouring the molten glass. “The glass is like cold honey,” she says of how it slowly spreads into the casts. The flames get their color from frit, or concentrated crushed glass. This gives the unpolished sides a slightly rough appearance.

Her biggest challenge, she says, was cold working, or polishing, the surface of the glass. The size of the piece and high cost of equipment meant she couldn’t have it professionally polished until years later.

Now, she tries to tweak the piece a bit each time she installs it. “It’s such a beast, so changes are small,” she says. “I can’t make huge drastic changes.”

Her background

With nearly 25 years of glass experience under her belt, it’s no surprise Raya was interested in art at a young age. But her first love wasn’t glass. It was ceramics. She loved working with glaze — the more the better to achieve that glossy look. Then, at 11, she discovered glass.

“You take glass for granted, you don’t think about it,” she says. “You drink out of it every day and just live with it all the time. Then you actually see people manipulating it. I just had no idea.”

At 17 she started taking weekly classes but soon realized they weren’t enough. Before long she was moving on to production glass work in Seattle. Seven years later, she left for New York to continue her education at Alfred University. It was in New York that “People of the Fire” was born.

Recently, Raya was involved in the Tacoma Museum of Glass exhibition “Translations: An Exploration of Glass by Northwest Native Carvers and Weavers.”

Now, she’s turning her attention to pursuing studies in art conservation for indigenous art. “It’s important that we be stewards of our culture,” she says.

“People of the Fire” by Raya Friday will be on display in the Lightcatcher lobby through early October. The work is the first in our “In the Spirit of the People: Native Contemporary Artists” series.

Raya Friday with her sculpture
The artist stands with her piece "People of the Fire."
Wire, metal foil work by Lesley Dill

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

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.

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). Spero used text and depictions of the female form, often appropriated as classical goddesses, in her scroll paintings.

Dill’s work

In her piece Shimmer (2005 – 2006),  Lesley 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 more than two million feet of fine wire, Shimmer was originally inspired by the 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


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

Dill’s artworks are in the collections of more than 50 museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The artist lives and works in Brooklyn, New York.

Museum Preparator David Miller installs a story pole

Museum Employee and Professional Artist David Miller Brings Prehistoric Creatures to Life


David Miller, American, b. 1957; Quetzalcoatlus, 2002; Oil and acrylic on illustration board, 16 x 12 in. Courtesy of the New York State Museum, Albany.

On a Thursday afternoon in October, Museum Preparator David Miller sat at his desk in the attic of Old City Hall and thumbed through the many binders of his old paintings.

He was searching for a piece he had created many years ago. With each turned page he uncovered a new prehistoric creature like some sort of artistic archaeologist.

Finally, he came across the piece he was looking for. It depicted the prehistoric flying beast Quetzalcoatlus as it soared above a North American forest millions of years ago. The piece, titled Quetzalcoatlus after the creature it depicts, was notable because one block away a reproduction was on display at the Lightcatcher building as part of the Museum’s exhibition Endangered Species: Artists on the Frontline of Biodiversity.

“I think it’s an effective drawing. The forced perspective really shows you the immensity of the creature,” Miller says.

Getting the immensity of the creature was essential. Quetzalcoatlus, with an imposing 52-foot wingspan, was the largest flying animal to ever exist, after all.

Miller originally painted Quetzalcoatlus in 2002 for a book on Pterosaurs. The painting ultimately didn’t get published. In 2004, he took the piece to the Paleo Art Show at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science where the piece was awarded Best 2D Artwork.

Bringing creatures to life

Quetzalcoatlus isn’t Miller’s only dinosaur painting. In fact, much of his art career is centered around creating scientifically accurate depictions of prehistoric animals.

His interest in painting prehistoric animals goes back to his childhood. When he was younger, he drew dinosaurs and World War II fighter planes. After high school, he attended Montserrat School of Visual Art in Beverly, Massachusetts, and the Art Student’s League.

“When I was in school I thought I was going to be a so-called fine artist,” Miller says. “But I quickly discovered that I didn’t have much to say; there were people that were better that could say what had to be said. So, I wanted to serve science as an illustrator.”

His first step into the world of prehistoric painting began after he found an anthology on vertebrate paleontology. The book described the taxonomy of different animals and showed illustrations of their skeletons. Miller says he became interested in the prehistoric fish and took a shot at painting them. Those paintings were included in a book called Discovering Fossil Fishes published in 1995. After that, everything fell into place.

David Miller works on a drawing in his workshop in the Whatcom Museum.

Miller says scientific accuracy is his primary goal. In this work, it’s everything.

To illustrate his point, Miller recounted the story of a painting he created for the Florida Museum of Natural History in 2004. The museum flew him to Florida so he could snorkel in the environment he would be painting. Afterward, he spent hours working with an expert on mollusks to make sure every detail was correct.

“The level of accuracy was exacting,” Miller says. “Everything had to be right. I can’t tell you how many scans I sent to him and how many times they came back with red ink.”

David Miller joins the Museum

In 1992, Miller moved to Bellingham with his wife. The next year, he began working with the Whatcom Museum after he offered to paint a dinosaur for an exhibit.

The Museum continued hiring him for projects over the years, including two massive 80-foot murals. One, created in 2001, depicts African, Asian, and American rainforests. The other, created in 2006, depicts marine and harbor habitats.

David Miller installs a piece in the Family Interactive Gallery.

In 2012, he joined the Museum full time as a preparator. In this role he handles everything from hanging artwork to creating object mounts, painting backgrounds and lighting displays.

“[The most satisfying part of the job is] being alone in the shop working on a project that I helped conceived of or am really passionate about that takes problem-solving skills and attention to detail,” Miller says.  “To me, I can’t think of a better job. If I’m not painting, I’d rather be doing something like that.”

Miller still spends much of his personal time drawing but doesn’t currently do contract work. He says he doesn’t have the time for it.

He then grabbed another binder from the corner of his desk and cracked it open.

“I just seem to keep having to draw,” Miller says. “I miss those days where you get in the car going out to FedEx, and in the back of your car is a painting that you’re going to send out and get paid for.”

Written by Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant

Woman standing in front of a painting

Madeline von Foerster: Painting Humanity’s Role in Species Destruction

In fourth grade, Madeline von Foerster was asked to do a report on an animal for class. She opted to do her report on an extinct animal. At the time she was also developing a passion for art. So, it’s no surprise that years later she would create art that highlights the plight of endangered and extinct animals.

