Week Five- Henry Art Gallery
I did not visit many places on campus during my four years at University of Washington. Sure, I could have strolled through the museum for free, but why do that when you can come back a decade or two later and pay full price?
Now, technically I was set to visit the Burke Museum. It is near the campus, I researched the hours, and that was the name I had lodged in my brain. But the bus dropped me off closer to the Henry Art Gallery, and I had not been there either. So I added Burke to my “stuff I have yet to do, but will do some time this year” list.
On the downside, about a third of the museum was closed for an exhibit installation. I get it; I have worked in museums, I know you need a period of time in between to take things out and have an empty room. Because of that situation, they were not charging admission. They were, however, accepting donations. Works for me.
Since it was the slow season, there were really only two art installations open. Well, technically there was a third, but it consisted entirely of a video of a house and one canvas. The video showed a house constantly under construction. Doors would open into walls. Stairs would lead to nowhere. Walls would start halfway through a room. It made me antsy just thinking about it (which is probably what the artist wanted). The canvas next to it was almost blank. I say “almost”, because the artist put some semen on there and covered it in Vaseline. The end. Put two dabs of chemicals on a canvas and walk away. I received no artistic insight from that.
The main event was probably Chuck Close Photographs. This Close fellow loves his Polaroids. He has been taking them for years, and then he tweaks and changes, and often zooms up close for his actual paintings. Clinton’s noggin appears about three feet by two feet. Naked people loom over ten stories tall. And if you ever wanted to see a wall full of self-portraits, then Close is your guy. I understand his approach. By getting up in their face, one is able to see the humanity that eludes us when we distance ourselves from people. I get that. However, I am more of a landscape-art appreciator. I like my humans clothed. Sure, there is a beauty in the human body. That does not mean that I need to see what is essentially a mural-sized male laying there naked with his genitals dangling. They posted a sign at the entrance warning of such. And yes, there was artistry in how he adjusted colors, angles, and materials (even having some photographs made into fabrics). Still, the prude in me is just fine with women and men wearing clothes.
The first exhibit that I entered was the one that was probably the most controversial. Trans Hirstory in 99 Objects was a collection of poems, articles, and interviews about transgender folks. There were cards depicting transgender folks throughout history. A record played of a famous transgender musician. Newspaper articles scrolled by of people in the area who had been arrested for dressing up as the other gender. There was even a series of audio interviews, one of which highlighted a discussion over the phone from a prison. The installation clearly shows that transgender folks have been treated harshly over the years. While I thought a few too many exhibits were dependent on monitors (I always prefer paintings to electronic screens), it made for a thought-provoking time.
I am used to larger venues, such as the multi-story Seattle Art Museum. It certainly was no Smithsonian. But the Henry Art Gallery certainly tries to provoke and educate with what little space they have.
Week Six- Respecting Emerald City Tattoo
Okay, I have no desire to get a tattoo. You want to go under the needle? Fine. I simply don’t have anything I care about enough to proclaim it. Plus, it would detract from my “boring” demeanor.
However, I do not like bullies. And as the news broadcast I watched informed me, there was some serious bullying going on.
Now whether or not you support gay rights; hate speech? Come now. Telling someone, “Your days are numbered?” That is unacceptable. So the person from Emerald City Tattoo decided to report the hate crime. And to speak about it on TV and in a public hearing two days later.
And I thought he should be encouraged. He should get kudos for standing up to those that would threaten him. Also, the tattoo shop is one that I pass by every day on the bus. Might as well stop in on the way home.
I walked in the door, asked for the owner, and was told that he was not technically working, but they knew where he was. So out one door, in another door, and there he was sitting with some of his friends.
Honestly, I should have let him do more of the talking. I got all speechy.
“Hi, my name is Philip. Saw you on TV. Wanted to thank you. You stood up to bullies. You stood up for what you believe in. Kudos”, etc. I wanted to thank the guy for standing up for himself, but I barely let him get two words in. Sigh. Next time I will do better?
He was very gracious. Thanked me. Shook my hand. Accepted my wishes that his talk the next night would go well.
Even if I will not put your art on my bicep or hang it on my walls, I still think expressing yourself is important.