Loading Selected Work...
Menu

Richard Graham

With an architecture background and an education from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Richard Graham began his painting career later in life. Only upon retiring eight years ago did Graham start painting. “I don’t have any real art training, but as an architect, I was involved in arts a lot.” As a designer and colorist, Richard has always had a feel for 2D works. “I was designing a restaurant for a friend who had some crappy artwork on the walls and I thought, ‘I could probably do something better than that’ ”, and so began his painting career within a Miami garage.

Born in Philly and raised in New Jersey, Graham has bounced from city to city, most recently settling in Portland before relocating to Seattle just a year and a half ago. Ages ago when he had his eye on Seattle, the downtown area wasn’t yet liveable. Graham acknowledges how Seattle has really come into its own over the past ten years. He came for the hustle and bustle and stays for the music and art scene.

Although once settled in a now defunct studio under the I5 bridge, ‘57 Biscayne was too good of a counter offer for Graham to pass up. The location in Pioneer Square brings exposure to his work and is closer to that city energy he craves. What sets ‘57 Biscayne apart from the rest is truly its founder, Jane Richlovsky.

“Studios tend to be that way; they’re all kind of bottled up unless you force us to gather around, which Jane is good at making us do. I always leave my door open, I want people to walk in.” Richard is still in the process of getting to know the community, but so far greatly appreciates talking with fellow abstract artists in the building.

When I identify rigidity and structure contrasting loose twirls within his work, Richard counters: “I don’t do architectural pieces. I think that happens in the arts, you try to get away from what you’re familiar with. That’s the great thing about panting; for the first time, I didn’t have to please anybody but me.”

As far as technique, Richard treats acrylics almost like watercolor. By thinning the paint down, he pours the mixture around the canvas, letting gravity take its course. When he paints, Graham oscillates between working on canvases on the wall, up on an easel, or on the table; depending on the day. Inspired by Jackson Pollock, Graham believes that each drip of paint was Pollock’s soul coming out in art form. “That’s the trick with painting, you willingly give up all control; that’s so free. You let the paint do its thing.”

We paw through canvases as if digging through crates of vinyl records. Richard points out one of his very first paintings, hanging on the wall behind the stacks. “I haven’t progressed much!”, he laughs, pointing out the shape of a face among the organic pushing and pulling of paint in various forms of liquidity.

When the subject of cost came up, Richard explains, “People love that they can buy a huge painting for $300, $500.” However, galleries have encouraged him to up prices near $3,000. “I think the art market is so distorted by ‘high art’ to collectors who aren’t necessarily interested in art, but are interested in investments. It’s like buying stock, it’s crazy!” He believes local people who like art shouldn’t have to spend thousands of dollars on it.

“I’m painting for myself. I’m painting for me. And I don’t really care if anyone else likes it or not.”

For a great conversation on music or the state of the world, you can find Richard in his studio, with the door always open.

100 under $100 Closing Party and Industry Night: Wednesday, July 17

All good things must come to an end, so you might as well have a party, right?

Our sixth annual 100 under $100 and the Sweet Suite 300 show will end with a closing party on Wednesday, July 17, from 5-7 PM. This has been our most successful show yet, but there are still lots and lots of tempting goodies on the wall.

We’re having the party on a Wednesday so we can be joined by our arts colleagues and other neighbors who are always busy tending their own stores on First Thursdays, but everyone is welcome! Many of the artists in the show will be there, and several of the studios open as well. Refreshments will be served and affordable art wrapped up on the spot to go!

 

Molly Ray

As I enter the room, I immediately notice how pristine Molly Ray’s studio is; there are pressed white lab coats hanging by the door and alphabetized vials of aromatic elixirs lined neatly into rows.

“The space seemed meant for me. I don’t know if there’s another studio with a sink, dishwasher, and room for a fridge.” Upon moving in last November, Ray acknowledges how flawless the course of moving in became. The timing was ideal, the space was perfect, the price was good, and it “just felt right.” Knowing the history of the third floor, I start to recognize this studio was once a kitchen for a corporate office. However, Molly loves its intact character. “It has these delicious imperfections”, she says, as she gestures delightedly toward the flooring and exposed brick.