The work of Madeline von Foerster

Von Foerster has built a career out of using her paintings to comment on the role humanity plays in the destruction of animal species. Two of her paintings, Carnival Insectivora and Reliquary for Rabb’s Frog, were included in the Museum’s exhibition Endangered Species: Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity.

Carnival Insectivora highlights endangerment of the infamous Venus flytrap. Reliquary for Rabb’s Frog highlights the extinction of the Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog.

“In both cases, I wanted to create a tribute or a shrine to threatened or extinct species, and also address humanity’s role in their fate,” von Foerster says.

The Venus flytrap is being petitioned for endangered status. It grows in the Coastal Plain and Sandhills of North and South Carolina. These habitats are quickly being destroyed by fire suppression techniques, commercial logging, and residential development, according to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The Rabbs’ fringe-limbed treefrog became extinct in 2016 after the last known specimen of the species died at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Von Foerster’s painting honors that final frog by placing it in an ornate silver and gold container.

Von Foerster says the container is meant to resemble a monstrance. The Roman Catholic Church uses the highly decorated container to display the wafer a priest or bishop has blessed.

“I want my paintings to make visible the consequences of our actions/inaction. They are meant to inspire a different worldview, one of reverence for and partnership with the natural world,” von Foerster says. “Our lives are so enmeshed with the destruction of nature that it is scarcely visible to us. It will be very apparent to future generations, however, who must live with the results.”

The Mische technique

Von Foerster works in a painting style called the Mische technique. The style was developed more than 500 years ago by Flemish painters and requires the application of many alternating layers of oil and egg tempera. The tempera allows her to paint fine details while the oil layers help with blending.

According to von Foerster’s website, “the two media offer unparalleled luminosity, as light travels through the oil glazes and reflects off the highly opaque tempera beneath.” A demonstration and basic walk-through of the technique can be found on her website.

“It permits the finest of detail,” von Foerster says. “Oil glazes in combination with the tempera under-painting create a luminous ‘glow’ unmatched in other media.  It’s laborious, but I love it.”

Von Foerster isn’t kidding when she says the paintings were laborious. Each of the two paintings took more than two months to create.

The hardest part was the metal container in the Rabb’s frog painting. She describes it as her “problem child.” Her initial idea was to paint it gold. But after painting a large portion of it, she realized the brown tones in the gold made the frog disappear. Because of this, she repainted it silver. In the end, von Foerster says the painstaking process was worth it.

The preliminary drawing and sketch of Reliquary for Rabb’s Frog is now part of the Museum’s collection. Learn more about Madeline von Foerster at

–Written by Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant

Image credit: Madeline von Foerster stands next to her painting, Carnival Insectivora.

The making of Reliquary for Rabb’s Frog. Photos courtesy of the artist.

A sketched outline of the piece.

Applying layers of tinted egg tempera to the painting.

More layers of egg tempera and local glazes.

Applying final details with oil paint.



5 Women Artists in the Whatcom Museum’s Collection: Dale Gottlieb

Dale Gottlieb; Tuskegee Airmen, 1995; Hand-knotted wool rug, 8 x 5 ft. Purchased with funds donated by Chuck and Dee Robinson, WM #2004.28.1

Inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ challenge, “Can you name five women artists?” the Whatcom Museum is highlighting five female artists whose work is featured in our collection throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month. Follow us on social media and share our posts with your followers, or tell us your favorite women artists. Don’t forget to tag your posts #5WomenArtists.

Dale Gottlieb

Dale Gottlieb was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1952. From an early age she was frequently exposed to the art world. Almost every Saturday morning she would go to the Brooklyn Museum of Art. It was at this museum that Gottlieb became heavily inspired by African art. She also drew inspiration from her environment growing up. Raised in Brooklyn during the 1950s, Gottlieb was constantly surrounded by people with a range of religious beliefs, races, and sexual orientations.

Up until the 8th grade, she attended Brooklyn’s Ethical Culture School. This alternative school emphasized a curriculum based on philosophy and humanitarianism.

Gottlieb attended the School of Art and Design at Alfred University, in New York, in the 70s. At the age of 20, she postponed her studies for a couple of months to travel to India and stay at a Hindu ashram. While in India, she was deeply touched by the spiritual rituals. She considered staying, but eventually decided that continuing her work as an artist was her true calling. She returned to Alfred University and finished her degree with honors in 1975.

Her art

Using what she had learned from her experiences, Gottlieb began to paint. As time went on, she refined her style and discovered new mediums. In 1990, Gottlieb met a Tibetan Buddhist named Lobsang Tenzing. He and his family create hand-knotted rugs using a traditional Tibetan carpet technique. In 1993, the two began collaborating to make a variety of artistic rugs. Gottlieb would create the designs, and Tenzing and his family would weave the rugs and send them to Gottlieb. The entire process could take up to three months.

“It blew my socks off!” Gottlieb said when she saw the first rug, according to the book Story Rugs: Tales of Freedom. “I thought they were wizards—it was so beautiful…when you know that you’re looking at eighty knots per square inch, and then you look at how large an eight-by-ten-foot rug is, it’s amazing to realize the effort and skill that’s gone into it.”

The collaboration between Gottlieb and Tenzing continues today, more than two decades later.

In addition to her Story Rugs and paintings, Gottlieb has also written, as well as illustrated, 28 children’s books. She has created illustrations for publications, including The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Sports Illustrated and Esquire.

In 2003, the Whatcom Museum curated the exhibition Story Rugs: Tales of Freedom: the work of Dale Gottlieb. Gottlieb lives in Bellingham and continues to create her art and rug designs. Her pieces tell a story of happiness, pain, and triumph that extends through history. They demonstrate cooperation and collaboration. Above all, they depict the human experience for all that its worth.

For more information about Gottlieb’s work, visit her website,

–Written by Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant

5 Women Artists in the Whatcom Museum’s Collection: Doris Totten Chase

Inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ challenge, “Can you name five women artists?” the Whatcom Museum is highlighting five female artists whose work is featured in our collection throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month. Read on to learn about Doris Totten Chase.

Doris Totten Chase; Sun Disc, 1980; Silkscreen print, 22 x 30 in. Gift of Doris Totten Chase, Whatcom Museum # 2003.51.12.

Doris Totten Chase early years

Doris Totten Chase was an influential figure in early computer-generated art. Her early experimentations helped defined the future of the medium and expressed themes about the lives of women.

