Washington picks from Jas Keimig

Cliff Notes

Each week, our regional Cliff Notes columnists Mariah Green, Vanessa Perez Winder, Jas Keimig, and Sam Wrigglesworth pick the most exciting events and exhibitions on the West Coast.

Stevie Shao: Meadows
Gallery ERGO, Seattle, Washington
October 13 to November 6, 2023

To walk around Seattle is to look at Stevie Shao’s work. The Seattle-based painter and muralist is splattered across the city—her vibrant murals can be found wrapped around businesses in the University District, above visitors at Climate Pledge Arena, and high up on buildings in Ballard. You may have even peeped her illustrations on KEXP donor merch, limited edition PCC tote bags, and Outdoor Research hats. Shao stays busy.  

Drawing from her perspective as a Chinese American growing up in the Pacific Northwest, her taxonomical work often depicts flora and fauna of the region as well as beastly creatures. Also, she crucially understands that our gray skies make a perfect canvas for the bright reds, neon blues, hot pinks, and pulsating slime greens she consistently uses in her practice. After all the wild Shao sightings, this month you have a chance to view the muralist’s work in a more controlled setting at Gallery Ergo in Pike Place Market. For Meadows, Shao has composed a suite of new carved and painted wooden pieces of animals and flora you might find in a meadow—frolicking hares, a soaring thrush, and dainty flowers in her signature exuberantly bright style. All the works have sold, but you might still be able to snatch a giclee print if you’re quick enough. 

Reflection: What would be in your personal meadow? How could those creatures and plants reflect who you are?

Cara Jaye: Almost Forever
Geheim Gallery, Bellingham, Washington
October 6 to October 29, 2023

We live in a world made of plastic. Everything from the cups we drink from to our literal garbage cans is made of the material that’s clogging the waterways, ruining ecological habitats, and appearing in our bloodstreams. Not to mention all the CO2 wafting around our atmosphere, slowly choking all the things that make Earth inhabitable. 

In Almost Forever, artist Cara Jaye is using these depressing facts as a jumping-off point for a new series of works she’s calling a “pre-emptive memorial for single-use plastics,” hoping to inspire viewers to rethink their own plastic consumption. She used cyanotype, woodcut, painting, and screenprinting to depict these known single-use culprits in our lives–clamshell fruit containers, “THANK YOU” plastic bags, and plastic to-go cups. While the subjects are mundane objects found in most homes, Jaye’s renders them with care and curiosity, forcing you to really examine this stuff of our lives. Depicted using ancient techniques like encaustic painting, Jaye’s works are a blend of past and future, natural and inorganic, signaling a way forward by considering the knowledge those before us have cultivated.

Reflection: What do your personal consumption habits look like? How could you amend them for the better?

Jon Feinstein: The Balance
Solas Gallery, Seattle, Washington
October 5 to November 11, 2023

If you’re someone who goes on walks often, you understand that nature has its way of talking to us. Perhaps it’s how the sun hits a blooming flower or the way wind narrates our current mental state or existential grievance. It is evident that photographer Jon Feinstein knows this phenomenon well by the way he’s able to capture the wisdom of the urban environment. 

In his photo series Breathers, Feinstein meditates on losing his mother-in-law to Alzheimer’s Disease by pointing his camera at various Pacific Northwestern trees. The way their branches pull apart to reveal an interesting piece of sky or furrow together to create a solemn presence reflects the isolation of the disease.

Breathers is part of Feinstein’s first solo show in Seattle called The Balance. The exhibition includes What it Means to Be Alive, a portrait series of dandelions the photographer found in his backyard during a time of loss. There’s a whimsy beauty and ephemerality to these flowers, which Feinstein captures against the dirt, wooden fences, and grass of his backyard. They preen for the sunlight, kiss each other, and pose for the camera as their pappi drift off into other places of the yard. Taken together, Breathers and What it Means to Be Alive examine life’s beginnings and endings as well as the ways the world around us communicates and empathizes with our profound senses of love and loss.

Reflection: How does nature talk to you? How have your recent interactions with the natural world around you affected your outlook on life?

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