Not only does she have everything she needs within her studio, but she maintains kinship among fellow artists along the floor. Molly describes a sense of safety and camaraderie despite such differing disciplines of art. “Nobody bugs you, but you feel comfortable enough to say; ‘Hey, I’m expecting a package. Do you mind looking out for it?’”

Ray has always been into fragrance; she even grew up traveling to Europe with her mother and appreciating the culture around perfumery. For Europeans, she says, “It’s not a question of ‘Do you wear perfume?’ it’s ‘What do you wear?’ and ‘Which is your favorite?'” Everyone has a connection to fragrance. For example, vanilla, cedar, and so forth can all be connected to scent memory. Upon smelling such scents, one has the ability to unlock synapses into a really powerful experience.

“Perfumery is the perfect mix of art and science.”

In addition to bringing personalization and detail into her craft, Ray also focuses on the environmental sustainability of the industry. However, she warns consumers to beware of “greenwashing”, i.e., when a company over-emphasizes their environmental efforts as a marketing tactic. “I try not to lead with that, I want you to love my stuff FIRST and then I can say, oh by the way…” She believes it’s not only important to have a sexy brand, but have a tight sustainability commitment to boot.

Her studio has also allowed a space for mentoring and educational workshops. With the help of an apprentice and an intern, Molly approaches her work with a holistic team. Despite only being in the fragrance industry about three and a half years, she prides herself in her craft and has limitless possibilities before her.

“I really try to make art in what I’m doing. I want someone to see themselves in a fragrance.”

With her excess materials, Ray donates to local women’s shelter, Mary’s Place. She recognizes how fragrance can restore a sense of dignity and is a luxury item that is otherwise forgotten among donations.

If you’re looking for an intimate, customized fragrance experience, Molly welcomes visitors and students alike. I recommend you keep an eye on this artist as I expect she’ll continue to push the boundaries of where fragrance can take you. I’ll give you a hint: there might be wine!

’57 Biscayne featured on Seattle Growth Podcast: Building Community

Last month Seattle Growth Podcast host Jeffrey D. Shulman chatted with ’57 Biscayne proprietrix Jane Richlovsky about how people find and build community in a changing city. There are two interviews in the episode; the first one is about New Tech Northwest, a community-building project of techies, which contains some ideas that people in the arts could benefit from, but if you want to skip to the ’57 Biscayne part, it starts at 33:44.

Jane was a guest on the show a few years ago, too, along with Good Arts partners Ali Ghambari and Greg Smith. They described how they came together from very different perspectives to create the wonder that is the Good Arts Building (and preserve the wonder that is ’57 Biscayne). Jeff had interviewed them separately and used the interview with Greg in one episode about real estate. He was about to scrap the rest, when the 2016 election happened. He felt like he really, really needed a heart-warming story of people setting aside their differences to work together to do good in the world—that’s us!—so he produced a Very Special Episode out of the outtakes.

100 under $100 and the Sweet Suite 300 opens JUNE 6!

Thursday, June 6th marks the sixth annual show of affordable local art at ’57 Biscayne. Running from 5:30-9:00pm, two floors will be filled the to brim with opportunities to mingle with artists, enjoy refreshments, and take home a beautiful piece of art or two or three.

By supporting local artists, almost anyone can use their purchasing power to help preserve Seattle’s cultural economy.

Offerings include original drawings, small paintings, photographs, lithographs, mixed media constructions, collages, and more. The two floors of ’57 Biscayne studios house 28 artists, some of the most diverse and eclectic in Pioneer Square, so there’s no shortage of unique finds to unearth in this show and in the surrounding open studios. The Good Arts Arcade (downstairs) will have more shows and open studios, too—and you can sneak down the secret stairs to grab a cocktail  at Bad Bishop Bar

Curated by Jane Richlovsky and Dara Solliday, 100 under $100 (what’s left of it) will remain on display through its closing party on Wednesday, July 17th (5-7 PM)

Our youngest artist, whose work always sells out.