Chase was born in Seattle on April 29, 1923. In 1941 she graduated from Roosevelt High School and began to study architecture at the University of Washington. Soon after, she met Elmo Chase, a lieutenant in the US Navy, and dropped out in 1943.

Chase’s introduction to the art world came after the birth of her first child. After suffering from an emotional breakdown, Chase decided to explore new interests and discovered a talent for painting.

She originally studied oil panting under prominent Northwest artists like Jacob Elshin, Nickolas Damascus, and Mark Tobey. She found her first success in 1948 when one of her paintings was accepted into the Seattle Art Museum’s Northwest Annual Exhibition.

Chase continued to work in the Pacific Northwest and make a name for herself. Gradually, she shifted mediums, going from oil painting to cement work to outdoor sculptures. Her artwork began to include interactive elements that invited viewers to move the art around for further exploration. One of her more recognized pieces was the sculpture Changing Form, in Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. The sculpture, which was made at a time when sculpting was considered a man’s art, became one of Seattle’s most widely recognized pieces of art.

Her video work

Doris Totten Chase; Late Autumn, 1997; Glass and metal, 14.75 x 20 x 2 in. Gift of the artist in honor of Mr. & Mrs. Arch Talbot, Whatcom Museum # 2003.51.9.

In 1969, acclaimed dancer Mary Staton used one of Chase’s circular sculptures in a dance routine. This inspired Chase to collaborate with Boeing on a project dealing with a medium she had never used before: video. Using Boeing’s mainframe super computer, Chase created Circles, a video depicting multiple multi-color hoops transforming and multiplying on a black background.

Later, she used parts of the video to create Circles 2. It depicted a woman rolling around in multiple multi-color hoops while classical music played. The video garnered acclaim at the 1973 Sundance Film Festival.

Wishing to focus more on her video work, Chase moved to New York City in 1972 and rented room 722 at the Chelsea Hotel. The room had been the residence for many famous artists and authors, including Janis Joplin, Mark Twain, and Dylan Thomas.

During her time in the city, Chase continued to work on computer-generated videos. Most of her early work involved integrating dancers with her sculptures, then using computer-generated effects to create a dreamlike atmosphere.

Chase also created videos that explored themes such as feminism. One of her most widely regarded works is By Herself (1985). The piece is a series of 30-minute video dramas regarding older women’s autonomy. Other works exploring similar themes include Table for One (1985), Dear Papa (1986), and Sophie (1989). Dear Papa won first prize at the Women’s International Film Festival in Paris in 1986.

In 1989, Chase returned to Seattle. She continued to create videos until she passed away on Dec. 13, 2008.

Chase left a lasting legacy in the world of art. Her early explorations of computer-generated video art helped pave the way for future artists.

–Written by Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant




5 Women Artists in the Whatcom Museum’s Collection: Maria Frank Abrams

Inspired by the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ challenge, “Can you name five women artists?” the Whatcom Museum is continuing the tradition it started last year and highlighting five female artists whose work is featured in our collection throughout the month of March—Women’s History Month. Read on to learn about Maria Frank Abrams.

Maria Frank Abrams, (1924-2013); Untitled, 1977; Graphite on paper, 13.25 x 21.25 in. Whatcom Museum #2008.78.3. Gift of the artist.

Maria Frank Abrams early years

Maria Frank Abrams’ life was one of tragedy, perseverance, and beauty. Her powerful paintings were seen by people around the world and touched the hearts of those in the Pacific Northwest.

Born in 1924 to a Jewish family, Abrams grew up in Debrecen, Hungary. At 5 years old, she began to paint. However, her life was forever changed when, at the age of 19, her family was taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Poland in 1944.

According to the Washington Jewish Museum, Abrams was able to find pencils and paper during her time in the camp. Women in the camp would ask her to draw what they looked like before the war. From this experience, she said she was able to find some sort of reality in the “unreal tortured world that we lived in.” By the end of the war, she had lost 33 relatives. Only one cousin had survived.

Abrams immigrated to the United States in 1948. Continuing her work as an artist before World War II, she decided to study art at the University of Washington (UW) on a Hillel scholarship. It was during her time at UW that she developed her artistic style. Oil paintings were her preferred medium. The cool hues of paint that covered her canvases often depicted landscapes and geometric patterns.

Her career

Following graduation from the university, Abrams created a successful career for herself. The Otto Seligman Gallery, a former Seattle-based gallery, invited Abrams to show her work. Her art was particularly sought after by distinguished members of the local art community including her early mentor, Mark Tobey, and Richard Fuller, the founder of the Seattle Art Museum.

Maria Frank Abrams, (1924-2013); City Structures, 1959; Tempera and ink on paper, 21 x 24 in. Whatcom Museum #2008.78.2. Gift of the artist.

During her career, Abrams received many awards and showcased her artwork in exhibitions at the Seattle Art Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Oakland Municipal Art Museum, and others.

In both 1966 and 1975, Abrams was included in the Governor’s Invitational Exhibition, which was shown in Kobe, Japan, and throughout Washington. She died in 2013, at the age of 88.

Abrams drew inspiration from the Northwest landscape, expressing the beauty of her new homeland, but she also combined imagery and family ephemera into her art, representing her Holocaust survival and experience. According to her obituary in the Mercer Island Reporter on April, 8, 2013, Abrams once explained that her much of her inspiration came from the “subtle, ever-changing hues of the light over Lake Washington.”

“The Northwest affects my work very, very much,” she said. “Most of my work is inspired by the landscape around me, and by the colors around me.”

–Written by Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant

A Closer Look at Art of the American West

When you first walk into Art of the American West: Highlights of the Haub Family Collection from the Tacoma Art Museum at the Lightcatcher building, you’re met with a brilliant, colorful painting depicting a Native American man. Next, your gaze falls upon a portrait of another Native American man painted in 1851 by Paul Kane. If you look closer, something else may catch your gaze: two large medals affixed to the sash on the chief.

A patron looks at “Portrait of Maungwudaus,” c.1851 by Paul Kane (1810-1871). Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in. Courtesy of the Tacoma Art Museum, Haub Family Collection, Gift of Erivan and Helga Haub.

Art of the American West

The man depicted in this painting is Maungwudaus, meaning great “hero” or “courageous,” (known by his English name, George Henry). He was born circa 1807 on the shore of Lake Ontario and was an Ojibwa interpreter, performer, and Methodist mission worker.

In 1844, he formed a traveling Native American dance troupe. The troupe included members of his family and several Walpole Island Ojibwa. They traveled to Britain, France and Eastern North America to perform. Maungwudaus had the chance to perform for royalty such as King Louis Philippe of France and the king and queen of Belgium.

