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  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 8:49 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    May You Never Have To Run For Your Life

    One of life’s unavoidable responsibilities is to show up at your friend’s fund-raising event. You could send a check. But if she’s been reminding you of the date for months; comparing her entertainment line-up to Hamilton, you really do need to attend.

    I’m joking. But even if I wasn’t, I’d never want to let her down. She’s been good to me. Loyal, generous, honest. But not too.

    Still, I’m a little fearful of round table seating. It makes me feel like I’m ten years old again waiting for the popular kids to reject me.  So I always try to find at least one person I can see myself making small talk with.

    One woman looked interesting enough. At least I wanted to think her tree-of-life earrings meant she might be fun. I put my coat over the back of the chair next to hers and we got to talking. Of course we did.

    I wish I could say it’s possible to recognize what side of an issue someone is on based on earrings alone, but one should never make such assumptions.

    Now, I’m a little sensitive about immigration, I feel protective. The more my tablemate drank, the more obnoxious she became, and we were only halfway through our salads. And so came the probe. “But your parents came legally, right? They didn’t come expecting a free ride?”

    I wanted to say, free ride? How many immigrant’s do you know who want that? Most come to work at kitchen or field labor. I’m sure you didn’t raise your son to move on down to Fresno to hand pick tomatoes. But to answer your question directly, no, I don’t think my family came legally, they came desperately. It’s why they were called WOPS. Without Papers. The legal process began after they arrived. Oh, and one other thing: May you never have to run for your life.

    I didn’t say this. I sat there with a big fat fake smile on my face, trying to be socially-correct where the worst thing you can say is the truest thing you feel. The polite thing to do is just say, “Excuse me,” and pretend to see someone you know across the room.

    I did know someone! At the head table.

    After congratulating my friend (she raised a ton of money for a scholarship program), I passed two women discussing Good Friday, “What’s so good about it again? I can’t remember.”

    “It’s when Jesus rose from the dead.”

    “Was it before or after he walked on water?” They laughed. “My first husband thought he could walk on water, too, but my lawyer showed him just how quickly you can go under.”

    Every once in a while you overhear someone who knows how to make easy, light, irreverent conversation, who reminds you that it’s possible to be sassy and bold and respectful all in the same breath. Not that it’s ever smart to assume. But I pulled up a chair anyway.

    I’ve replayed a lot of the evening over and over in my mind, looking for a reason I should have stayed home in my sweats, but I can’t find one. It was a really good cause.

    And the entertainment was top notch.

    Mary Lou Sanelli

    Mary Lou Sanelli is an author, speaker and dance teacher. Her first novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio (of Yucca Springs)” was recently published by Chatwin Books. Ask for it at your favorite independent bookstore. For more information, visit
    www.marylousanelli.com.

  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 8:47 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    After Francisco de Goya’s painting,

    The Third of May 1808 in Madrid: The Execution at Principe Pío


    Goya admired the maverick monarch Napoleon, but when his army invaded Spain, Goya experienced war firsthand. In addition to conveying sympathy for the victims of war, he showed how the French soldiers were also victims, with their “just follow orders” mindset. Some soldiers cover their eyes in disbelief and choke on gun smoke and blood liberating from the luckless. The blood reaching the soil, penetrating the earth, lurching to its core, mingling with other roots and life in which God exists. The cells of the blood, the pebbles on the ground, the fine outerwear of the guards, and the night which holds each man there and can do nothing else. Cued: five prisoners, including a tonsured monk. On one side: a mound of three dead. On the other side, a group awaits the firing squad which functions as a single unit. Each of the Spaniards bearing a long shot-gun—their hat-shaded faces are staring into the eye holes, their stance is leaning balanced on a collective bent knee. Kneeling prisoner in the center—lit by a lantern between the killers and the killed. His hands palms-up to Madrid’s night sky in vain, for the group of dead beside him will rise to eight. How close we stand to death, to our rites, where brooding men loom in their top-hats and long jackets. Their full sheaths swinging beside them as they reload and take down men as easily as a tree struck by lightning. The bark flings off the tree bole, exposing the white inside. The blood of these war-captured stains the ground disappears into a stronghold of roots destined to rot to the core, the core of the earth where men trod mindlessly over the amount of blood it takes for the work to be done. They will not reap what they sow, but the cells will descend and inhabit the soil, inhabit the land which grows the bread that these soldiers will deliver home and break for their children to eat.