….and our oldest, Amy Nikaitani, who will be here in spirit (and whose work also sells out). At last year’s show, with artist Michelle Kumata.

Happy collectors!

Cristina Martinez

Bringing her motherhood into her work, she gestures toward a large canvas boasting bold swatches of color. It’s a collaboration with her four year old daughter, who often plays and creates in the studio with her mother. 

Upon starting a fashion degree which she left unfinished, Cristina Martinez felt less connected to trends and mass production and was instead drawn to the illustrative side of the industry. “I find so much joy in painting that I don’t currently find in garment construction.” She began painting things that she loves and admires, drawing much of her inspiration from the power and beauty of women.

“I always wanted to be a painter; I didn’t know growing up that it was a career I could have. Now that I am a painter, I can pay all my bills and support myself and two human beings like this.”

 

Cristina began her creative process when resuming her position as a medical assistant. Each day she sketched self portraits on post-it notes in order to stay sane at a job she felt so disconnected from. She long kept these images hidden due to their personal nature. However, once revealed, her signature aesthetic took the internet by storm. Nearly fifty people now have her designs permanently embellished on their skin, and others buy up her merch faster than she can produce it. “Self Care” is scrawled next to a rendition of Cristina’s face on a T Shirt, folded and packaged neatly in a stack of many others on her studio floor. This relatable wording and imagery is universally validating, which is what her vast following finds solace in.

Speaking about how her life influenced her art, Martinez recalls, “I realized there is a cycle of blooming, wilting, growing, and remembering to take care of yourself.”

People are drawn to art that is genuine. After having only shown her work for about two years, art enthusiasts near and far are hungry for tender, emotional imagery such as Cristina’s. It was at a local show called ‘The Feels’ where she first debuted her collection which has since escalated into her current success.

When discussing her discovery of ’57 Biscayne, she describes how comparable spaces in the area didn’t feel quite right. Upon meeting Jane Richlovsky, Martinez affirms, “Right away, I knew that this was the environment that I needed to create in. I knew that’s what it was gonna be like.” Feeling an immediate comfort and trust with Jane and the studio, she went home that night unable to stop thinking about it. Martinez describes ’57 Biscayne as comfortable, safe, and “One vibe during the day, and another at night.” She loves the fact that she can connect with other artists working late at night in solidarity. “You can tell that Jane goes off of feeling and finding good people for the collective. It’s so great to be in a collaborative space with other creatives… I love it.”

Looking ahead, Cristina hopes to incorporate her passion for painting with her knack for sewing for a new June & Mars experience. Expect more wearable art and collaborations with her kids from this artist in the future.

Savina Mason

Coming from a graphic design and computer science background, Savina discovered a passion for analog art in encaustic paintings, installations, and sculptural works that challenge precision and complexity in her designs. Experimenting with colour, texture, and the demands of the encaustic process, she combines her years of design experience with the understanding that amongst careful planning and design, imperfection is still valuable. Discover her work at savinamason.com.

What do you enjoy about being in the Good Arts Building?

One of the great things that has come out of this is, honestly, friendships. I’m great friends with my next door neighbor Dara, and we both just happen to be encaustic artists, which is like, what are the odds of that? We are next door to each other. And we do share a power breaker, which is a problem because we both work hot (i.e., on a hotplate). But it’s really great to have someone who’s working in the same medium because encaustic is a special, special beast. You’re working with a natural material, it’s not always the same consistency. One batch of medium is going to be different from the next batch. It’s not like acrylic where it will take the tints. So seeing someone else and how they work with it, we exchange a lot of technical knowledge. And sometimes it’s just really good to have someone whose shoulder you can cry on when things go wrong.

I come from a graphic design background and so we work with color in different ways. We conceptualize mixed color in a different way. But I have been here since 2011, so almost seven years. So, you know, we’re kind of approaching and crisscrossing our experimentation and that wouldn’t happen if we weren’t next door to each other.

