Inside a private art studio visit

When was the last meeting you had that made you this happy?

An art collector savoring his new purchase after a studio visit

An art collector savoring his new purchase after a studio visit

When you visit an artist’s studio, you get to see whichever artworks you like, not just the one or two I’ve submitted to an art exhibit. It took a year to arrange this private meeting: not because it’s a complicated process, but because we all have lives outside of receptions and art fairs. (I know — art world blasphemy.)

Seattle Art Fair 2019

Seattle Art Fair 2019

Luckily, we ran into each other again at this year’s Seattle Art Fair. That gave us a chance to coordinate our calendars. I’m not able to do open studio hours, so I emailed him three openings in my schedule.

LMB & art collector-studio visit.jpg

This collector didn’t ask to see a specific artwork, or go down a studio visit checklist. What he asked about were the backstories: he got to know each piece. So the visit was more about recognizing the pieces he loved.

In-situ photo of “Safe/ Not Safe (Semiahmoo).” Photo credit: Diane Venti.

In-situ photo of “Safe/ Not Safe (Semiahmoo).” Photo credit: Diane Venti.

And that’s the thing: this art is going to become part of your life. So I get that it may take more than one visit for someone to find the piece that’s going to move in with you, so to speak. You can get my undivided attention via text or email. And then it’s a date… well, not a date date, but an appointment with your artwork destiny.

Wa Na Wari: a Seattle version of 'Hotel California'

When I reluctantly ended my first visit to Wa Na Wari, I told one of the co-founders if I didn’t get out now, I’d never leave this home-turned-gallery space. Apparently that was plan all along: get people in the door with the art, then lull them into staying. Kinda like Hotel California, but homey instead of sinister.

Wa Na Wari co-founder Rachel Kessler and visitors

Wa Na Wari co-founder Rachel Kessler and visitors

Creative reminders of home are woven throughout the house, like the hanging sculptures by Henry Jackson-Spieker. They literally mark “places that were points of gatherings or comfort” when the Greene family lived there.

Henry Jackson-Spieker glass & wood sculpture above family table

Henry Jackson-Spieker glass & wood sculpture above family table

Wa Na Wari continues the revived trend of home-based art exhibit spaces. Not pop-ups — permanent galleries. No surprise that New York artists have done this in apartments — or just in one apartment room — considering New York rents. The phenomenon seems to be solidifying in Seattle and nearby communities too, as real estate gets pricier by the minute.

Still from “Remembering Her Homecoming,” a film by Natassja E. Swift

Still from “Remembering Her Homecoming,” a film by Natassja E. Swift

The thing I love the most about Wa Na Wari, though, is it still feels welcoming like a home — not merely a house-shaped gallery. In fact, the view into the backyard shook me for a moment: it’s strongly reminiscent of my grandparents’ home in Kentucky, which no longer exists.

Contemplating art & community with Wa Na Wari co-founder Inye Wokoma

Contemplating art & community with Wa Na Wari co-founder Inye Wokoma

This weekend is an especially good time to visit: environmental artist and icon Marita Dingus is teaching a doll-making class on August 11th. Plus, her own doll sculptures are on display upstairs.

Selected works by Marita Dingus

Selected works by Marita Dingus

If you have so much fun you can’t bear to leave, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Three things you don't do at the Seattle Art Fair

Let’s pretend you’re more interested in the air conditioning than the art at the Seattle Art Fair. Here’s a quick etiquette lesson on three things you just… don’t… do… before you get in the door.

1. Don’t talk smack about the art. They can hear you.

Holly Ballard Martz, “Danger of Nostalgia in Wallpaper Form (in utero),” at ZINC Contemporary

Holly Ballard Martz, “Danger of Nostalgia in Wallpaper Form (in utero),” at ZINC Contemporary

Overheard at preview night, about Holly Ballard Martz’s stunning work: “It’s really abortion-y.”

Wow. That was all you got out of this installation of wire hangers, each bent by hand into the shape of a uterus? If you don’t get it, why not ask about the art? That’s what the gallery staff — and the artist — are there for, to talk to you. P.S. Holly’s less ‘abortion-y’ pieces are on the other side of the wall.

2. Don’t touch — not with your hands, butt or shoulder.

Bigert & Bergström, “Incubator for Earthquakes” (provided by the artists)

Bigert & Bergström, “Incubator for Earthquakes” (provided by the artists)

This is not a children’s museum where you get to play with the exhibits. Don’t touch the art. Even if you intend to buy it. No leaning on the booth walls, either. If you need to sit, use one of the padded benches outside the booth. (While I’m at it: Don’t touch the art in art museums, either. Slow down and breathe deeply until the urge passes.)

3. Don’t hold back on the shine.

LMB-Lisa Kokin Seager Gray duo - Copy.jpg

Wanna show your followers how amaaaaazing the art is? Go for it — and remember to tag the artist AND the gallery presenting the work. You don’t even have to type in names: take a photo of the wall text identifying the piece and post that too. This one simple action shows you know something about the art world, and you’re not just some rando who’s there for the air conditioning. Bonus: you remember the artwork better when you write something about it. Extra credit bonus: other people get to check out the artist and gallery if they like the work.

LMB-Seattle Art Fair 2019 exterior.jpg

One last thing: there will be selfie-bait. Before you take the picture, check your surroundings so you don’t back into the rest of the art. You don’t want to be that person, do you?