[Seattle Sights] Adventure Through the Art of Pioneer Square

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

With a few years of Seattle living under my wings, I can say with some authority that when the rain presses pause – I have to press play, and this past weekend was no exception. Kicking 2022 with a hefty dump of snow, the weather has calmed down and taken a much softer, arid approach to January with puffy clouds layered to the horizon and mercurial skies shifting throughout the day. Of course there’s been assorted moments of drizzle (hello, it is Seattle) but for the most part we’ve been fortunate to have an opportune amount of sunlight (read: ANY) for this time of year. Add that to the mix of the perpetual COVID quarantine and it’s given me extra motivation to get outside and enjoy the heartbeat of the city when possible.

I don’t know what it is about museums, but for the most part I find myself instantly uninspired by the necessity to browse art in silence, the stuffiness (both in people, and in air circulation), and the rigid formality of it all; suffice it to say, I’m not the biggest fan. I’m far more likely to enjoy the exterior architecture and landscape of a museum than what’s inside.

Art galleries however – oh goodness, color me curious! Back in Los Angeles, one of my favorite things to do was pop on my headphones, snag a camera, and hit the streets of downtown or Melrose for an urban safari – digesting the graffiti, street art and art galleries dotted across the city. I like my art tangible, accessible, and very in one’s face. I’ve been itching to find that dose of creativity again, and this past weekend gave me the perfect chance to chase that feeling in a new city.

Once the ancestral home and Indigenous land of the Coast Salish tribe, Downtown Seattle’s Pioneer Square now has become synonymous with the ever expanding art scene in Seattle. After visits to the Seattle Art Museum and Bellevue Arts Museum, both the quality and quantity of art galleries, as well as the public art in the area, were a pleasant surprise. Stepping out to explore, I was instantly enamored with the antique brick feel of the Richardsonian Romanesque buildings, inspiring an East Coast vibe right here in the Pacific North West. Yeah, sure, you could come to Pioneer Square with a plan – but as they say, life is what happens when you’re busy making plans. Whenever an art itinerary is concerned, I’m always of the belief that it’s very much choose-your-own-adventure; you could come back to Pioneer Square time and time again, finding something new with each and every journey – which is precisely what I intend on doing.

Waterfall Garden Park

Does your city boast a waterfall in the heart of their downtown? Didn’t think so. Which naturally made a spot for UPS’s Waterfall Garden Park on my personal bucket list. A stone’s throw from Occidental Square, and in eyeshot of the historic Smith Tower – the Waterfall Park is as tranquil as it is tiny, encompassing a fairly small corner of 2nd and South Main. Let the sounds of this 22′ waterfall soothe your spirit, and enjoy a mindful moment or two between art galleries. After chasing waterfalls (sorry, TLC), the enchanting pieces of Glasshouse Studio immediately pulled me in. Ever since visiting Chihuly Museum a few years ago I’ve been itching for more; I am so glad to have stumbled into their magic.

Founded in 1971, Glasshouse Studio is recognized as Seattle’s oldest glass blowing studio – as well as pioneers of America’s Studio Glass Movement. Just one step in their gallery and you too will be awestruck by the whimsical, colorful cacophony of art in literally every shape and form; pardon the pun – but you’ll be blown away. Pro tip: between the hours of 10 and 12, and then 1-5pm, you can catch the studio in action as they demonstrate the form and function of glass blowing. I was lucky enough to watch their team work on Saturday afternoon and it was mesmerizing.

Next stop on the art safari was to the Davidson Galleries, and their extensive collection of international artists and fine art prints. The staff were lovely and resourceful, and their catalog of work seemingly unmatched – playing host to almost twenty thousand original works. They rest their laurels on the idea that “art should be accessible to everybody” – and as you could imagine, I wholeheartedly agree. Time and time again, I found myself pausing at the Japanese inspired art – simply enthralled by the intricacy.

A quick tour through the Frederick Holmes and Company Gallery, and it was time to recharge with a quick bite and a bit of bartender roulette from Locus Wines. Even though a large number of the galleries start closing their doors at 5pm, many have window displays that are perfect for casual browsing. Not to mention, the magic dusk has a special place in my heart, as the natural light and artificial light momentarily merge into a moment of serenity.

