Stacey Page takes found photographs and adorns their subjects with elaborate thread headdresses and masks. Delving into notions of ego and avatar, Page creates a seamless melding of antiquated strangers and vague, archetypical monsters that stare out at the viewer with some understated promise of wisdom and secrecy. Page recently took the time to answer some questions for us about her work.

 

Seattle artist Joey Bates has spent the last handful of years adhering to a breakneck schedule of shows, and he's ready to slow down.I caught up with Joey during a self-imposed hiatus; he has decided to take a break from showing and spend more time exploring new directions in his work. "I'm actually feeling really lost with what I'm doing art wise," he happily admits, "and there's something invigorating about that." For all his professed uncertainty, Bates does not come across as someone who is feeling creatively lost, and the works in progress that adorn the walls of his workspace in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood are testaments to his steady productivity.
Seeing Bates' home studio is like opening a brand new pack of colored pencils: everything is satisfyingly uniform and perfectly laid out by color, and his drafting table seems too meticulously organized to be in actual use. But Bates in person is as precise as his paintings, and he keeps his studio organized to an extent that, like the photo shoot of a sparsely furnished modernist home, elicits a twinge of envy for a level of immaculate attention to detail that most of us will never be able to sustain. Bates works in graphite and gouache to segment the planes of the face and figure into a series of nestled curves, creating portraits that read almost as topographic maps. He reduces the arcs of the human form into shapes that draw the eye into a constant sense of movement, and the meticulous detail of his linework is so thoroughly exacted that it gives the deceptive impression of being effortless. His first pieces concentrated almost entirely on faces, and by honing his focus in on the minutia of his models' features, he shifted the emphasis away from his subjects as individuals and instead created psychological studies of specific expressions. Bates originally began observing the human face because of an interest in capturing variations in non-verbal communication, and his compositions are meditations on the myriad small parts that comprise the whole. His interest in expression arose from observing the ways that people communicate. "There's something universal in expressions," Bates tells me, "but there's something very much not universal in how we read them, in the way we empathize and connect with each other."
There's something universal in expressions, but there's something very much not universal in how we read them, in the way we empathize and connect with each other." -- Joey Bates
(L) Jillian, in collaboration with Shaun Kardinal; Helga, in collaboration with Amanda Fiebing

 

 

AJ Fosik moved to Portland about a year ago, but he's been too busy to leave his studio and enjoy all the things his new home has to offer. Fosik is no stranger to working at a breakneck pace, and when I was attempting to arrange a studio visit, the only time that worked for both of us happened to be on a Saturday morning. This was less than ideal as I was down in Portland on a blitzkrieg visit in which I was attempting to cram about three months worth of old friends and bourbon into five days, and Fosik had been out the night before celebrating the purchase of a new house. Upon arriving at his tucked-away studio in the industrial hills by Forest park, we were both relieved to discover that we were on the same page in that we were both feeling... uh... slightly less than articulate.
Fosik is an affable curmudgeon who has made a very deliberate decision to not engage the art world on its typical terms. He is first and foremost a craftsman, and he puts more stock in practice than theory. While there are telltale racks of spraypaint and scattered pieces of paper in Fosik's workspace, the studio is more woodshop than anything else, and he tells me that he is self-taught. "I'm probably a bad woodworker," he shrugs and jokes self-effacingly. "Anyone who does fine woodworking would look at these and be disgusted by them."