In general, just being in this building and seeing what everybody else is working with and coming up with is inspiring. Plus, there are a lot more shapes that you see and a lot more materials. I’ve never met a material that wasn’t interesting. So I will go over to the jewelry people and scope out their tools and I will think “Whoa, how can I use this?”. It’s just really cool to see people working in different media with completely different skill sets and tool sets and just see what they’re doing, see what they’re using. So I will squirrel things away for future use because when you work on an installation, you need to think about what’s at hand, and what makes sense for the space.

What is your artistic process?

My colors change depending on the season, and so I know they change depending on light. Being in a space that’s got a really high ceiling it’s open and I can’t imagine working with a lot of muddy colors in a space like this. I think that there’s a lot of interplay between what you see and how you feel and what actually ends up going down. The Pacific Northwest is definitely a special beast. Seeing all the mountains definitely has an impact on me. But I have also traveled a fair bit. And so a lot of times the colors are taken from where I’ve been. When I was in New Zealand we were kayaking down the dark river and it’s a glacier river and it’s summer over there. So there’s a ton of glacier melt coming down and it’s almost like celadon. It’s slightly green, not super transparent because of the glacial material, a little bit gray . . . just this incredible color. Right now I want to get as close to something which is solid and has real depth to it but feels like watercolor. That takes a lot of experimentation.

Sometimes you get something and you think “Oh, I know exactly what to do with this!”,  and sometimes you kind of wonder because it ends up not being a project for anything. You think to yourself – I just want to make this because I can. When I experienced things like that, there’s a lot of fun and play to those types of projects. I mean that’s kind of the goal for me in doing studio work versus previous work within graphic design. It’s an interesting edge to be on. Sometimes I get obsessed with just one color or I just want to draw lines. Like, “I’m sorry, I just feel like drawing lines for three weeks.”

How did you arrive at encaustic work?

I started taking art classes about eight years ago because I thought maybe it would help with my practice. It was in those classes that I realized I really liked making things with my hands. A lot of things that I had done before for work, there was a repetitive element oftentimes. If you do something on a computer it’s going to be perfect. Perfect. Every time. Whether you’re writing code to generate the image or whether you’re working in Photoshop, you can make sure everything’s spaced the same. But when you’re doing it by hand you can’t. And a lot of times you’ll see emergent things happen because of that. It was a very interesting thing to try to make a pattern as perfect as you can, but you’re still making it with your hands and so variations creep into it and change it. There is a kind of a quality of life, the magic of finding out what happens when imperfection creeps in. In a way there’s more of you in the work because you’re physically making it.

One of the last classes I took was an encaustic class and it was eight weeks long, mostly with retired ladies who just wanted a hobby. But it was such a magical moment for me where I felt, “Oh my God, I want to do this”. Within several weeks of that I was trying to work at home and I knew it wasn’t going to work. I knew I needed a studio if I was going to do it full time.

How does encaustic art work?

You work hot, basically your palette is on your hot plate, and your brush is melted. So you mix your color with the medium. Its a little bit different because of the nature of the material. Then once you have it on your brush you have about maybe 10 seconds of work time at which point, it’s going to go solid. So then you’re back to the hot plate. That’s one of the wonderful things about it is that it does cut down on your working time, but it means that you can work layer upon layer upon layer upon layer.

With encaustic, it blooms over time. So when you fuse it, you’re essentially forcing to pigment back into the layers of the caustic. So it will kind of pull the colors further away from you so it’s a little bit less bright. Over time, it takes about two years, the color will slowly swim back up to the surface. If you’ve managed to hold onto a painting for two years before you sell it, it looks awesome because it’s really bright: fresh and clean and shiny. So for the first two weeks it blooms constantly so there’s this white dust coating that develops. Once you clean it properly, you can get that candy shine.

What is your goal looking forward?