During the troupe’s 1845 performance for King Louis Philippe I, Maungwudaus was given a gold medal. Five years later, he was awarded a silver medal from U.S. President Zachary Taylor.

More medals

But the portrait of Maungwudaus isn’t the only one of a Native American man with medals. A nearby portrait shows a Native American man in ceremonial dress. He is holding a feather-endowed pipe, with three peace medals hanging around his neck. The man in the portrait is Naw-Kaw, a Winnebago chief. The portrait is circa 1832 by artist Henry Inman.

Peace medals were awarded by the U.S. government throughout the early colonization of the Americas up until the late 1800s. The medals were awarded to Native American tribes or individuals after almost every formal interaction with the government. The medals served as a way of promising the prospects of peace and trade. For many tribes, being awarded a medal held great pride. These medals were sometimes passed down from generation to generation.

While the medals conveyed a sense of importance and respect, controversy surrounds their use in building relations between the U.S. and Native Americans. Some tribal leaders were critical of US peace medals and their effectiveness in negotiations.

The portraits are only one piece of Art of the American West exhibition. The exhibition gives you a vivid look into the diverse land of the American West.

–Written by Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant

Making Faces: Masks and Masquerading Around the World

Author Marty Rubin once said that “behind every mask there is a face, and behind that a story.” We invite you to join us as we explore making masks and the stories behind them.

Making Masks

Masks carved by Native American artists from the Northwest will be on display, presenting a modern take. At the event, you can learn how Pacific Northwest tribes used these facial coverings in their celebratory and religious ceremonies. Guests can try on several made in traditional Northwest Coast Native styles.

“Masks have played an important role in many tribal traditions throughout the world. They’re used for many things, from ceremonies to ensure a good harvest to curing illness. For some northernmost Native American tribes, masks hold sacred meaning and are used to convey ancient stories,” said Susanna Brooks, the Director of Learning Innovation at Whatcom Museum.

There will also be activities demonstrating traditional Japanese Noh Theater Masks. Japanese Noh Theater has been performed since the 14th century. Noh Theater Masks are used to enhance the emotions that a character is feeling.

“Masking your Feelings” will address mask-wearing as a coping mechanism for children experiencing anxiety in social situations. Children can explore and express a wide range of feelings in this activity.

Guests can learn how museums acquire their collections, what kinds of objects they accept (accessioned) into the collection, and more. If you’ve ever had any questions about how a museum operates, this is the presentation for you. With Halloween just around the corner, this is the perfect time to learn about the history and art form behind masks.

–Written by Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant

Program descriptions and schedule of events:


Noon-1pm: Children’s face painting inside the FIG Studio.

2-4pm: Masking your Feelings with Metaphorical Masks

LCB Art Studio

Noon-4pm: Ongoing mask demonstrations and workshops in the Lightcatcher Art Studio.

  • Noh Theater Masks of Japan
  • Transformation Masks

LCB Lobby

1:30-2pm: Interactive Theater for all ages

Noon-1pm and 2:30-3:30pm: Museum collections and exhibits 101—Get all these answers and more!  Experience handling a work of art, while you learn how a museum collection inspires its exhibitions.

Lightcatcher Galleries

1:30-2:30pm Docent-led gallery tour of Art of the American West: Highlights of the Haub Family Collection from the Tacoma Art Museum

2:30-3:30pm Docent-led gallery tour of People of the Sea and Cedar: A Journey Through the Tribal Cultures and History of the Northwest Coast


Helmi Juvonen Winter Dance Lithograph

Transcending Boundaries: Becoming Helmi

The Whatcom Museum recently uploaded a new virtual gallery that showcases a sampling of artwork by Helmi Juvonen (1903-1985). It can be viewed HERE. Scroll down to learn more about the life Helmi.

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

Transcending Boundaries: Becoming Helmi

Helmi Dagmar Juvonen (1903-1985) 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 strived 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.

Finding Her Love and Audience

Born in Butte Montana in 1903, Helmi found her love of art at a young age from her father. A Finnish immigrant, her father made pencil sketches and watercolor paintings for her and her sister. When she was 15, her family moved to Seattle. During her time at Queen Anne High School, Helmi sold handmade rag dolls and greeting cards at a local department store.

After graduating, she worked as a seamstress and took on small side jobs to pay her way through Seattle Art School. Those side jobs helped her establish a line of connections that included affluent citizens and successful artists.

In 1929, through one of these connections, Helmi got a scholarship to attended Cornish School (now Cornish College of the Arts). It was there she studied puppetry and lithography. The next year, she was hospitalized with manic-depressive illness (now known as bipolar disorder). She spent three years at Northern State Hospital.

After being released, Helmi lived on the edge of poverty as she struggled to make a living. Helmi continued to take on art-related jobs and create drawings that she sold for 50 cents each. Her talents were well-recognized and her works were purchased by many important Seattle collectors. During this time, Helmi made connections with Chief Shelton of the Lummi Tribe, Chief Colowash of the Yakama tribe, and White Eagle of the Chippewa.

Capturing the Spirit of Native Americans

Over the course of two decades Helmi continued to build a rapport with tribes across the Pacific Northwest. She got the chance to participate in religious ceremonies across the state. Helmi later illustrated many of these ceremonies and captured the emotions that surrounded them. Examples of tribes she interacted with include the Lummi, Swinomish, Yakima, and Makah.

In 1953, she attended the “Treaty Day” ceremonial dances in La Conner. She also produced hundreds of drawings of Native American artifacts in the Washington State Museum.

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

Trying Times

During the 1950s, a period of suppression and conformity, a woman living alone as an artist proved difficult. Helmi’s eccentricities, including living with dozens of cats, alarmed neighbors and family. For a time, the artist’s obsession with Mark Tobey, the most renowned of the Pacific Northwest mystic painters, embarrassed Tobey.

Helmi was mistakenly diagnosed with schizophrenia (now recognized as manic-depression). As a result, she was committed against her will to Oakhurst Convalescent Home in Elma, Washington. She lived there for the final 26 years of her life. While there, she continued to make art and welcome artists and supporters. These supporters organized exhibitions, including her 1985 retrospective at the Whatcom Museum.

The Whatcom Museum’s collection of her work, which numbers 250 objects, includes some of her finest pieces. Some of those include paintings of petroglyphs from Central Washington, watercolors of Lummi masked dancers, and more. This virtual gallery gives a small sampling of the complexity of Helmi’s vision.

