(This article previously appeared on the International Examiner and has been reprinted under an agreement.)
Like most of us, Roger Shimomura has spent the last 10 months in isolation; in his case, his home and studio in Lawrence, Kansas. For Shimomura, the pandemic has been an intellectually fertile, artistically prolific period. The result, 100 ”Little White Lies” is now on view at Greg Kucera Gallery. The 100 untitled paintings, each a 12 by 12-inch square, are numbered in the order in which they were created starting in late 2019. Hung in a single row that wraps around two galleries, they do not form a narrative. They are a stream of consciousness, a visual record of the ideas that occupied the artist during this strange year.
Indigenous peoples and communities have long used stories to understand the world and our place in it. Seedcast is a story-centered podcast by Nia Tero and a special monthly column produced in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald about nurturing and rooting stories of the Indigenous experience.
One of my earliest memories is of my grandfather waking up every morning before the sun came up. I was born in 1969 and in my early years, before my mother married my father, we lived with my grandparents. By the time I was maybe 4 or 5, my grandfather had retired. He had served in World War II in the motor pool in the South Pacific, and then, when he came to Seattle, he got a job at the Naval shipyards down on the piers here in the sound, later working with the transportation department until his retirement in the early ’70s. He came from a family of tenant farmers who migrated to the Northwest from the South who were used to working on the land. Their work ethic never left him.
In a riveting new exhibit on the many ways the Black female body is gentrified, Anastacia-Reneé brings us into her character Alice Metropolis’s life as she struggles with breast cancer, white supremacy, redlining, and the gentrification of her neighborhood.
This immersive new exhibit, called (Don’t Be Absurd) Alice in Parts, combines video, poetry, art installations, audio tracks, and photography to tell the story of Alice Metropolis.
During the virtual opening night event, hosted by Dani Tirrell, Anastacia-Reneé emphasized that the goal of her exhibit was to highlight the parallels of the gentrification of the Black physical space, the Black body, and the Black mind.
Entrepreneurs, artists, and cultural workers are the heart of Seattle’s South End, but lack of visibility and underinvestment have historically harmed the community. ADEFUA Cultural Education Workshop (A.C.E.W.) and a band of community stakeholders aim to change that by creating Seattle’s first state-certified Creative District. Since 2018, the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA) has certified eight Creative Districts, but not one is in Seattle — yet. If things go as planned, the new Creative District will encompass the area between Franklin High School and Rainier Beach High School. In a telephone interview, Afua Kouyate, a Seattle native and the executive director of A.C.E.W., shared details about the Creative District and the work she’s done in the southeast Seattle community since 1985.
Crumbling brick buildings litter a once thriving business district. Two-story homes blackened with soot sit boarded up and abandoned. Children find pipes and needles in sandboxes. Twenty students share five books in a freezing classroom … no heat. No food tonight, just too expensive. No new shoes — wear your older sibling’s pair and line the holes with newsprint. This is America: Late ‘70s and ‘80s. To be clear, this is America’s urban ghettos: Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, and yes, even Seattle. One generation earlier, much of Black America fled the vicious Jim Crow south seeking safety and opportunity in the north only to find itself pinned into economic wastelands with no capital and little opportunity for growth. And it is within this context that hip hop was born. During my interview with Daudi Abe, a Seattle Central College professor and the author of Emerald Street: A History of Hip Hop in Seattle, he shared his thoughts on hip hop and its political and cultural impact.
Abe, who was born and raised in Seattle, teaches a class on the history of hip hop at Seattle Central College. Most of his students are in their late teens and early 20s, and they have a hard time understanding the context from which hip hop was born, he said. But context is key to understanding why hip hop survived and thrived while other music genres such as disco faded into history.
On one street mural, a radiant yellow circle frames a feminine figure who holds her right palm outwards and left arm downwards. Adorned in a cedar hat, turquoise necklace, and multi-colored ribbon belt, the figure stands in front of outstretched butterfly wings rippling with red, orange, yellow, and purple colors. Most distinctive is the figure’s face, smeared with a jarring red handprint. Beyond this, the words “PROTECT INDIGENOUS WOMXN” anchor the mural’s mostly purple background.
(This article first ran in REDEFINE Magazine and appears under a co-publishing agreement.)
Speak to Renton-based visual artist barry johnson for any substantial amount of time, and one quickly understands why his latest catchphrase, “anything is anything,” has become an overarching mantra. As johnson explains, “Because I’m a self-taught artist, [the phrase] gives me freedom …”
“anything is anything” was the title of johnson’s first solo art show at Tacoma’s Alma Mater in August 2019, and is now the title of his weekly podcast on “the origins of myths, idioms, stories, and nonsense.” Both offer tiny glimpses into johnson’s varied interests and atraditional way of moving through traditional art spaces, which has led to an art practice that includes numerous mediums, from painting and architecture to performance and film — all with a focus on Black communities.
Featuring five artists, a multitude of disciplines, and one goal to explore geographic, political, and aesthetic space for Black presence and citizenship in the United States, Abstractions of Black Citizenship: African American Art from St. Louis is a virtual exhibition currently running through Sunday, August 2, 2020. Presented by Seattle University’s Hedreen Gallery, Abstractions of Black Citizenship features painting, photography, mixed media, works on paper, sculpture, and video artwork that explores the possibilities for being, belonging and togetherness for Black people in the United States.
Two years ago, amid shifting trends towards standardized, “one-size-fits-all” approaches to testing and curriculum development, parents, students, and staff at Orca K-8 School brainstormed and launched a program called South End Stories. A dynamic and multi-faceted experience, South End Stories (SES) works within Seattle Public Schools to create safe spaces for students to share their own stories through film, dance, writing and performance.
What happens when physical distancing, gallery closures, and solitude leave an artist alone in his studio for weeks during one of the world’s most frightening pandemics? In the case of visual artist Juan Alonso-Rodríguez you get introspection, reflection, wisdom born from a deep well of life experience, and a brand new body of colorful and lively work. If you didn’t watch the news and somehow ended up in social media “jail,” peeking through the door of his studio you wouldn’t know there was a pandemic. You would find a solitary man intensely focused on his craft — prepping canvases, applying paint, and contemplating the work at hand. You would also find the tools of a visual artist’s trade filling tables and shelves, finished work expertly hung on walls, and the buzz of Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood just beyond the windows. When I spoke with Juan about his experience during this COVID-19 crisis, he was calm and even upbeat as he mentioned being more focused on making this time one of creativity and not just anxiety and fear.