As an artist, you’re always learning and expanding. I think that’s my goal for everything I do. I don’t want it to be like something I’ve done in the past because why repeat things? I want to make sure that I benefit in terms of my practice, right? My goal is, you know, when I’m 80, I think at that point I might be able to do some really cool things.

Painting is a type of critical thinking. It’s a type of questioning: questioning your environment, responding to your environment. But it’s not simply making an image – it’s actually making the image that is going to clarify the idea in your head.  For me, it is so much about the process of making that happen.

Responses edited & condensed from comments made during an interview.

Peggy Foy

At first glance, Peggy Foy’s studio is your typical maker space. You see a display case in the front window and rows of shelving tucked into the rafters above. We reflect on how the building’s history has come full circle. Billboards in old photographs once boasted silversmiths working within this very space in decades past. Foy finds solace in continuing their legacy.

Relocating from Atlanta to Seattle, Foy was in search of new horizons. Knowing there was a thriving metals community, especially in the Pioneer Square arts district, Foy explains “It’s really kind of a dream I ended up in this building. This is what I moved to Seattle to do.” She’s been in the space since its inception in 2011.

“The great thing about Seattle is that there’s art everywhere; whether it’s public art and sculpture, or just passing by storefront windows.”

Peggy enjoys the small pleasures of huge windows and high ceilings in her space. Being in the middle of a neighborhood with vibrant urban life adds to her experience as an artist in the ‘57 Biscayne. She enthuses about her great neighbors and the team spirit among the artists, cheering each other on. With the addition of new jewelers in the building, Peggy looks forward to opportunities of collaboration and bringing more community spirit into the space. Her favorite part about being in the ‘57 Biscayne space is its frequent art walks. Usually involving live music, she notes how the expansion of the third floor has created an element of critical mass; making more space and art for guests to explore.

Metals truly are Foy’s life work. For years she was active in the Seattle Metals Guild, serving as its president for a stretch. In addition to this, she teaches, saying ““I’m a big advocate of the arts, everyone should be doing their thing. That’s why I teach.” She took the most recent opportunity of being laid off from her day job to immerse herself in another attempt at full time artistry.

Peggy explains, “It’s been a rocky road, but I don’t know anyone who’s had it easy. I think that’s part of being an artist.”

Foy’s designs are influenced by the art of pre-Christian Europe, the medieval, and the occult. She gushes, “I love it when people wear my jewelry all the time, that’s the best thing.” Aesthetics aside, she designs with balance, making pieces which lack sharp edges and are meticulously crafted to last. My work is about having meaning. Wearing jewelry is having something like a talisman. The embedded symbolism is an ancient approach to the way we make jewelry.” Adornment is deep in our psyches, such as the way you present yourself to the world. This is where Peggy draws inspiration for her work.

Look out for Foy’s upcoming bridal/engagement line on the horizon, using ethically sourced pieces that are unique to her style.

Lin-Lin Mao

Lin-Lin Mao works in 2-dimensional and multidimensional spaces and sees painting as the act of putting marks onto or into a space. A mark could be a strand of yarn, a loop of crochet, an origami crane, or a dirty plate from last night’s dinner. Lin-Lin’s art work invites a viewer to investigate and discover, and to interpret the work in their own way with what they bring to the conversation. Her multi-dimensional “paintings” use human scaled rooms so that viewers can move around to investigate the work from different perspectives. She received her MA in Fine Arts from Bath Spa University in the United Kingdom in 2017 and has since produced works within the UK and United States. You can find more of her work online at http://linlinmao.com/

What are your feelings towards the space here in the Good Arts Building?

When looking for a studio space, I received a notification from Space Finder and remembered it as one of the places I would love to have a studio house. When I saw there were 13 new spaces, I immediately emailed Jane and then I went in the next day. She showed me all the spaces and I was just super excited that there was a place that I would be able to have all my own. 

