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The Seattle Times - August 29, 2003


Bumbershoot Preview – Visual Arts Exhibit Guide

By Sheila Farr, Seattle Times art critic

Just a piece of friendly advise: Don’t start your tour of the Bumbershoot art shows at the edible-underpants booth. You’ll get all sticky from the slather of honey, cream, berry and chocolate sauces that drench the fried confections (your choice boys or girls) and will be distracted from the awesome and totally fun exhibits that make this years line-up one of the most satisfying ever.

The fried-underpants booth is Toi Sennhausers contribution to “Fashion is ART” – a romp through the unzipped clothing fantasies of 22 artists and designers selected by independent curator Rhonda Howard of Thread for Art. Each was invited to fill in the blank “Fashion is ____” with a word or phrase, and then illustrate it with some spiffy clothing designs. Sennhauser dubbed fashion “delicious” and the fried undies (don’t expect this critic to divulge the recipe) prove she is oh so right.

I entered “Fashion is ART” on a purely professional basis, notebook in hand, prepared to look and pass unbiased critical judgement. Thus, I duly took in Dylan Bolles and Nathan Lynch’s “Fashion is Heavy Accessories” display, a glittery regiment of found helmets lined up on the floor in what looked like an aerial view of some swish football team; and Sami Ben Larbi’s “Fashion is Self” with blow-up latex pants that turn the wearer into a modern Humpty-Dumpty.

I admired Michelle Kumata’s “Fashion is Conversation”, as in a conversation piece. The costume artist and Seattle Times graphic designer contrives fabulous shapes out of capes and drapes that show slips of suggestive color with underthings that sneak from inside out. And I went on to concur with “Fashion is Ridiculosity” (by Cathy McClure and K.D. Schill) a compendium of bustles, humps and embellished bosoms, lampshade sleeves and towering headdresses: odes to the dictatorial nature of the fashion industry.

Then, I got to Jean Hicks’ fabulous display of red felt hats and lost every iota of objectivity. In a heartbeat, I turned from critical observer to rabid shopper. All that remained, after trying on every hat in the display (with Hicks’ help) was to slink out of the show pocketing her business card and planning an order.

After the effervescence of “Fashion” the philosophical depth of transplanted curator Stefano Catalani’s “The Last Judgement Project” might come as a bit of a shock. That’s just fine with Catalani. ”It’s all based on surprise, this show” says Catalani, 35, who invited an international cast of artists to consider the biblical story of the Last Judgement ‚ but not to make any judgements about it themselves.

Catalani chose well, and his show is worthy of more than a brief stint at Bumbershoot. Particularly strong works comes from Seattle artists John Feodorow, whose installation”Souls awaiting a future” marries a grid of armless clay figures with the electronic eternity of a starry-night computer screen-saver; Pam Keeley, with her delicate, Dante-esque drawings of the Last Judgement; and Chris McMullen, whose sculpture “Estimate” weighs the relative value of two liquids: blood and oil.

The real stunner of “The Last Judgement Project” is a giddy strangeness of Ted Grudowski and Adrienne Taggart’s multimedia installation “Circumambient Tribunal (The Way Ahead, The Far Behind)” viewed through red-and-aqua 3-D glasses. It’s a must. But be sure and save time to savor the subtleties of French photographer Jean-Jacques Ringuette’s series “About the soul of Pierre Mouchon.” The poofy stuffed pig’s dilemmas are both profound and dear.

After “The Last Judgement Project” don’t despair: More wonders await. There’s Ben Rubin’s “Spin” in which a line-up of light projections – circles with a dark band across them resembling the head of a screw – perform in their own idiosyncratic ways. Nearby whirls the miniature carnival of Cathy McClure’s installation “Get me off this crazy thing” a group of strobe-lit zoetropes performing to the piped sounds of a player piano and organ music. Another area features the artist cooperative Soil, which set up “The Gallery of Collections and Creations” a series of amazements in the form of video projections and cabinets of curiosities.

Topping off this year’s Bumbershoot agenda is “Wouldn’t you know it” an umbrella-theme show. For ”Under Construction” Bumbershoot hosts invited 40 favorite Northwest artists to make or in some cases mutilate a unique piece of umbrella-shaped art. The results are sensational. All Bumbershoot visual-art exhibitions continue through Monday at the Northwest Courtroom Galleries.

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