Helmi’s life is one of great trials. Even in the face of mental illness and poverty, Helmi continued to produce art until her final days. Through her tireless work, she forged a unique style that merged aboriginal Northwest culture with modern art.



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Richard Diebenkorn; Untitled, c.1988-92; Gouache, pasted paper, graphite, and crayon on paper, 9 1/2 x 6 3/8 in. (24.1 x 16.2 cm). Catalogue raisonné no. 4695 © Richard Diebenkorn Foundation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, March 26, 2018—The Whatcom Museum is pleased to host two traveling exhibitions that feature distinct styles from renowned artists. The Intimate Diebenkorn: Works on Paper 1949-1992, organized by the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, features drawings and paintings on paper by this important modernist who lived from 1922-1993. Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts at 25, organized by the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in partnership with the Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, chronicles the history of one of the most important Native printmaking ateliers in the country. Both exhibitions will be on display at the Museum’s Lightcatcher building May 19 – August 19, 2018.

The Intimate Diebenkorn presents drawings, watercolors, oils, and gouaches on paper, showing the artist’s stylistic evolution through more than 40 years of his work. Richard Diebenkorn was an internationally-acclaimed California artist whose work is associated with Abstract Expressionism and the Bay Area Figurative Movement. He earned a reputation for creating ethereal, large-scale abstractions, though he returned to smaller formats in his final years. The artist interpreted landscapes and human figures in a unique way, creating a delicate balance between abstraction and representation.

“We are very excited to be bringing this exhibition from the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, especially at a time when a larger, more extensive traveling exhibition of his work is making its way around the country,” said Patricia Leach, Executive Director of the Whatcom Museum. “Although Richard Diebenkorn is mainly recognized as a California artist, he was born in Portland, Ore., so it is nice that we can claim him as a Pacific Northwest artist too!”

Diebenkorn’s artwork, created during periods living and teaching in New Mexico and California, “are the works of a modern master,” as noted by Chester Arnold, Sonoma-based painter and curator of The Intimate Diebenkorn. His personal experiences, especially the California landscape, shaped his style, perspective, and career.

Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts at 25 features 75 prints drawn from the Crow’s Shadow Print Archive. Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts is a nationally recognized printmaking studio, and the only studio located on a reservation community in the United States. Sited on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation near Pendleton, Oregon, the studio brings together Native and non-Native artists from around the world to make prints under the guidance and direction of master printmaker Frank Janzen.

Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke, b. 1981); iilaalée = car (goes by itself) + ii = by means of which + dáanniili = we parade 2015, ed. 20; Nine-color lithograph on Somerset Satin white paper with chine-collé archival pigment ink photographs on Moab Entrada paper, 24 x 38 in. Courtesy Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts.

“The Whatcom Museum is both pleased and proud to be bringing works from this well-established press,” said Leach. “Many of the artists represented are recognized contemporary Native American and Indigenous Artists.”

The artwork in Crow’s Shadow focuses on themes of abstraction, landscape, media and process, portraiture, and words and image. The exhibition includes text panels, chat panels, and a video that highlights the history and location of the studio. Featured artists include Rick Bartow (Wiyot), Pat Boas (US), Joe Feddersen (Colville Confederated Tribes), Edgar Heap of Birds (Cheyenne), Brenda Mallory (Cherokee), Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke), and Marie Watt (Seneca), among others.

The Intimate Diebenkorn: Works on Paper 1949-1992 is organized by the Richard Diebenkorn Foundation, Berkeley, California, with additional support provided by the Whatcom Museum Advocates, the Whatcom Museum Foundation, and the City of Bellingham. Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts at 25 is organized by the Hallie Ford Museum of Art in partnership with the Crow’s Shadow Institute of the Arts, with additional support provided by Mary Summerfield and Mike O’Neal, the Whatcom Museum Advocates, the Whatcom Museum Foundation, and the City of Bellingham. Both exhibitions will be on view through August 19, 2018 at the Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora Street. The member reception will take place Friday, May 18, 5 – 7 PM at the Lightcatcher building.


Isabella Kirkland; Gone, from the Taxa series, 2004; (63 species made extinct by human activities since 1700 and the colonization of the New World). Oil and alkyd on canvas over panel; 48 x 36 in. Private Collection.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, January 30, 2018—The Whatcom Museum presents Endangered Species: Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity, an interdisciplinary exhibition featuring 80 works of art, from rare books to cutting edge video, that span the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. It opens September 8, 2018 in the Museum’s Lightcatcher building and closes January 6, 2019.

Endangered Species highlights an international group of 52 artists who celebrate biodiversity’s beauty, interpret natural and human-induced extinctions of plants and animals, and focus on species from diverse ecosystems under stress. It also includes the work of artists who spotlight the human activities that threaten biodiversity alongside projects that revitalize habitats and reconnect people to the rich tapestry of life.

“We often read news headlines with alarming statistics and then turn the page,” said Barbara Matilsky, exhibition curator and Curator of Art at the Whatcom Museum. “Artists take this information and create images that inspire emotional and thought-provoking responses. Hopefully, ‘Endangered Species’ will stimulate visitors to help preserve the planet and its biodiversity.”

Exhibition spotlights important thematic concepts
The first theme, Celebrating Biodiversity’s Beauty and Complexity: From Landscapes to Microscopic Imagery, focuses on artists who illuminate biodiversity’s stunning variety on its most grand and intimate scales. By examining the shared practices that inspire artists and natural scientists, such as exploration, observation, and documentation, visitors can learn what biodiversity is about and why it is important.

The second theme, Mammoths and Dinosaurs: Interpreting Natural Extinction, introduces the concept of the complete loss of an animal or plant species. When natural scientists first discovered fossils of early life, nineteenth century artists presented convincing visions of animals roaming primeval habitats in best-selling natural history books and panoramic murals commissioned by museums. The exhibition will showcase illustrated books and preliminary paintings for these majestic landscapes.

In the third theme, Portraits of Loss: Extinction by Human Actions, visitors can explore how artists transform scientific documentation about early human-induced extinctions of the Dodo, the Great Auk, and the Passenger Pigeon, among others, into stirring portraits and still life paintings. Their artworks reflect meticulous research and analysis of specimens from natural history museum collections. By reviving past life in sometimes startling ways, artists imprint their memory on our consciousness and spark awareness about the contemporary extinction crisis.

