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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

bridge.”

Artist Lesley Dill.

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

Shimmer was exhibited at the Museum 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 madelinevonfoerster.com.

–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, http://www.dalegottlieb.com/.

–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.” The Whatcom Museum invites 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.

For children, there will be “Masking your Feelings: Metaphorical Masks.” This activity will address mask-wearing as a viable 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 stop by and learn all about the history and art form behind masks. It’s an event that’s sure to entertain and teach people of all ages.

–Written by Colton Redtfeldt, Marketing Assistant

Program descriptions and schedule of events:

FIG

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.

Sources:

http://archiveswest.orbiscascade.org/ark:/80444/xv25660

https://www.whatcommuseum.org/v/vex22/index.htm

Events

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Curator’s Gallery Tour for Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace

Join Amy Chaloupka, Curator of Art, for an inside look at Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Chaloupka will share insight into artist Ed Bereal’s broad scope of work, techniques, and themes.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Docent-Led Tours of WANTED: Ed Bereal

Take a docent-led tour and learn more about the artist and his works featured in WANTED: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Our trained docents will provide insight into his works, as well as discuss Bereal’s background. Tours begin in the lobby of the Lightcatcher and last one hour.

Ed Bereal

Curator’s Gallery Tour for Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace

Join Amy Chaloupka, Curator of Art, for an inside look at Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace. Chaloupka will share insight into artist Ed Bereal’s broad scope of work, techniques, and themes.