    Janée J. Baugher

    Janée J. Baugher is the author of two ekphrastic poetry collections, The Body’s Physics and Coördinates of Yes. Her poetry and prose have been published in Tin House, The Writer’s Chronicle, Boulevard, NANO Fiction, Nimrod, and The Southern Review, among other places, and she teaches at Richard Hugo House. In autumn 2020, McFarland will publish her academic book, Ekphrastic Writing: A Guide to Visual-Art-Influenced Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction.

  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 8:44 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    After Sandro Botticelli’s c. 1475 painting, Spring


    In a citrus grove in spring, the wind distributes the pollen, then gestation happens and hence, flora sprouts from her mouth. Spring personified as the maiden carries a bunch of flowers and petals. Mercury as Wind on one side of the canvas. The three Graces, intertwining all 30 fingers, signify love for humanity. In the center, Venus cloaked in a white gown and red wrap. Cupid hovers above her and aims his arrow carelessly. All bodies are symmetrical and serene. The translucent gowns, see the curves and see their faces like friends. We must relish in spring, but not adhere to it. In winter, the mind was at home with the cold white mornings and the short days smelling of decay and endings. Do not let spring fool you, she begs, relish in all the elements: Talk to the wind so no one will hear you, look to Cupid’s aims if you’ve lost direction, gaze at Mercury, for when he appears, it’s only an illusion. The fruit and flowers depicted in that painting couldn’t have existed in nature at the same time. But the artist could not consider realism, the way grass grows upward and green, and how some nights the wind gusting through your window is a little blue man. As for Venus, she can name the flowers and fruit, but she can never describe to you their colors.


    Janée J. Baugher

    Janée J. Baugher is the author of two ekphrastic poetry collections, The Body’s Physics and Coördinates of Yes. Her poetry and prose have been published in Tin House, The Writer’s Chronicle, Boulevard, NANO Fiction, Nimrod, and The Southern Review, among other places, and she teaches at Richard Hugo House. In autumn 2020, McFarland will publish her academic book, Ekphrastic Writing: A Guide to Visual-Art-Influenced Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction.

  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 8:21 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)

    A river flows through the center of the ArtXchange Gallery. June Sekiguchi’s poetic exhibition, “The Pulse of Water,” features a river constructed by the artist of fiber board intricately cut on a scroll saw. As we immerse ourselves in the swirls and patterns of the river that flows down the wall and across the gallery, we can feel the spirit of the river as it moves from the purity of the mountain stream to the siena browns of the lowlands. 

    Fourteen years ago June Sekiguchi traveled on the Mekong River for two weeks, “Floating down the river in a long narrow boat slows the pace of life—I could just BE. As I meditatively floated, the riverboat captain was vigilantly reading the river—there are not many rapids, but bubbling whirlpools in constant motion indicate there is something beneath the surface. Trees, rocks, and all kinds of human-made things have been swallowed by the river. I saw the Mekong as a metaphor for our human selves. One may detect hints on the surface, but underneath is where our stories are submerged.” The Mekong river begins in Tibet, flows through South China, forms a border between Burma and Laos, as well as Laos and Thailand, then flows on through Cambodia and Vietnam where it ends in the famous Mekong delta. 

    In Sekiguchi’s installation the swirls of the river in many colors and patterns seem alive and perhaps struggling, as the dark colors and the pure clean white patterns overlap and interact. The artist also created a bamboo bridge across her river about which she states “Every year the bridge is washed away by the monsoon. Each year, the people rebuild the bridge.” Those many patterns though also refer to the threats to this precious river, the source of food for millions of people. It is rapidly being dammed for hydroelectric power, starting in China, and now further South in Laos. The entire ecosystem of the river is under threat. As we well know from our experience here, dams are devastating to migrating fish. So as we look at this celebration of the poetry of water flowing freely, we also can feel the threat to the river.
     