The plants and animals interpreted by artists in the fourth theme, Endangered Species: Plants and Animals on the Edge of Survival, symbolize the threatened ecosystems in which they live and the global decline of biodiversity. The artworks call attention to just a few of the 10,000 “endangered” and “critically endangered” species classified by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. An illustrated timeline highlighting conservation milestones will be exhibited here.

Contemporary artists not only portray animal and plant species at risk, they also interpret the human actions that lead to their precarious status: habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, population growth, and overhunting and fishing. These issues will be explored in the final theme, At the Crossroads: Destruction or Preservation of Biodiversity. Within this area, the challenges facing several biodiversity hotspots, such as tropical rainforests and coral reefs, will be highlighted.

An uplifting narrative is interwoven throughout this section by including examples of how artists collaborate across disciplines to revive habitats and engage humans with the natural world. These multi-media projects serve as inspiring models for individual and community grass roots efforts towards environmental restoration and education.

Endangered Species has been organized with the intent of impacting public discourse about biodiversity while advancing the artist’s pivotal role in building awareness. By tracing links between contemporary and earlier artists, the exhibition examines art’s contribution to an enduring cultural legacy of nature conservation.

Featured artists include John James Audubon, Brandon Ballengée, Nick Brandt, Edward Burtynsky, George Catlin, Catherine Chalmers, Mark Dion, Madeline von Foerster, Nicholas Galanin, Ernst Haeckel, Martin Johnson Heade, Patricia Johanson, Chris Jordan, Isabella Kirkland, Charles R. Knight, David Liittschwager, John Martin, Courtney Mattison, Susan Middleton, Alexis Rockman, Christy Rupp, Joel Sartore, Preston Singletary, Fred Tomaselli, Roman Vishniac, Andy Warhol, and Yang Yongliang, among many others. A full list of artists can be viewed on the exhibition webpage. A fully illustrated catalogue will accompany the exhibition.

Endangered Species: Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity is supported by major grants from The National Endowment for the Arts and The Norcliffe Foundation, with additional funding from the Whatcom Museum Advocates, the Whatcom Museum Foundation, and the City of Bellingham. The exhibition opens September 8, 2018 and extends through January 6, 2019 in the Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora Street, Bellingham, Wash.

VIEW press images. Images available upon request by contacting Christina Claassen, Marketing & PR Manager,, 360.778.8936.


Jenna Lynch, Mahopac, NY; Traveling Within, Feeling Through, Dreaming Beyond; The Lines. Watercolor on paper. Courtesy of the artist.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 6, 2017, Bellingham, WA—-The Whatcom Museum is pleased to announce the popular choice winner for the exhibition Bellingham National 2017 Juried Art Exhibition and Awards. Artist Jenna Lynch, Mahopac, NY, was chosen as the winning artist for her installation, Traveling Within, Feeling Through, Dreaming Beyond: The Lines. Lynch will receive a $500 cash award.

Lynch’s artist statement says, “To create my drawing series, Traveling Between, Feeling Through, Dreaming Beyond: The Lines, I became a cartographer. I mapped my travels to various locations using colorful lines. Numerous watercolor tags document the places I have explored since 1999 including several states, and numerous European, Middle Eastern, and African countries. A few years ago, I began creating new linear systems for places I hope to visit, from Iceland to Iran. My drawing series also includes places I will never experience, from the surface of the moon and Venus to a landscape painted by Renoir, because when I imagine them, I feel restored.”

Bellingham National celebrates drawing in a wide variety of media and forms. Guest curator/juror, Catharina Manchanda, the Jon and Mary Shirley Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at Seattle Art Museum, proposed the thematic idea for this exhibition and selected work that expanded the boundaries of traditional drawing. While the artists in this exhibition work in a variety of media, the pieces selected represent a range of approaches to drawing, including narrative and representational modes, notation, transcription, mapping, and deconstruction.


Isabella Kirkland; Gone, from the Taxa series, 2004; (63 species made extinct by human activities since 1700 and the colonization of the New World). Oil and alkyd on canvas over panel; 48 x 36 in. Private Collection.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, September 5, 2017 —The Whatcom Museum has been awarded a $60,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in support of the upcoming exhibition, Endangered Species: Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity, which will be on exhibit September 8, 2018 – January 6, 2019 in the Lightcatcher building. The grant will assist the Museum in funding the loan of artworks from around the world, educational programming, and an exhibition catalogue. Endangered Species will explore artwork created by 50 artists who interpret the fragile balance of life on Earth through a wide range of media.

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu approved more than $82 million to fund local arts projects across the country in the NEA’s second major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017—a significant win for the arts during a time when NEA funding was at risk of federal budget cuts this year. (The NEA is proposed for elimination under the president’s 2018 budget.) Included in this announcement is the Art Works award of $60,000 to the Whatcom Museum, which was the highest amount given to a museum exhibition.

“The arts reflect the vision, energy, and talent of America’s artists and arts organizations,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support organizations such as the Whatcom Museum, in serving their communities by providing excellent and accessible arts experiences.”

As the only funder in the country to support arts activities in all 50 states and five US jurisdictions, this NEA funding round includes partnerships with state, jurisdictional, and regional arts agencies. Competition for NEA grants is significant, and the agency received 2,063 eligible applications. The value of NEA funding is not only its monetary impact, but also its reputation, as an NEA grant confers a seal of approval, allowing an organization to attract other public and private funds. The Art Works award is the NEA’s largest category and focuses on funding the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with art, lifelong learning in the arts, and strengthening of communities through the arts. The NEA received 1,728 Art Works applications and made 1,029 grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.

“The Whatcom Museum upholds the highest of best practices in the museology field, as an American Alliance of Museums accredited museum, and we are proud to receive this important funding in support of a topic that will highly resonate with our audiences in the Pacific Northwest,” said Patricia Leach, Executive Director of the Whatcom Museum. “Endangered Species will allow people of all ages to better understand the history and ongoing struggle for survival of plant and animal life through the works of these amazing artists, and hopefully make a lasting impression of what we can do to help make a better future for our environment.”

Endangered Species: Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity presents 70 works of art in all media, from rare books to cutting-edge video, that span the nineteenth through twenty-first centuries. It highlights artists who celebrate biodiversity’s exquisite complexity, interpret natural and human-induced extinctions of plants and animals, and focus on endangered species from diverse ecosystems. The exhibition explores art’s historic role in raising public awareness about the human activities that threaten habitats. Weaving together art, natural science, and conservation, “Endangered Species” also features creative solutions by ecological artists who revitalize habitats and reconnect people to the rich tapestry of life. Featured artists include John James Audubon, Brandon Ballengée, Nick Brandt, Edward Burtynsky, George Catlin, Mark Dion, Madeline von Foerster, Nicholas Galanin, Ernst Haeckel, Patricia Johanson, Isabella Kirkland, David Liitschwager, Courtney Mattison, Alexis Rockman, Joel Sartore, Fred Tomaselli, and Andy Warhol, among many others.