Last, but most certainly not least for the day, was the crown jewel of Pioneer Square: the Foster/White Gallery. Featuring an international array of artists in a variety of mediums, including sculpture, photography in addition to painting, I was immediately awe-struck. The expansiveness of the venue was matched perfectly with the grandiosity of the large scale pieces adorning the building. Founded in 1968, the Foster/White Gallery has etched their mark as the premier gallery of Pioneer Square, and potentially the oldest as well. Wandering from afternoon until nightfall, I ventured through at least seven – maybe nine – galleries and didn’t even scratch the surface – which is perfect, because that means I can already look forward to my next visit.

For locals who want to get in on the fun, venture down to Pioneer Square the first Thursday of the month and take part in the longest running Art Walk in the nation. Yes, that’s damn right – nation. As one of the first cities in the United States to request a ‘Percent-for-the-Arts‘ from their businesses in the early 70’s, Seattle has been a trendsetter for the arts and has built itself into a haven for artists and the extended maker community. Back in 1981, the art community of Pioneer Square put their creative heads together, painted footprints outside of their businesses and printed maps with the footprint of the local galleries; et voila – the Pioneer Square First Thursday Art Walk was born. Not to age myself, but it’s pretty awesome seeing an Art Walk that’s older than I am!

For more on the Pioneer Square Art Walk, and the art scene in the area – head to their socials; and if you’re a local to Seattle, head on down and see it live – it’s an adventure worth taking, over and over, and over again.

Website | First Thursday Art Walk | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

[Seattle Sights] Immerse Yourself in Art at the Olympic Sculpture Park

As the last year and a half starts to blur together, and we collectively try and negotiate the new normals of the world, or whatever that means, more and more of us are flocking back to our old favorite habits in new stomping grounds. For the better part of the last two decades, the music world was my life – concerts, festivals, massives, raves; whatever the event was, I was there and loving losing myself in the middle of a crowd of sweaty strangers that could quickly become close friends. I wish I felt that those situations were a viable, healthy option at the moment; alas, I don’t. With the blossoming number of COVID variants, paired with living with someone who is immunocompromised…simply put, is a stupid idea for now. So in the meanwhile, I’ve been amassing my list of fantastic parks, gardens and outdoor venues to frequent in the Pacific North West and am so eager to watch the colorful cacophony of Autumn colors come into being.

I really wanted to believe that I’ve seen all that the city of Seattle proper has to offer – but time and time again, I’ve been proven delightfully wrong. Just the other weekend, I took a proper afternoon excursion to the Olympic Sculpture Park and I was so incredibly enthralled with everything it had to offer.

Encompassing 9 acres right on the edge of the Puget Sound, the Seattle Art Museum‘s Olympic Sculpture Park offers a novel and whimsical view of the downtown skyline befit with large scale, immersive art pieces that inspire insight, awe and adventure. What was once before an industrial site was transformed in 2007 into a wonderland, befit with bike paths and walking trails, rocky beaches and stunning vistas. A stone’s throw from the actual Seattle Art Museum, the Olympic Sculpture Park sits in Belltown bookended by the Central Waterfront to the North and and Myrtle Edwards Park to the South.

Hidden right off the trails is one of my new favorite micro-parks, the Rose Garden within Centennial Park; it might have a teeny tiny footprint, spanning about the length and width of the street on one city block. Color me a hopeless romantic, but there’s something so special, serene and soulful about smelling the incredible blossoms while getting a look at the sweeping seascape of Elliot Bay.

Meandering south, you’ll stumble across fabled fixtures like Alexander Calder’s ‘The Eagle’, a collection of Tony Smith sculptures – ‘Stinger’ and ‘Wandering Rocks’, and a few personal favorites like ‘Seattle Cloud Cover’ from the incredible mind of Teresita Fernández, Roy McMakin’s ‘Love & Loss’ and the illusion inspiring mirrored collection from Beverly Pepper.

