Friday, November 19, 2010

A Time Capsule from December 1980: The 30 Year Sleep

As mentioned in my previous post, the December 1980 issue of the Belltown Rag featured this look to the future and since it is the future, it seems fitting to share it again. Also on this page is an illustration by Andrew Keating and a photo by Randy Eriksen of Heather Ramsay's amazing "New Era Cafe," which lived in an old bakery case in the Belltown Cafe.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Belltown: the Belltown Rag

Not long after moving into my first studio in Belltown, a neglected, down at the heals neighborhood just north of Seattle's Pike Place Market, I met Ann Hirschi who had 'adopted' the second floor of an old wood-frame building on the corner of Second Avenue and Bell Street.

Ann was distributing 'A View from the Denny Regrade', her "first attempt to establish a neighborhood newsletter." Having messed around with 'zines' and small publications, I quickly volunteered to assist with the production. By volume 2 number 2, I had become co-editor and I continued to be very involved in it's production over the next seven years.

With it's abundant vacant space and cheap rents, Belltown was rapidly becoming an enclave for artists, designers and other creative types, arriving from all over the country, many attracted by Seattle's public funding for the arts. The Belltown Cafe had opened on First Avenue, just north of Bell Street, and it quickly became a prime gathering place. The stage was set for budding community organizers to get to work. Before long the writing and graphic skills of many new residents were featured on the pages of the Belltown Rag. The core group included Ann Hirschi, Mark Sullo, Ben Marks, Heather Ramsay, Phil Messina, Andrew Keating, Buster Simpson, Mary Wallace, Tina Hoggatt, Helene Silverman, Ibby Acosta, Jeff Christensen, Joan Paulsen, Craig Schwartz, Randy Eriksen and Ries Niemi. By the last issue in 1984, there were over 30 contributors.

The Belltown Rag was funded entirely through the sale of advertising to Belltown merchants, and it featured stories on issues affecting the neighborhood including affordable housing, development, displacement and homelessness, as well as interviews with long time neighborhood residents and business people. Short stories, poems, photography, artwork and news from our cultural fringe were all part of the rag. Here are some of the covers (etc.):

The third issue invited people to Belltown's celebration of Earth Day 1979, a "land roll" and tree planting.

A short graphic fabrication of the life of Austin A. Bell, the son of Belltown's founder was featured on the back page of early issues.

Miniature hotel room on the cover by Belltown artist, H. Ramsay.

Center spread with images of the Belltown Land Roll on April 22, 1979.

"Mr. Developer" by Andrew Keating.

Limited edition color xerox cover: "Mr. Developer" by Andrew Keating.

Cover photo by Mark Sullo of the cherry tree on 'r' block, decked in streamers and paper cherry decorations. Belltown's Christmas Tree was cut down on November 15th 1979 to make way for Market Place North.

The 1980 issue of the Rag, while billed as the 'last', clearly wasn't. The cover features a project by Ann Hirschi for the Bell Street Terminal Baths, and inside, "The 30 Year Sleep, or a Citizen Looks to the Future," a delightful 'Rip Van Winklesque' story glimpsing Belltown's future in the year 2010, by Phil Messina.

To get a better perspective on the neighborhood, an arial shot seemed in order so I called KIRO and Mark Sullo got to go for a ride and take this photo. Quite a different Belltown from today.

Back cover photo of construction site tracks also by Mark Sullo.

A cover photo of parts of my installation for Cerulean Blue Gallery by Mark Sullo.

Controlled demolition of the Olympic National Life Building, imploded to make room for the First Interstate Bank Center. Photo by Mark Sullo.

Cover art by Ries Niemi.

Back cover by Ries Niemi

Friday, November 12, 2010

¿American Dream?

¿American Dream? (announcement) photo: George Stamatopoulos

In 1982, I created my first large-scale installation, ¿American Dream?, for the Cerulean Blue Gallery in Seattle. ¿American Dream? was made entirely from surgical cotton sheeting. The entrance piece, a classical pediment and columns with all details carefully sewn, bore the exhibit title printed in blood. Inside, fifty panels were dyed, screen printed, airbrushed and sewn to form a high-rise cityscape that swayed and danced in the breeze of oscillating fans to an amped up soundtrack of traffic, sirens and horns.

¿American Dream? (postcard image) photo: © Cam Gerrett

The centerpiece, an elaborately airbrushed and sewn Empire State Building, was hanging upside down. Behind this were two hanging ‘house sets’, one colorful Latin American and the other North American, it’s wall printed in money. Each had an airbrushed fabric panel TV and blared commercials. All in all, this was probably one of the noisiest textile exhibits ever.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pyre for the American Dream

In 1985, “Pyre for the American Dream” was created for Neo-York, Seattle, an exhibit of emerging New York artists and Seattle artists curated for COCA by Ben Marks. In this piece, a very large cardboard box, collaged with full-page magazine ads for fancy cars and other luxury items formed a ‘room’ with a high-rise view. In it a collaged cardboard chair faced a collaged cardboard television that was illuminated from within by an actual TV. This stand in for the American Dream was perched on a bonfire of ‘missiles,’ collaged with funereal papers (including Hell Bank Notes). With this ‘pyre’ I questioned the materialist dream and it’s ever-clearer relationship to militarism.

I had hoped to actually set the pyre ablaze after the close of the exhibit, but that proved difficult to organize, so (following the lead of the Reagan administration) I sold off the armaments in one of my studio/rummage sales.

Meanwhile in 3D

“Debasement Sale” was created in 1986 for “Underground Seattle,” an exhibition curated by Larry Reid for the Center On Contemporary Art (COCA). Arising from experiences touring the ruins in Mexico and my growing awareness of the history of US involvement in Latin America as well as several years working as a window dresser in Seattle, “Debasement Sale” commented on materialist consumer culture and the cost/benefit of empire. This piece also brought into 3D my fascination with Mexico's Day of the Dead imagery.

Debasement Sale

This piece was created from cardboard, papier mache (including day-glow printed money), silk screen rags, and blacklight.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Theater of War

"Theater of War" was created in 1986 for the Northwest Passage where it was published as a center spread. A large over run was also printed and distributed as a poster that could be wheat-pasted anywhere. "Theater of War" referred to the US involvement in Latin America and specifically, under the Reagan Administration, the illegal support of the Contra war against Nicaragua, which became known as the Iran-Contra affair. While that period has faded from collective memory and the teflon has been polished, the complex web of military and industrial involvement in foreign policy continue to make this image resonate.

Two Serigraphs from 1989

These two fine art screen prints (or serigraphs) were created in 1989 for an exhibit at the Mia Gallery in Seattle. Each is a six color print in an edition of 30. Some of these are still available.

Head in the Clouds

Storm Warning

A post election poster posting:

These silk screened posters were created for Alan Rudolph for his film "Trouble in Mind" in 1985. I just heard that "Trouble In Mind" The 25th Anniversary DVD is coming out December 14, 2010. Hard to believe that it has been 25 years.