“We often read news headlines with alarming statistics—60% of the world’s primates, including apes, lemurs and monkeys, face extinction—and then turn the page,” said Barbara Matilsky, exhibition curator, and Curator of Art at the Whatcom Museum. “Artists take this information and create imagery that inspires emotional and thought-provoking responses. They also collaborate with natural scientists and communities on ecological artworks that serve as models for revitalizing land and water-based biodiversity in urban and rural areas. Hopefully, Endangered Species will stimulate visitors to join with artists, scientists, and conservationists in preserving life’s biodiversity.”

Endangered Species: Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity is supported by a major grant from The Norcliffe Foundation, with additional funding from the Whatcom Museum Foundation and the City of Bellingham. The exhibition will open September 8, 2018 and will be shown through January 6, 2019 in the Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora Street, Bellingham, Wash.

About the National Endowment for the Arts
Established by Congress in 1965, the NEA is the independent federal agency whose funding and support gives Americans the opportunity to participate in the arts, exercise their imaginations, and develop their creative capacities. Through partnerships with state arts agencies, local leaders, other federal agencies, and the philanthropic sector, the NEA supports arts learning, affirms and celebrates America’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, and extends its work to promote equal access to the arts in every community across America. For more information, visit


Edgar Payne (American, 1883 – 1947); Desert Clouds, circa 1930; Oil on canvas; 20 x 24 in. Courtesy of the Tacoma Art Museum, Haub Family Collection, Gift of Erivan and Helga Haub, 2015.29.11.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 5, 2017; Bellingham, WA—This fall, the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Wash., will present 75 artworks on loan from the Tacoma Art Museum, featuring works of western American art, including bronze sculptures and paintings. Art of the American West: Highlights of the Haub Family Collection from the Tacoma Art Museum will be on exhibit at the Lightcatcher building September 30, 2017 – January 7, 2018. This collection of western American art is unrivaled in its scope in the Pacific Northwest.

“Western American Art is enjoying a huge resurgence in the country,” said Patricia Leach, Executive Director of the Whatcom Museum. “This is the first time the Haub Family Collection is on loan from the Tacoma Art Museum, and we believe this exhibition is going to ‘wow’ our visitors.”

Art of the American West includes prominent nineteenth-century artists who influenced views of Native Americans, mountain men, cowboys, and pristine American landscapes, including Henry Inman, Paul Kane, John Mix Stanley, and Charles M. Russell. From the twentieth century, the exhibition includes artists who brought modern art movements west and who explored western history and American identity, such as Maynard Dixon, E. Martin Hennings, Robert Henri, and Georgia O’Keeffe, as well as artists who are active and working today. Contemporary Native American artists John Nieto and Kevin Red Star take a fresh approach and portray Native American culture in a modern light, and pop artist Bill Schenck uses humor and satire to challenge long-held assumptions about the American West.

The artworks in the exhibition examine ideas of American identity over time, delve into storytelling and myth-making, and explore the vast American landscape. Visitors will see how concepts of the West, both real and imagined, have continually changed and evolved, and still influence people today.

“Tacoma Art Museum is thrilled that the Haub Family Collection is traveling to the Whatcom Museum. The 75 works in the exhibition span nearly two hundred years of American art history and are sure to impress visitors who can explore the portrayals—both real and imagined—of our iconic region,” said Faith Brower, Haub Curator of Western American Art at Tacoma Art Museum.

About the Haub Family Collection of Western American Art
In July 2012, Tacoma Art Museum announced the largest gift in the museum’s history by Erivan and Helga Haub of 295 western American works of art from their private collection. The donation has transformed Tacoma Art Museum into one of the leading museums in the country featuring western American art. The collection enables the Tacoma Art Museum to fully explore the art history of the West. Together with its Northwest collection, the museum offers a comprehensive understanding of the Northwest region as part of the expanded history of the West, and illuminates how that broad history has shaped regional artistic responses. For more information, visit

Art of the American West: Highlights of the Haub Family Collection from the Tacoma Art Museum was organized by Tacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, Wash. This exhibition is supported by Mary Summerfield & Mike O’Neal, Patti & Frank Imhof, Sue Lobland, the Whatcom Museum Advocates, the Whatcom Museum Foundation, and the City of Bellingham.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 31, 2017; Bellingham, WA—The Whatcom Museum is hosting the Whatcom Artist Studio Tour exhibition, August 4 – September 3, 2017 at Old City Hall. In anticipation of the Whatcom Artist Studio Tour in October, the Museum will be showcasing a diversity of artwork by participating artists in a variety of media. The exhibition will open on Friday, August 4, during Downtown Art Walk.

Brian O'Neill; Black/White V Bottle w/Flange. Mid-fire stoneware.

Brian O’Neill; Black/White V bottle with flange. Mid-fire stoneware. Courtesy of the artist.

The Whatcom Artist Studio Tour is a free, juried event offering an opportunity to meet the region’s finest artists in their own creative spaces. In its twenty-third year, the Tour features 44 artists working in eleven different media, showing their work throughout Bellingham and Whatcom County.

These diverse artists open their studios to the public October 7 – 8 and 14 – 15. Visitors can meet the artists and get a glimpse into their creative processes. A free guide can be picked up at the Whatcom Museum, as well as at many local businesses, to help visitors plan their route and visit the studios. It’s also a chance for the community to purchase fine art directly from artists. To learn more about the Whatcom Artist Studio Tour and to see a list of participating artists, visit

The community is invited to the opening of the exhibition during the Downtown Bellingham Art Walk, Friday, August 4, 6 – 10pm at Old City Hall, 121 Prospect Street. Admission is free for this event.

About the Whatcom Museum
The Whatcom Museum offers a variety of exhibitions, programs, tours, and activities about art, nature, and Northwest history for all ages. Its multi-building campus is located in the heart of Bellingham’s downtown art district. Whatcom Artist Studio Tour exhibition will be on view August 4 – September 3, 2017 in Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St., Bellingham, WA 98225. Old City Hall is open Wednesdays – Sundays, Noon – 5 PM.