Whether you’re in the mood for a picnic in the heart of the city, a long stroll with the Seattle skyline, sunset on the water or incredible art installations – the Olympic Sulpture Park has it all, and more. Though most of the collection is permanent, there are assorted temporary pieces that flow in and out of the park on a regular basis; paired with the ever mercurial weather and plenty of detours, each visit to the park has the opportunity to be a unique experience to be coveted.

For more on the awe inspiring Olympic Sculpture Park, head to their social media channels – or dive right in and experience it for yourself.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | TripAdvisor

[Traveling Tales] The Surreal Scenery of Salvation Mountain + East Jesus

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Tucked away in a small sleepy corner of California just East of the Salton Sea sits not just one but two of the most beautifully bizarre man-made areas I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.  The stores and fables of Salvation Mountain and East Jesus have intrigued me ever since I moved to Los Angeles almost a decade ago, but it wasn’t until last weekend that I finally witnessed the oozing creativity for myself.  One second, you’re taking a dusty road off the beaten path, in what feels like the proverbial middle of nowhere: you’re off the grid and surrounded by a sweeping desert landscape of BLM land with scattered mountain ranges.  All of a sudden, you see it – and once found you absolutely can’t miss it: a brightly painted surreal scene that felt born of Dali and Dr Seuss.

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First created back in 1984, Salvation Mountain is an otherworldly artistic expression from area local Leonard Knight.  Recognized by the Folk Society of America as a “folk art site worth protection” back in 2000, the mountain itself is ever evolving – with volunteers flocking to the mountain the first Saturday of every month with their buckets of paint, ready to pour themselves into Leonard’s vision.  My personal favorite part?  There’s cats – eight of them, to be exact, and they’re so freaking adorable roaming the yellow brick road. Let your wanderlust carry you to the top of the mountain, and don’t forget to take in the vibrant colors that are dancing around you.  Saunter off to the right of the main hill, and you’ll find multiple nooks and chaotic crannies littered with bible verses, prayers, religious sentiment and offerings. All around the outskirts of the mountain are refurbished cars, embellished with impeccable detail and design.If you couldn’t get enough of Salvation Mountain, just you wait until you get into Slab City and East Jesus.

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The best way I can describe East Jesus: think of it as a retirement center for Burning Man art, and maybe even burners as well.  The area itself is so off the grid that one truly could create a year round community built on the ethos of Burning Man – and indeed, some have: Slab City itself is considered a sparse ‘snowbird’ community –  no running water, no food, no amenities – meaning residents are forced to be radically self reliant within it.  If it’s chaos, then it’s the most controlled version of chaos I’ve ever seen – there are blocks, addresses and streets, basic societal infrastructure…just without the rest of society. It really makes you think about the bare minimum you would need to be content, and how magically creative you could be as you create your own world.  Built on top of a Camp Dunlap, a de facto military base that was dismantled at the end of World War II, Slab City was named for the literal ‘slabs’ that were left over – using them to create their city.

Last, but certainly not least, my favorite part: East Jesus.  I’m pretty sure I could get lost inside their art garden and I’m 1000% alright with that.  The art inside is made completely from repurposed and upcycled materials.  Ever evolving and interactive, there’s treehouses to climb, outdoor bowling, the craziest sculptures built out of seriously who knows what, and so very much more.

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There’s not only something to look at around every corner, but something to make your head spin just a little bit, maybe even enough to spark a conversation with a stranger. Hands down, Slab City, Salvation Mountain and East Jesus are roadtrip destination worthy of being on everyone’s bucket list.

For more photos, head to my album here.

For more, head to their socials – or just plan your next visit!

East Jesus: WebsiteFacebook  | Instagram | Twitter  

Salvation Mountain: Website | Facebook

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[Traveling Tales] An Inspiring Stroll Through Arkansas’ Crystal Bridges Museum

A week in the South 💜✨

I think at one point or another, we’re all either turned off from – or turned on to – different types of art; I’ve been enamored with the musical process since I was a little kid, but in first grade -after viewing ‘color by numbers’ as more of a competition to finish first than an exercise in observing the intricate nature of shapes and sizes – art (painting, drawing, sculpting and the like) simply just lost me.

