Rolling In From the Palouse

Katherine Nelson & William Turner, Chase Gallery, Spokane City Hall, through June 27. (509.625.6050)
Hers are velvety dark landscapes in high contrast, pulling you to the distant horizon of a rolling wheatfield. His stained glass patchworks of rich oil color on canvas evoke the feeling of light on land, yet function formally as a rhythmic expression of color, shape and line. Together at Chase Gallery through June 27, Katherine Nelson and William Turner articulate eastern Washington’s beloved palouse.

Turner’s The Valley Series soloed at Port Townsend’s Northwind Art Center Gallery last year. His ties to the Westside include an extensive exhibition career and an MFA from University of Washington, where he studied under Jacob Lawrence

Nelson is represented by The Art Spirit Gallery in Coeur d’Alene, where she regularly exhibits her evocative landscapes. Round Mound is typical of Nelson’s sensuous line quality and meticulously rendered patterning that suggests tree, wood, brick or undulating rows of tallgrass. 

What a wonderful way to usher in spring and celebrate our northwestern landscape.

Aaron Henry's Translucent Bosch

Redtail Gallery, between Oak & 6th Ave., Sandpoint through May 10. (208.946.8066)

Large oil paintings reminiscent of Heironymous Bosch's narrative compositions. Surreal landscapes ample with symbolic clues. Both familiar and foreign, they invite thoughtful consideration, aptly placed in this church-turned-gallery setting.

Like Vasco de Gama's overseas journey to India in search of the optimum spice trade route, painter Donald Fels journeyed to India to discover the riches of Indian signboard painting. The result is an exhibition that will show simultaneously at the MAC and at Saranac beginning May 2. The exhibit is the culmination of two Fulbright trips to India whereby Fels commissioned former billboard and sign painters to collaborate on signs he designed. 

Asking "What is a Trade?", Fels articulates the impact of globalization. First Sight, for example, shows the children's book illustration of da Gama as hero, yet the text expresses that "Discovering India, Vasco da Gama saw much that wasn't there/Most of what was there he didn't see." Our interpretation of history depends on context.

This is not just a show about the paintings themselves. Fels' reminds us that the journey is more about the process of discovery than it is the destination. From his website: "...artists have a role to play in the world – their contribution lies not only in producing works of art; they can create solutions for public issues, and innovate methods for thinking through complex problems." With folksy appeal, the paintings comment wryly on relevant issues as "progress," so-called free-trade, and how globalization impacts culture from the vantage point of both the explorer and the explored. 

This is an exhibit that could be easily underrated without the context provided in the accompanying literature, including a gorgeously illustrated exhibition catalog.  Before you set out on your journey, navigate to Fels' site at for a primer on this adventurer's unique approach to art.

Congrats to Megan Murphy, a whirlwhind of energy and a driving force behind Saranac Art Projects, as well the founder of the web-based Her innovative website has been nominated for a "webby" award from amongst 10,000 entries, including the other five art sites nominated: National Gallery of Art collection of Edward Hopper works; oddwall, the site of artist Stephen Ensminger; Richard Serra's Sculpture, an online exhibit from the Museum of Modern art; and The Calligraphic World of Mi Fu's Art, presented by The National Palace.

"Honoring the Internet's Best" falls to the task of such prestigious International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences judges as "The Simpsons" creator, Matt Groening, performer David Bowie and movie producer Harvey Weinstein (Kill Bill, The Mist, and more).

Begun in 2005,'s mission is to "democratize the art world one print at a time" with downloadable free artwork, as well as works curated from more than 80 artists worldwide, some priced as low as $20.

To vote for to receive People's Choice, check out the
webby website.

Who's Watching Now?

For the fortunate few who make a living from their art and are unconcerned about their "boss" disapproving of their artwork (or anything else they do, for that matter), this blog is not for you. You have other challenges...namely making a living with your art.

For those of us who have another job, especially a public one, a quick glance over the shoulder reveals that censorship is alive and well in America. As a public school teacher, I'm alert to the boundaries between my private life and my school persona. It sounds silly, but I wouldn't go to the grocery store and buy a 24-pack of beer (ok, so I don't really like beer so substitute a bottle of wine there). And forget buying underwear locally!