Isabella Kirkland; Gone, from the Taxa series, 2004; (63 species made extinct by human activities since 1700 and the colonization of the New World). Oil and alkyd on canvas over panel; 48 x 36 in. Private Collection.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, June 22, 2017 —The Whatcom Museum has been awarded a $50,000 grant in support of the upcoming exhibition, Endangered Species: Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity, which will be on exhibit September 8, 2018 – January 6, 2019 in the Lightcatcher building. The grant will assist the Museum in funding exhibition design, related educational programming, and an exhibition catalogue. The exhibition will explore artworks by an international group of artists who interpret the fragile balance of life on Earth through a wide range of media.

“We are thrilled to have the support of The Norcliffe Foundation for this exciting project,” said Patricia Leach, Executive Director of the Whatcom Museum. “The grant funds will assist us to assemble a truly impactful exhibition, and bring related high-quality educational programming to our community.”

Endangered Species: Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity presents 70 works of art in various media, from rare books to cutting-edge video, that span the 19th through 21st centuries. It highlights artists who celebrate biodiversity’s exquisite complexity, interpret natural and human-induced extinctions of plants and animals, and focus on endangered species from diverse ecosystems. The exhibition explores art’s historic role in raising public awareness about the human activities that threaten habitats. Weaving together art, natural science, and conservation, Endangered Species also features creative solutions by ecological artists who revitalize habitats and reconnect people to the rich tapestry of life. Featured artists include Ernst Haeckel, George Catlin, Andy Warhol, Patricia Johanson, Isabella Kirkland, and David Liitschwager, among many others.

“We often read news headlines with alarming statistics—60% of the world’s primates, including apes, lemurs and monkeys, are facing extinction—and then turn the page,” said Barbara Matilsky, exhibition curator, and Curator of Art at the Whatcom Museum. “Artists take this information and create imagery that inspires emotional and thought-provoking responses. Hopefully, Endangered Species will stimulate visitors to join with artists, scientists, and conservationists in preserving life’s biodiversity.”

The Norcliffe Foundation is a private nonprofit family foundation established in 1952 by Paul Pigott with the intention of improving the quality of life of people in Puget Sound communities by the application of financial and human resources. Succeeding generations of the family have continued to support The Foundation in this tradition. Grants are given to nonprofit organizations, and areas of support include education, health, social services, civic improvement, religion, culture and the arts, the environment, historic preservation, and youth programs.


Carmen Lomas Garza; Tamaledera; 1990, Lithograph on paper. Courtesy of The Mexican Museum.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Bellingham, WA, Jan. 17, 2017 — The Whatcom Museum is pleased to present “Images of Resilience: Chicana/o Art and its Mexican Roots” at the Lightcatcher building, opening Feb. 4 and showing through May 28, 2017. This exhibition, curated by Executive Director Patricia Leach, explores the development of Chicana/o art, from its beginnings in Mexican art of the early twentieth century, to the Chicana/o movement of the 1960s and ’70s, to its relevance today. Many of the artworks reflect how Chicana/o art has influenced community building, history making and cultural citizenship for Mexican-Americans and Chicana/os.

“The Whatcom Museum has not shown the work of these important artists before, and with a growing Latina/o population in both Whatcom and Skagit Counties, it is wonderful to be able to partner with the Mexican Museum in San Francisco and the National Steinbeck Center in Salinas, California, to bring the work of many well-known artists to the Pacific Northwest,” said Leach.

During the 1800s and early 1900s, Mexican artwork was largely influenced by artists academically trained in the European Academy style. After the revolution in 1910, the arts were dramatically changed, and artists outside of academia developed new styles. During this time, print-making through the creation of broadsheets—printed text accompanied by illustrations, usually printed on penny presses in Mexico City—became a way for artists to address politics and current events. “Images of Resilience” will feature examples of this art form created by José Guadalupe Posada in the early 1900s.

During the 1920s, a new style of art emerged in Mexico. Three internationally prominent artists known as “Los Tres Grandes”—Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco—were hired by the Mexican government to create identifiably Mexican art through murals. Their work emphasized cultural roots with a respect for non-Spanish traditions and instilled a patriotic pride in the Mexican people. A few select artworks by these artists will be displayed in the gallery to represent their contributions, including a Diego Rivera drawing from the Museum’s collection.

In contrast to the early works of the 1910s and ’20s, “Images of Resilience” will also present a variety of artists influenced by the Chicana/o movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Artists of this era, and in the decades following, were motivated by cultural reclamation and the struggle for social justice. Drawing on styles created post-revolution, this era of Chicana/o art deals with rural themes—agriculture, religious holidays, folk heritage—as well as, the new urbanized lives that Mexican-Americans were living, shown through pop culture, cars and Hollywood iconography.

“Within the context of the Chicana/o movement for social justice, artists took their place in creating images and forms of art that would help enlist others in this movement for human rights,” said artist and scholar Amalia Mesa-Bains. “The work of individual artists and collectives was often anchored in community-based organizations.”

“Images of Resilience” will feature the work of contemporary artists such as Patssi Valdez, Ester Hernandez, Carmen Lomas Garza, Gronk, Enrique Chagoya, Frank Romero, and many more. The exhibition will also include mixed-media paintings by Seattle artist Cecilia Concepción Alvarez, and prints and paintings by Seattle artist Alfredo Arreguín.

“Images of Resilience: Chicana/o Art and its Mexican Roots” is sponsored by Heritage Bank and will be on exhibition Feb. 4 through May 28, 2017 in the Lightcatcher building, 250 Flora St., Bellingham, Wash. 98225. The Lightcatcher is open Wed. – Sun., Noon – 5 PM. Members are invited to a member-only preview on Fri., Feb. 3, 5-7pm in the Lightcatcher.

Related programs:

  • Public lecture with Seattle artists Cecilia Concepción Alvarez and Alfredo Arreguín, Sat., Feb. 4, 2pm at Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. $5 suggested donation/Museum members free.
  • Docent tours: Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 1:30pm beginning Sun., Feb. 12. Tours last one hour, start in the Lightcatcher lobby and are included with admission/free to members.
  • Film Screening: “Chicano Legacy: 40 Años,” co-presented with the Bellingham Human Rights Film Festival, Sun., Feb. 19, 2pm at Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. Free.
  • Public lecture with artist and scholar Amalia Mesa-Bains, Wed., March 22, 12:30pm at Old City Hall, 121 Prospect St. $5 suggested donation/Museum members free.