A week in the South 💜✨Throw on some old Mozart and we can talk, or let’s discuss the sociocultural importance of ‘Pope Marcellus Mass‘ – but the second you’d bring a Rembrandt or a Monet anywhere in my general vicinity and my boredom would be palpable. Living in Los Angeles, there are so many different venues to enjoy the arts – and so many different forms and iterations of the artistic process, that you nearly have to go out of your way not to enjoy them.  Which, I did, for my first few years living here but I’ve learned that you’ll keep disliking the things you don’t like if you keep avoiding them, and the more I’ve jumped feet first into the deep end of the artistic process and finally, art has been making a splash everywhere I’ve looked.

A week in the South 💜✨

The Crystal Bridges Museum caused quite a stir when it was built, receiving outcries from more populous cities and snarky artsier-than-thou personalities from San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Chicago: why were historic contemporary pieces from the likes of Herring, Rockwell and Warhol being sent to the rural, deep South? Why couldn’t it be where a larger population, a more “educated” and “artistically inclined” population lives? But to me, the real question is this: why shouldn’t it be?  Why shouldn’t everyone be able to enjoy art, especially when art is for everyone!  Crystal Bridges is absolutely free to the public, proving that once and for all – no one, no matter where they live, should be deprived of art, of this beautiful process that is usually borne out of strife, out of the human need to connect and understand our emotional nature.

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But even between the LACMA, Getty Museum and Getty Villa, Broad Museum, Natural History Museum and Science Museum – I didn’t really get it until I went to Arkansas almost half a decade years ago. Because the art there did just what I know it will do for everyone in the town, bind them to our collective unconscious that we all tap into and remind them that someone, somewhere sees the world in the same technicolor vision that they do.

A week in the South 💜✨

Crystal Bridges is the reason I first fell in love with art, with the unexpected twists and turns of sculpted work and the obscure nature of three dimensional pieces; between the contrasting complexities of color patterns and shifts between shades of color; and it’s the reason I’m still falling in love with new artists, painters, sculptures and styles.  The brainchild of architectural mastermind Moshe Safdie, best known for his Habitat 67,  the grounds also offer a look into a Frank Lloyd Wright spectacle known as Bachman-Wilson House that had migrated from the Millstone River all the way up in New Jersey. The terrain of Crystal Bridges boasts gorgeous grounds and wonderful, winding trails that take you through the lush landscape and next to the babbling river that runs through the property.  Last, but certainly not least – if you’re hungry or in need of something tasty to sip on, get your fix at their incredible restaurant Eleven.  From signature drinks named after their collection of fantastic fine arts to the Pig Ear Nachos, I think it’s necessary to give it all a whirl -because you’re in Arkansas and you might as well enjoy yourself, damnit.  Next time I come out for work, I’m planning my trip around making it to a weekend Brunch at Crystal Bridges so I can finally see everything the grounds have to offer, strolling leisurely through the museum, soaking up beauty around each and every corner.

For more on the Crystal Bridges Museum, or as I prefer to call it – the one not-directly-Wal Mart related reason to visit Bentonville – head to their website and socials.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

For more on my trip to Arkansas, including the glorious Southern food and beautiful scenery – head to my album here!

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[Traveling Tales] A Whimsically Introspective Walk Through Dr Seuss’ Sculpture Garden

“Congratulations!
Today is your day.
You’re off to Great Places!
You’re off and away!”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

By in large, I live life anticipating adventures around every corner while my eyes overflow with wanderlust….except for lately; I’m typically a happy go-lucky, bouncy lady – but over the past week, there’s been a somber strain in my step and heavy hesitation in my heart.  An emotional being by nature, I’ll more often let them take the reigns of my soul as I watch the ego dissolve. From the loud moments of synchronicity to softer, gentler nods to our impending mortality, life is full of consistent reminders to attack each day with passionate vigor.  The other week while I was away at a music festival my aunt passed away from cancer and it’s been a hard, jagged pill to swallow.  I’m sad…but, it’s more than that (not to mention – I’ve discovered that sadness is typically rather selfish); truth is, I’ve been marinating in introspective inquisition of my purpose and being. I feel resolved and analytical, pensively and perpetually lost within a moment and found within myself because regardless of the places we go in life – we all end up the same. ‘Be noble for you are made of stars; be humble for you are made of earth.’ Whether we climb mountains, swim oceans, extend the field of scientific discoveries, land on the moon or simply sit on our asses doing absolutely nothing – we end up back in the ground.  Whether we live passionately or deviously, timidly or boldly, courageously or lazily, we disintegrate back into the nothingness from which we came.