I just feel so fortunate. This space, it feels like a very safe place for artists. I think Jane has done a lot of that. I know she’s done a lot of work to make sure that it is a safe place because she’s an artist and understands and has experienced this thing. I feel she really has selected a good variety of different types of artists. When I was in art school around the other students, one thing I knew was if I didn’t have a studio among other artists, I would miss that type of interaction and learning to cross pollinate. Doing art can be very solitary, but to walk down the hall and pop in and see what people are working on –  there’s so much talent in the world, you know?

What relationship does your art have with the space here?

Jane knew that I had worked with installation before. This (above) was from my final thesis project. I had set up two installations and both of them used crocheted yarn. So when she mentioned to me that it would be nice to have something under the skylights on this floor as well as the stairwell, I was just so excited. This is one of the pieces I had made when I was in art school and it was one of my thesis project installations—but that piece was in a very small room. I hung yarn from it and that installation touched the floor. When I thought about it here, it would be very high up, but it’d be nice to resurrect it and see what it looks like in this space.

And so that’s what I did. And I was really pleased because I feel like having that piece now in a new space and not on the floor, I had to figure out, how am I going to hang this here where people could actually walk underneath, since it’s a hallway. I ended up rolling up the bottom threads to make them more even so that people could walk under it. If you’re walking under it and you look up, you see the art work in a different perspective. And I hadn’t even thought about that. Why I like to create art is when you try to adapt something for a different environment, I feel like many times I do learn something other than what I first intended. So with that piece, that was a learning experience thinking, “Oh my gosh, this art piece is still giving.” Because even last year when I first created it, it was actually the first installation I had ever done. Before that, I used to just paint. What I learned in art school was with contemporary art, it really is about materials and anything really goes. And so then I started to thinking about using yarn as art and that opened up a whole new world for me.

With the piece in the stairwell, that was another opportunity. I feel like as a creator, you’re always learning, you’re problem solving. When Jane had asked me to do an installation with that space, well, first of all, I started overthinking it, and then I realized, “Oh, I have a thousand cranes from last year when I was at art school.” The reason why I did the 1000 cranes is just, you know, the feeling that a lot of us have these days about how things are going the wrong direction in terms of the why. Why is there still a war or global warming? So the thousand cranes is a Japanese legend that if you make 1000 cranes and make a wish then your wish will come true. So that’s my motivation for folding the 1000 cranes – my wish for good things to start happening for the world.

What materials do you enjoy working with?

If I bring you back to my first memories as a child, my first memories were as a four year old looking at something that was this bag that I thought was fascinating. And then I learned later it was done by something called crochet: taking yarn or string and making this interesting bag. That’s how also I felt about origami. I was born in Taiwan and I was just fascinated that you could take a square sheet of paper and turn it into something just like yarn into a bag. So I had been crocheting since I was seven or eight years old, and my mother crocheted. So I just watched her and learned from her. The last year when I was in art school I learned that art is more than just painting or sculptures or drawings – now people use yarn. I immediately thought about crochet.  Another reason why I like crochet as opposed to knitting, is that these days with all the technology and everything – I really like the handmade. What I learned through my study and research in art school is that there are no crochet machines. There are knitting machines that can copy human knitting, but there is no machine that can copy hand crochet. So that’s another reason why I want to continue crocheting. Because for me it’s about the handmade, about knowing things, and making things with my hands.

What concepts are you currently exploring?

When I was younger I would illustrate stories I had in my head—it was a form of learning and exploring. Now as an adult I kind of take that further. When I worked on these two pieces—these are my sisters—I used paper plates as palettes. And when I was looking at these palettes, I thought, “I can’t discard them, these are beautiful.” So in this painting, I put them in here because I’m questioning both: What’s art? The intended, the sisters, or what’s in this plate? What is the conscious or superconscious here intending to do with this? And the subconscious is that I’m mixing the colors and making some decisions. But afterwards it’s really pretty. And so what I’m doing is I’m saving all my paper palettes from the last two years. And I realized the plates, some had plastic on them,  so you can pull it off and look at the reverse. I feel like I’m mining, I’m just discovering the beauty that is. 

