Joey Veltkamp: SPIRIT!

Joey Veltkamp is a multimedia queer folk artist whose work centers fiber arts. Born in Montana, Veltkamp has lived in the Seattle area for over half his life and has been active in the local arts scene for the past fifteen years. Veltkamp produces most of his art in his home studio in Bremerton, Washington.

Veltkamp’s work is heavily influenced by the sublime natural beauty of the Puget Sound and the quirky places and people who, like the artist himself, joyfully call this region home. He elevates mundane objects—a roadside milkshake menu board, or the names of retired Washington state ferries—into nostalgic reminders of happy moments. Often combining image and text, the tone of Veltkamp’s work is usually cheeky, sometimes darkly humorous, but always optimistic.

SPIRIT! is a celebration of Veltkamp’s long and decorated career as a local artist. The many valences of word spirit: homecoming, school spirit, amateur theater, student government, as well as hippie, mystic spirituality are playfully infused within every piece. Including soft paintings, quilts, flags, and sculptures, the exhibition evokes queer sentimentality, empathy, and hope.

The exhibition transforms BAM’s third floor galleries into a kind of county fair or public school auditorium, in one overall installation that is both retro and futurist. The son of grocery store manager, Veltkamp’s work also consistently connects to local Pacific Northwest food culture, lovingly caricatured in many of the quilts and installation pieces. An aspect of SPIRIT! also includes a resurrection of Pantry, Veltkamp’s ongoing collaboration with his partner Ben Gannon, in which local berries and flowers are used to make conceptual jams and jellies.

SPIRIT! is a vibrant, colorful, and fun antidote to the gray cloud-cover and rain that dominates the Seattle area for most of the year; Veltkamp’s work lets the sunshine in. After exhibiting several standalone quilts at Bellevue Arts Museum, SPIRIT! marks Veltkamp’s first solo museum exhibition.

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