With the right sort of perspective, the bittersweet, impromptu trip to the East Coast for my aunt’s memorial turned into a lovely family reunion with a touch of local lore and history.  A lot of the local residences were built pre-1900, and many had signs with their build year – some of them dated back to 1860…we even saw a house used in the Underground Railroad.  On our last day, we took one little liberty to visit a park I’d always dreamed of visiting: the Dr Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden in historic Springfield; it’s only fitting that the man I attribute so many colorful, wonderful memories of my childhood to was helping me on my path through adulthood.

Life is jovial, enjoyable, lovable and ephemeral, while the beauty and anxiety we experience is nothing more than a mental construct, obscured by our personal vision.  The only static, the only constant, is that there is something greater than us, there has to be something greater than us, because we only exist for a figment of time – yet this world, it’s forever. Death can be called many things, but one thing it’s not is discriminatory.  The only guarantee for anything that is brought into existence, is that it will eventually disintegrate back into the same obscurity it came from.  I’m going to die, you’re going to die, and your great-grandchildren are going to die – so don’t prevent yourself from living while you still have time.

We all sacrifice bits and pieces of ourselves for something else’s good, we place parts of our personalities on the back burner because we’re afraid that some people can’t handle it, we remain silent when inside we’re passionately screaming because we’re nervous of the reaction we’ll get; we tiptoe around our personalities, deferring our wants and needs just to make other people comfortable. In a million ways, it feels like we die a thousand deaths before our actual death – so stop running fast just to stay in place.  Change the rules, change the game, change your perspective.  Our time here is limited, how will you spend yours?

[Artist Spotlight] Tomoko Konoike

The other week I was going through my typical mid-week, 2-o’clock-feeling routine: grab a hot cup of tea, surf reddit and other news outlets for ten minutes and see what was going on in this fabulous world that we’re living in.  After minimal scrolling, I found something that made me stop in my tracks – the amazing sculptures of Japanese artist Tomoko Konoike.  Konoike is a graduate of Tokyo’s famed University of Gedai – one of the oldest art schools in all of Japan.   Originally founded in 1949, the University was the result of merging the Tokyo School of Fine Arts and the Tokyo School of Music; both respectively founded in 1887.

Tomoko’s art takes on a life of its own as she introduces it within unique environments and mediums; often using herself as a reference point – whether it’s through manga, pop culture or Shinto animism – Tomoko truly embodies the breadth  of Japanese art.  Though the wolf is extinct in Japan, one of the most amazing things to me are the way she can capture their dichotomy of delicacy and death, of beauty and violence; essentially, they’ve become a spiritual allegory.

I’ve been staring at her works in awe since last Friday and I’m beyond excited to share some of them with the world.  Tomoko primarily works with crystals, but employs different mediums – like using broken mirrors or drawing them with graphite.  The end result is a creative, surreal look at the world around us.  For you Californians – especially those of you up North – you’re in for a super special treat: Gallery Wendi Norris is currently hosting ‘Earthshine’,  Tomoko Konoike’s American Solo Debut in San Francisco.  Her work will be on display until October 26th so be sure to check it out!

Last but definitely not least – as much as I love using my own images I’ve yet to see one of Tomoko’s works live so I’ve scoured the interwebs to get the best shots of her work.  And, as such, each picture will take you to another original post about Tomoko, her sculptures and her shows.

Reflective Six Legged Wolf Covered in Mirror Shards

The making of ‘Earth Baby’

Earth Baby

Hidden Mountain Reverse

Shira—Spirit from the Wild (detail), 2009, Japanese ink, shell powder, gold leaf on Kumohada-mashi paper, 1.82 x 16.32m

Spirit of the Wild: Japanese ink, shell powder, gold leaf on Kumohada-mashi paper (Japanese paper)

The Return-Sirius Odyssey: acrylic, sumi, Kumohada-mashi (Japanese paper) and wood panel