    Sekiguchi recently created “Akha Headdress” to honor the Akha people, a tribal hill people that span from the Yunnan province of Southern China, as well as Thailand, Laos, Burma, and China. Their traditional farming land is also threatened by governments taking their land, although eco-tourism seems to be helping them survive. In China, the Akha people grow Puer and other types of sought-after tea (as well as coffee) and have been integrated into the world economy.
     
    Other works in the “Pulse of Water” include mandalas, bells, and kites, all created on scroll cut wood. The scroll saw moves up and down with a spiral blade, and Sekiguchi frequently works with 1/8 inch thick low grade fiber board that has no grain, allowing her to create intricate designs.
     
    Also at ArtXchange is an exhibition by Lauren Iida, “100 Aspects of the Moon.” Iida creates delicate images with hand cut paper, watercolor, and sumi ink that suggest a fragment of a story. Lauren Iida’s grandparents were detained during World War II at Tule Lake. As a Japanese American, this personal history has profoundly affected her art and her view of the world.
     
    Japanese woodblock artist Tsukioka Yoshitoshi (1839-1892) “100 Aspects of the Moon” inspired the current series. In his case, the themes are taken from Indian and Chinese legends, famous musicians, poets, and heroes of classic novels and plays. Iida chooses to represent personal events for her family as well as to depict scenes from the life of her friends in Cambodia. The moon in each image in both series represents the connections among people no matter who or where they are. Iida suggests a meditative moment in each work, whether it be those waiting for a family member who is detained or a young man standing alone in a field.

    Iida has been based in Cambodia since 2008. Deeply engaged with social projects she sponsors the nonprofit The Antipodes Collective which creates illustrated books in both Khmer and English for Cambodian children. Open Studio Kampot takes place in her house which she has opened up to youth artists, including many with disabilities. Her story suggests her deep feeling for those who struggle to survive, but she doesn’t just feel concern, she collaborates with people who might seem to have no way forward to help them create viable lives.

    Lauren Iida and June Sekiguchi make a perfect pairing of exhibitions that give us insights into an area of the world that shares the same ecological concerns as Seattle, but of which we hear very little. ArtXchange Gallery plays a crucial role in Seattle in exhibiting both contemporary Asian and Asian American artists.
     
    Susan Noyes Platt
    Susan Noyes Platt writes a blog www.artandpoliticsnow.com and for local, national, and international publications.

    “The Pulse of Water” exhibit by June Sekiguchi and “100 Aspects of the Moon” exhibit by Lauren Iida are on view through November 30 at the ArtXchange Gallery located at 512 First Avenue South in Seattle, Washington. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 11 A.M. to 5:30 P.M. For information, visit www.artxcahnge.org.

  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 7:51 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    On August 14, Ed Bereal woke to find a National Guardsman outside of his studio pointing a gun at him. It was 1965 in Los Angeles and the artist was living in the midst of the Watts Rebellion. Curator Amy Chaloupka titled this section of her essay describing the event as “An Awakening”. From that moment, Bereal’s artworks intensified and became even more pointed and critical. Building on his training and life experiences, his artworks continue to tackle corruption, corporate greed, commercialism, racism, and gun violence. By using characters prevalent in popular culture, from George W. Bush to the Joker, Bereal draws the viewer in by using startling imagery mixed with recognizable figures. The images are often astonishing, and will no doubt hurtle the viewer towards introspection and discussion. Layers of intricate drawings are sometimes superimposed with rough, found materials. In the end, Bereal constructs a poignant criticism and reflection of the challenging aspects of American history.

    “Wanted: Ed Bereal for Disturbing the Peace” is the artist’s first solo museum retrospective. It is incredible that Bereal had never had a significant solo museum exhibition before this point. His work has been exhibited widely internationally at important art institutions like the Getty Museum and Centre Pompidou.

    This exhibit includes Bereal’s artworks from the last sixty years in all areas of his career, including collages, sketches,  photojournalism, sculptures, and videos of his theater work. It also includes the never-before-seen installation, “Exxon: The Five Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” a forty-foot long piece with five “horsemen” created from assembled materials and projected light. The exhibition is impressive for several reasons. The scope and breadth of the artworks exhibited is the first of its kind. In addition, curator Amy Chaloupka expertly organized the exhibition so that a visitor who is new to Bereal’s work can move through his artistic career and many of the artworks have extended labels with more information. The museum does have a word of caution for visitors before they enter the exhibition, and the message states that the content may be emotionally charged for some visitors and that some artworks contain adult content.