The dilemma: what do about an upcoming show I'm having or the possibility of my artwork showing up on the web? Will my figure drawings offend? If they do, surely there are other things someone could find fault with. Regardless that I'm extremely particular about appropriateness with my students, including their art projects, all it could take to get tongues wagging is the "perception" of impropriety.

Exaggerating? A recent NEA Today cites numerous teachers being fired when their private and public worlds collided via the Web. Ranging from stupid--posting racy pictures or admitting to drug use--to First Amendment fodder like the Virginia teacher who "posted photos of his 'butt art'..." where he applied paint to certain body parts and applied those parts to canvas.

Despite the disturbing visual that 'butt art' conjures, one still has to wonder where freedom of expression comes in. The irony is that the show I'm working on is, in part, inspired by the very real issues I see on a daily basis: domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, and the disregard society has for people whose voices get drowned out by the din.

Cda Art Association "Artist Showcase" 2008

Art For Everyone

It's a snapshot in time of the spectrum of Coeur d'Alene artists, ranging from absolute beginners to accomplished artists, united by the desire to create, learn and exhibit. I saw many familiar faces:
  • Joe Kronenberg, whose daughter would bring copies of her father's phenomenal wildlife artwork into my beginning art class. 
  • Carol McCarty, whose tutelage under Kronenberg is evident in her exquisitely rendered pastels. She's a former art teacher from Lake City High School (who graciously gave me a lot of latitude with her students during my student teaching preparation). 
  • Patsy Parsons wasn't there but her trademark plein air paintings were, vibrant with color and light. Patsy and I are working together on Timberlake Creates, a community-wide art show in its second year, which showcases the talent of students, adults and art professionals in the Spirit Lake/Bayview/Athol/Twin Lakes area.
  • Dorothy Porter and Rozanne Thompson (who won first place in last year's Timberlake Creates and is an amazing muralist whose work graces the walls of most of Lakeland School District's elementary schools) were exhibiting their paintings.
  • Jackie Jewitt, Yvonne Benzinger, Suzanne Jewell, and Jacquith Travis are other names you'll remember from around town, including Art on the Green.
Lots of landscapes, still lifes, portraiture. Some good. Some great. Ordinary people doing what others only dream of doing. Good for you, I say to your members...and anyone else who answers the calling to MAKE ART.

In the Beginning: How This Got Started

The sign read "Art Show" with an arrow pointing to Kootenai County Fairgrounds. Same as the info printed on the postcard sent by the Coeur d'Alene Art Association hosting the annual event this typically atypically cool spring weekend. Although the parking lot was full enough and there'd be plenty of interesting work on view, this would be yet another event that would not receive press coverage. 

And then the anvil dropped on my head: I'm not busy enough...I should start an ART blog.

The inland Northwest is home to many fine (and not-so-fine) art venues, ranging from boutique galleries, local art associations, college-based stuff, contemporary galleries, community art festivals, and even a museum or two. And yet, coverage is pretty slim. 

In Idaho, the Coeur d'Alene Press does an occasional feature, while the other journalistic giant--the Spokesman Review--covers the bigger events, like Art Fest. A big void was left when the S-R axed the wonderfully thorough arts blog run by then-arts writer Julianne Crane, who also did the lion's share of the arts writing for them. The alt-weeklies lead the pack, including Sandpoint's Reader and Spokane's The Pacific Northwest Inlander (aka the Inlander), for whom I write. Some local magazines write about art, including Sandpoint Magazine, for whom I also write.

Although my talented and funny Inlander editor, Michael Bowen (did I mention charming? And generous...hint, hint), had asked me about doing a blog, I was sure I didn't have time. And I don't. Nor do I think my opinion is the definitive one on arts in the inland Northwest; to be sure, there are far more knowledgeable folks than I out there.

But, in the spirit of how most things get started, this blog was predicated on the simple belief that someone had to do it. Mine as well be me.