While it is true that Fosik isn't employing the use of dovetail joints, one cannot help but feel a deep respect for the craftsmanship that goes into the construction of his statuesque pieces. Fosik's sculptures are rich testaments to the power of his obsessive curiosity. Fiercely looming eyes and wide, howling jaws rest upon psychedelic waves of carefully overlapped wooden shingles, and rearing bodies stand in mid-lunge towards the viewer. With a color palette that shares more than a passing affinity with safety paint from a construction site, Fosik's creations are anything but subtle, and they demand the full attention and involved interaction of their audience. Many of Fosik's pieces are vaguely threatening, and his compositions feature larger-than-life animistic figures wielding guns and mallets, their limbs extended to rend and tear, gaping maws set to devour. Fosik cultivated his building abilities in response to the fact that he was raised in a family with no interest in making things. "It's really weird," he says. "I have no artists in my family whatsoever... My dad can't even use a screwdriver. I was definitely one of those kids who took everything apart and destroyed everything I owned trying to figure out how it worked."

This sense of trial and error construction has clearly paid off. Fosik's pieces draw from a wide range of cultural backgrounds, and he assimilates religious iconography that nods equally to Asian deities and African tribal patterns. Fosik explains he is intentionally going for this blended effect; having no religious background himself, he has always been curious about what he sees as the absurdity of religious zealotry. His goal is to reference a diverse range of religions without evoking any particular faith, and he delights in the subsequent interpretations his viewers insist upon. While he clearly puts a great deal of thought into his work, Fosik has a perverse, Gonzo-esque refusal to talk about the ideas that inform his finished pieces. He instead prefers to discuss the religious, shamanistic overtones as part of a running joke he is playing on his viewers. "That's the whole point," he explains. "[Religion is] all a sham, but I'm being up front about it and putting it out on the table. I enjoy that aspect of it; it's the old switcheroo!"

ARTICLE CONTINUED BELOW

Perhaps more so than the general populace, artists are able to find beauty and inspiration in the chaos of entropy. Gala Bent is a Seattle artist who uses gouache and graphite to explore the gracefully inevitable failure of enforced order. Bent's compositions play with the tension between clearly delineated geometric abstraction and sinuously free form pattern fields. Her visual images are so direct that it's possible to read them on a visceral level while entirely missing the wellspring of references that rest beneath the surface of her meticulously rendered drawings. But it would be doing Bent an enormous injustice to not look deeper.
There is a deceptive simplicity to Bent's drawings, and at first glance, their sense of whimsy overshadows their underbelly of methodical research. Bent thinks very deliberately about her place in the world, and this sense of inquiry carries over in a very literal way to the precision of her compositions. "I like things that I respond to in a physical, aesthetic way," she explains to me. "But as a person, I just really love to dig and dig and dig... I like it when there's a whole series of layers underneath." After a brief miscommunication over directions that leads to a rather informative exploratory bicycle mission of the alleyways around Qwest Field, we meet in the high-ceilinged Pioneer Square studio that Bent shares with her husband, fellow artist Zack Bent. Bent and her husband create in different mediums, but she explains that they work together in that they are one another's biggest critic and advocate, and that their strengths and weaknesses are staggered in complimentary ways. The artist couple has three young sons, so their lives involve a great deal of juggling between creative and family lives. Their paintings and sculptures stand in easy dialogue on separate ends of the room. "We are both concerned with the architectural," she tells me, gesturing towards the stacks of life-sized Lincoln Logs that rest on Zack's side of the studio. Bent's compositions tend to focus on the interplay between angular and organic forms. Her drawings at times resemble tornadoes – densely clustered masses of line and plane that gradually open into light colored washes or entirely empty space. "I very much idealize geometric abstraction," Bent tells me, adding that her appreciation of the geometric has deepened over the years until she has come to see it as almost "a romantic ideal." She sees the "furry" portions of her works as representing the more human, realistic side of life, the "faltering part... where everything cracks or falls apart." Bent describes this idea in greater detail on her blog, writing that she is "fascinated by the idealistic glory of the philosophy of architecture, especially when it is brought into real space and has to sustain itself against the degrading process of time and use. The most fancy buildings still leak and peel. People still have to deposit their raw sewage inside them, and weather delivers continual erosion to their shells." ARTICLE CONTINUED BELOW (ABOVE) I Am Focusing All My Attention, 2010; (BELOW) I Am Focusing All My Attention Detail, 2010 - G. Gibson Gallery Paper Architecture: Reflecting Pool (I Smell Like Myself), 2011 - G. Gibson Gallery