    The exhibition is organized into several sections that represent the phases and evolution of his artistic career. At the entrance, the viewer encounters “Political Cartoons” which filled with logos, familiar faces from politics and popular culture, and sarcasm. It is in this section that Bereal’s use of dark humor and his talent for illustration really shine. There is a wall filled end to end with sketches from the 1980s through the present. Bereal studied at the Chouinard Art Institute in their advertising design program and the institute was known for training Disney illustrators, so it is not a surprise that Bereal’s drawing skills are excellent.

    After seeing the political cartoons and large-scale installations, the viewer is brought back twenty years Bereal’s early career when he was experimenting with drawing and assemblage artworks. This portion includes information about his involvement in the infamous War Babies exhibition Huysman Gallery in 1961, examples of his unique use of materials, symbols, and ephemera from the period.

    Significantly, it was also during these formative years that Bereal lived through the Watts Rebellion. The impact of that event is evident in his work. “America: A Mercy Killing” is a mixed-media kinetic sculpture that he made while writing a screenplay and the artwork was originally intended to be a model for the set.

    He continued his interest in performance while teaching at University of California, Riverside and University of California, Irvine. In 1968 he organized a group of twelve student actors into a group called Bodacious Buggerrilla to bring critical perspectives to their communities. For the following decades, Bereal continued to bring performance to the masses and later took his skills overseas as a photojournalist in the 1980s and 1990s. He continued to teach while on assignment outside the United States and sought to demonstrate how people could use photography and film as forms of activism.

    It was very wise to put a warning at the entrance to this exhibition. The images are powerful, at times disturbing, and often evoke an immediate response. As a caucasian, millennial woman, I came to this exhibit with ideas and experiences informed by my life and the world around me. I can’t imagine experiencing what Ed Bereal experienced. A t the end of the exhibition, there is a table with several chairs for people to reflect and discuss their thoughts on the show. Notebooks titled “I leave wanting to…”, “I am still thinking about…”, and “I want to have a conversation about…” are sitting on the table. My recommendation? Take the time to observe the details, maybe chuckle at some of the sarcasm, deliberate about the challenging images, and witness the strange in this show. I also recommend reading the essays in the corresponding catalog. The authors expertly provide context for the artworks and respectfully share Bereal’s story. The curator also gives gallery tours and Bereal has participated in several events at the museum.

    Chloé Dye Sherpe
    Chloé Dye Sherpe is a curator and art professional based in Washington State.

    “Ed Bereal: Wanted for Disturbing the Peace” is on view through January 5 at the Whatcom Museum located at 250 Flora Street in Bellingham, Washington. Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 12 to 5 P.M. For more information,
    visit www.whatcommuseum.org
     

  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 7:44 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)



        today
        i am dancing
        for my mother
        who carried me
        on her shoulders
        and made the earth
        sacred







    Alan Chong Lau
    Alan Chong Lau is a poet and visual artist based in Seattle, Washington. He serves as Arts Editor for the International Examiner, a community newspaper. As a visual artist, he is represented by ArtXChange Gallery in Seattle, Washington.

    John Levy
    John Levy is a poet and photographer. His most recent book of poetry, “On Its Edge, Tilted,” published by oata in 2018 and some of his previous books of poetry have been published by First Intensity Press and The Elizabeth Press. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

    Alan Chong Lau and John Levy have just published their third volume of poetry and photograph collaboration with the online literary magazine,
    otata. To view more of their work, visit www.otatablog.wordpress.com.  

  • Wednesday, November 06, 2019 7:34 AM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


        with nothing to hide
        i bunch up
        my turtleneck
        and spill
        out of my shell

        the hair
        on my head
        coiffed into
        a soft frizzy
        exclamation point
        of what i’m
        all about







    Alan Chong Lau
    Alan Chong Lau is a poet and visual artist based in Seattle, Washington. He serves as Arts Editor for the International Examiner, a community newspaper. As a visual artist, he is represented by ArtXChange Gallery in Seattle, Washington.

