Summer thoughts

I may have gotten more vitamin D in the past month than I have in the past five years here in the Northwest. (We're not used to multiple, consecutive sunny days... it confuses us.) Just drinking in the sun, thinking about art.

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My family was definitely immersed earlier this summer, when we were fortunate enough to visit the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay. The trip also got me thinking A LOT about museum etiquette: OMG don't get so close to the artwork/ 250-year-old paintings don't like flash photos/ how do you NOT know how to behave in a museum?!

  Vincent van Gogh, "Self-Portrait," 1889

Vincent van Gogh, "Self-Portrait," 1889

After a certain point I found myself playing a mental game of "find a European artwork that includes black people." Medieval and Renaissance-era artists did depict people of African descent occasionally, and not always as servants, possessions or "noble savages." But even those sculptures make me think: this is still a black body rendered in a couple tons of marble, by an artist who died more than a century ago.

  Ernest Barrias, "The Alligator Hunters, or the Nubians," 1894

Ernest Barrias, "The Alligator Hunters, or the Nubians," 1894

And it's worth remembering that most museums allow you to borrow their air conditioning for hours at a time. Depending on where you live, summer really is cooler at the museum.

Liberty Bank Building: new (old) faces

Back to work on the collage portraits for the Liberty Bank Building. This week I'm staring down some formidable faces.

  Dr. Rev. Samuel B. McKinney (from the Liberty Bank & McKinney family archives)

Dr. Rev. Samuel B. McKinney (from the Liberty Bank & McKinney family archives)

Dr. Rev. Samuel McKinney was an activist who moved mountains. During his tenure as leader of the iconic Mount Zion Baptist Church, he co-founded Liberty Bank as well as a housing complex for the elderly and working poor. He was also a gracious person with a resonant, Morgan Freeman-as-God-level voice. I just hope I can do his portrait justice.

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And just a few days ago, I learned about the architect DeNorval Unthank Jr. He and fellow architect Mel Streeter teamed up to design the original Liberty Bank. "De," as he was called, was also the first black man to earn an architecture degree from the University of Oregon. One of the university residence halls has been renamed for him.

  Unthank Hall sign unveiling (credit: Around the O/University. of Oregon)

Unthank Hall sign unveiling (credit: Around the O/University. of Oregon)

So... just making a couple more collage portraits of Northwest icons. No pressure.

Book of Bulmash, chapter 149

Book of Bulmash, chapter 149

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  1. Behold the empty bed of the nine-year-old child! Look, and see the glee this absence hath bestowed in the heart of this boy's mother.
  2. The boy had ignored the radio alarm designed to wake him. He slumbered despite the family dog's whine to be let out for bodily relief.
  3. But the boy could not ignore the sound of his mother breathing,
  4. For she had crawled into her son's bed and laid her head directly next to his own, so as to weaponize the breath of life.
  5. As the air left her nostrils, it roared inside the semi-conscious boy's ear like the sound of a thousand vengeful bees pursuing their prey.
  6. Of course, the child turned his head away from the sound. But this solution was short-lived,
  7. For his mother simply began breathing heavily in the other, newly-exposed ear.
  8. The child squirmed and grunted in protest, but to no avail.
  9. At last the boy cried, "Begone, mother!
  10. "I am awake and shall rise from my bed anon! Only thou must remove thyself and allow me to exit!" 
  11. "But my son," the mother responded, "thou hast plenty of room to exit, if thou climbest to the foot of thy bed.
  12. "There and only there doth an escape route wait for thee."
  13. Thereupon the mother resumed wielding her exhalation as a method of driving the child out of bed.
  14. The boy leapt out of his cozy nest, desperate to flee his mother.
  15. And once he retreated to the silence of the bathroom, the mother was wracked with a fit of giggles that buoyed her throughout the remaining morning routine.

Liberty Bank co-founders: George Tokuda

I'm starting to make faces -- collaged faces -- for the Liberty Bank Building portrait series.

This is George Tokuda, one of the original Liberty Bank's nine co-founders. He and his family owned Tokuda Drugs, a longtime fixture of Seattle's Central District. community.

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His daughter Wendy Tokuda was kind enough to send me the original photo of George; she remembers "how proud he was to be on the bank board. It’s where I got my college loan!"

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George was a native Washingtonian, born around 1913 in Mukilteo where Japanese immigrants worked for a lumber company. The area (now a hiking trail and nature preserve) is still known as Japanese Gulch.

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George's family later moved down to Seattle, where he opened the drugstore in 1935. But as a Japanese American in the Pacific Northwest during World War II, he was one of thousands rounded up and sent to the Minidoka internment camp in Idaho.

  Photo credit: Minidoka Historical Site/ NPS

Photo credit: Minidoka Historical Site/ NPS

Learning how much George gave to his communities -- and how much was taken from him -- I find the city of Mukilteo's logo and welcome sign painfully ironic.

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So I altered my photo of this lighthouse sign...

  Photo credit: Minidoka Historical Site/ NPS

Photo credit: Minidoka Historical Site/ NPS

... replacing the lighthouse tower with the ruins of the Minidoka guard and entrance gate.

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I'm deeply grateful to Wendy Tokuda, the Mukilteo Historical Society, HistoryLink and the Liberty Bank photo archives for the opportunity to honor Mr. Tokuda. 

Posted on June 15, 2018 and filed under art practice.

Resin-ating with history

I'm gonna have some fun with newsprint and resin paper. Have you ever tried this technique?

I plan to use it in the collage portraits I'm making for the Liberty Bank Building apartments. If you've seen my work, you know I often layer translucent images over patterned paper and other materials.


For this project, I get to incorporate newspaper clippings about the bank from that time. Not the originals -- I'm copying the images onto newsprint. 

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I'll add fine art paper to the collages for color, mostly from my current hoard. (It's not "hoarding" per se if you use it eventually.) 

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Later, I'll start piecing together "suits" for each founder. My paper stash gives me a lot of options here, but I may have to pass up some of my favorite patterns. These folks were founding a bank in the late 1960s, after all. I'll try to avoid anything too wild, but again... no promises.