Like many other Seattle residents, I was first introduced to the work of fabric and mixed media artist Mandy Greer at the central branch of the Seattle Public Library. I remember liking her permanent installation, Library Unbound, and making a mental note to check out more of her stuff (which, of course, I completely forgot to do because I didn't write it down), but it wasn't until Greer's 2011 solo show, Honey And Lightening, at Roq La Rue Gallery, that I was moved from appreciation to awe.


mandy greer Honey And Lightening, 2011. Roq La Rue Gallery, Seattle
Artists often describe their ideas as beginning with a seed, but with Greer the analogy is more literal: her work gives the impression of growth, and her compositions wind sinuously across both body and landscape as fractalized coral reefs that gracefully devour everything they come in contact with. Her painstaking craftsmanship involves the weaving and layering of such diverse materials as buttons, pom poms, sequins, beads, plastic trinkets, glitter, mirrors, and family members' hair. She uses "cheap materials" in such absurdly detailed, utterly chaotic excess that they they take on an aura of luminous richness. Her latest subjects involve strong, folkloric figures festooned in elaborate headdresses. They move gracefully through kaleidoscope forests and fields of trailing grass. One gets the sense of being enveloped by an epic fairy tale, but it's one that lacks a definitive plot. Greer draws from a wide spectrum of folk tales, finding inspiration in stories from Greek, Roman and Chinese cultures. "I stumble upon mythology that speaks to the struggle," she explains. There is an inherent delicacy in textile work – one that Greer both embraces and contradicts. In her works, haunting vignettes of half-told stories are littered with crocheted entrails and vines of thick, cloying mud that evoke a sense of elegant foreboding. They deal with a sense of vague narrative that, through abstraction, finds archetype; her installations whisper of timelessness – of a buried, invisible power that runs below the surface of the world that we cavalierly inhabit. At the time of our interview, Greer was still in the process of settling into her home studio, and walking into her workspace was like entering the magical dress up box every child dreams of having. Her studio is filled with giant, color-sorted plastic bins of fascinatingly patterned and textured scraps of fabric. Half of her studio is devoted to an exposed beamed staging ground for installations, and there are so many odds and ends lying around that, for someone with an attention span as short as mine, it's difficult to find a place for the eye to rest. INTERVIEW CONTINUES BELOW mandy greermandy greerHoney And Lightening, 2011. Roq La Rue Gallery, Seattle

Justin Kane Elder has only recently emerged onto the Seattle art scene, but he's already commanding our attention. Trained as a finish carpenter1 and hailing from a family peppered with luthiers2 and tradesman, Elder is comfortable moving fluidly across the often contentious boundary of art and craft. Elder's work demands a carpenter's keen attention to angle and detail, coupled with a painter's sense of fluid composition. Elder creates large-scale spray paint portraits by applying numerous layers of precisely stenciled abstract shapes, and his dynamic overlays create a constantly radiating sense of movement. His current portrait subjects are his friends or pop culture icons, and he manages to create crisp, defined compositions without employing any actual linework.
justin kane elder I headed over to Justin's house for an interview and spent the duration of our conversation kept constant company by Raleigh, his adorably hyperactive Boston Terrier. Elder's house immediately gives the comfortable impression of being inhabited by creative people who are very good at what they do but don't feel a need to overtly broadcast it. Elder's girlfriend is a designer, and between the two of them, the house is full of strange, enticingly colorful objects. Elder's studio is set up in his basement, and his workspace is indicative of his artistic priorities: his table saw is front and center, and his spray cans are arranged on a hand-built table that captures the precision of someone who is used to working in measurements of a 32nd of an inch. A large basement wall serves as scratch paper. "It's my sketchbook!" Elder says, laughing.

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