    John Levy
    John Levy is a poet and photographer. His most recent book of poetry, “On Its Edge, Tilted,” published by oata in 2018 and some of his previous books of poetry have been published by First Intensity Press and The Elizabeth Press. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

    Alan Chong Lau and John Levy have just published their third volume of poetry and photograph collaboration with the online literary magazine, otata. To view more of their work, visit www.otatablog.wordpress.com.  
  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 4:39 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    Lyft Share, Yes Please


    Some of my worst days lately have been the ones that I thought driving across town was a good idea.


    So, I’ve decided to sell my car.


    And here’s why. Now that we have the Lyft share option, I can no longer justify owning a car in the city.


    Now, I’m not preaching the gospel of not owning a car; if I believed that, I’d have sold mine years ago. 


    One friend says that since I’m from New York, I’m more cut out for public transit. “But I’m from Seattle,” he said.


    “But Seattle is the most forward-thinking city about transportation,” I said.


    I don’t remember much else about that conversation, just that the real differences between us were highlighted in the collection of odd shaped mirrors above the bar at Tavolata where they’ve been brought to light before. Last time he said that my apartment reminds him of a bento box.  


    Granted, I live in Belltown, where parking is more of an issue. But the fact that I can ride to just about anywhere I need to go in the city for under five dollars if I’m willing to share feels like a gift.


    It is a gift. “Thank you!” I cried the first time I tapped the share option, as though I’d just unwrapped one.


    Many of my Lyft drivers have been surprisingly enlightening. My last was from Afghanistan. He wanted to know all about Velocity, the dance studio he was taking me to, because he loves to dance but under the Taliban he was not allowed to. He had a regal presence with brown hair and eyes and a white dress shirt. I wore workout sweats. But the rider we picked up was so covered with dog hair and what looked like dog slobber that this put a lid on my feeling frumpy-American.


    He was nice though.


    Our driver said he was grateful to be in this country. “I wish Americans had just helped us more, not invaded.” I found his comment refreshing. I no longer want to hear what journalists think Afghans think. I want to understand from Afghans what they think.


    Once he cleared that up, we talked about other things. Like the last mass shooting, though, sadly, I don’t even remember which one. He said—I’m paraphrasing, but only slightly—“he had so many rounds, that crazy shooter! He shot and shot! I really don’t think our forefathers had an AK-47 in mind when they thought about the right to bear arms. I don’t think they ever meant that.


    What really got me was the way he said, “our” forefathers. I mean every time our government pisses me off lately, I’m more than happy to call myself an Italian again.


    Not every ride is as interesting. One driver picked me up at the Fauntleroy Ferry and for the entire drive I was on the receiving end of a nonsensical monologue. Before driving off, he thanked me for the great conversation. “Is that what that was?” I said. And slammed the door.


    Yet, all of these people make me get up from my desk and look out the window at the street beneath my fifth floor window. And I think, that driver, in his grey Toyota Prius, who is he? 


    Mary Lou Sanelli


    Mary Lou Sanelli, author, speaker, and dance teacher, lives in Seattle. Her forthcoming novel, “The Star Struck Dance Studio (of Yucca Springs)” is to be published in September,  (Chatwin Books). Please join her at Village Books, in Bellingham, 7 P.M.; at Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, Saturday, October 12, 6 P.M.; at Watermark Book Company on Thursday, October 17, 6 P.M., on Bainbridge Island at Eagle Harbor Book Company on Sunday, October 20, 3 P.M.;  or at the Rose Theatre in Port Townsend, Sunday, October 27, 1 P.M. For more information, visit www.marylousanelli.com.


  • Wednesday, September 04, 2019 4:38 PM | Debbi Lester (Administrator)


    this girl

    from a vermeer painting

    sits on a bus 

    engrossed in words

    everything around her moves

    but she sits still


    in time

    the silence

    will tell 

    its own story






    Alan Chong Lau

    Alan Chong Lau is a poet and painter exhibiting his art locally at ArtXChange Gallery in Seattle, Washington. 


    Alan Chong Lau and John Levy have just published their third volume of poetry and photograph collaboration with the online literary magazine, otata. To view more of their work, visit www.otatablog.wordpress.com.  


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