Responses edited & condensed from comments made during an interview.

 

 

 

Liz Ewings

Liz Ewings creates semi abstract paintings of plankton collected from the sea photographed under a microscope in a science lab. She believes that art has the power to change how we see the world, and wants to inspire people to appreciate the 70% of it that’s covered by water. She is on a mission to show the beauty and diversity of the inhabitants of the ocean – both large and small! Liz has a love for whales, and after experiencing the ocean’s gentle giants in Australia, she was determined to learn more about them. She returned to Seattle to study natural science illustration and oceanography at the University of Washington and has since combined her love of art and love of science with her works. You can read more about her artistic adventures on http://www.lizewings.com/ and see her work in the Good Arts Gallery at Cherry Street Coffee House through April 2019.

How did you first get introduced to the studios for ’57 Biscayne?

I took classes from Jane at the Pratt Fine Arts Center. I then started coming to her life drawing group at 619 Western. When she moved into the Good Arts Building I took classes from her in her studio and kept coming her life drawing sessions. With the studio I’m in now I never saw anybody around it, so I just started to ask about the space. What’s, what’s been going with that studio? Is anybody in there? Is it just ghosts? I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some cool paint ghosts. There probably are some ghosts. Yes.

When the studio was available I wasn’t quite ready to commit just yet, so somebody else was in here for a year and then it came up again and I thought, “its mine!”, and I’ve been here ever sense. My studio space before was my kitchen. So it’s really nice because I can leave projects out, I can work on an entire painting at once.

Why does the ocean inspire you?

I’ve always enjoyed drawing and painting since I was young. When I was in school there were programs in fiber arts and I ended up transferring and getting a degree in apparel design and working in that industry for 18 years and then I changed directions because I sort of fell in love with whales. I came back to Seattle and worked with natural sciences, but I have always been interested in art, but I ended up in oceanography school with a second bachelor’s degree in oceanography. I eventually came to the conclusion that I would rather make art about plankton.  I just thought they were really interesting when I was looking at them in school. Some of them are really beautiful or weird. They’re microscopic organisms in the ocean and most people don’t even know what they look like or what they are. So it just seemed like it would be an interesting concept to explore, and it’s something that isn’t often brought to life through arts.

 

What is your current artistic process?

Right now, I am working with phytoplankton, in particular diatoms which are little single celled photosynthetic plankton that have of shells made out of glass. I want to paint them as though they were a flower portrait. So on land, totally out of context. I’ve been painting glasses to try and figure out how light reflects and how the shadows are cast. I’ve been thinking,  “how does that work?” It’s a living creature as well. They’re really tiny, so I want to do big paintings of these little tiny things. As I paint, I look at the different colors. How do these colors work together? Which composition do I like best? Do I like the idea or should I try something different? You know, every idea is not the best. You sort of have to let the bad ones out to get the good one.

To gather the plankton for my pieces, I used to volunteer and work with a group oceanography project.  I started doing this when I was in oceanography school and I’ve kept it up over the years. One of the things we do are plankton tows. So I take those plankton, while they’re still alive, to the UW School of Oceanography and photograph them under microscopes. The species change seasonally, or whether you’re close to fresh water or salt water. I really like going out in spring because that is when the big blooms are.

What is your dream project?

Well, I’ve been thinking a lot over the past couple of years about how to make an installation of plankton. Perhaps a light installation controlled by a computer that changes with the tide. I think it would be cool to have a full room of plankton or have something representative of them. To imagine if you were a whale going through a school of plankton with krill all around, lit up and moving. I have seen videos of this and just thought “How cool is that”.  If you could walk through a room and the plankton or the lights are getting out of your way, as though you were a fish or a whale. I would love to bring that into the human experience.

What advice would you give artists that are currently looking to continue their craft?

Do it because you love it. It took a little while for me to get to the point where I felt comfortable doing exactly what I wanted to do. I spent so much time just doing things just because it was my job or because I needed to get paid. It’s really sort of freeing to do something weird and creative just because I want to do it.