Thoughts from one of our curatorial team on a powerful show.
With a theme like Motherland, our minds can stray to many different artistic interpretations. Personally, I first thought of my own mother. Then my brain traveled to our planet itself, Mother Earth, the giver and sustainer of life. I thought of places I have lived, the state I was born in, and other people’s native countries. I thought about land itself, and who owns it. I thought about how women have made incredible contributions to art, science, politics, and social progress.
This year CoCA is featuring female and femme-identifying artists and themes. When working together to design the graphic for this show, we changed the “O” in “Mother” to the Venus symbol, commonly used to represent femininity. Every interpretation by CoCA members this year exuded it. The word “nature” is derived from a Latin word that means birth. Hence, Mother Earth. The caretaker to us all, our home. Home is a place that shelters you from the storm, a residence filled with your family and friends who take care of you. But not everyone has a home, and not all homes are safe.
Being separated from your family can be tragic. Shruti Ghatak’s painting Away depicts a ghostly figure shrouded in darkness and dishonor. Ghatak writes about the piece, “This self-portrait is a confession of sorrow and guilt of being away for several years from my mother back in my homeland.” She continues in prose, “What defines a place? Where is our home? Is this where the memories live on as we drift along life.” It is painted on what looks like a cut-out from a magazine. Most words painted over, the biggest visible text is in the header: “LIVES.” The next word that immediately jumped out revealed the painting’s focal point: “TOGETHER.” Ghatak longs for her mother, and to be at “home” with her, together.
A big collective theme, of course, is motherhood. Kalindi Kunis’ sculpture Fertility is made of materials collected from battling infertility. These materials that are typically thrown away are mixed in with an array of rainbow paints and broken mirrors. It is colorful and resembles a medical disco-ball. Kunis states that it is a commentary on “the intense pressure put on women to conceive and bear children… what we are pressured into and what we suffer towards our ‘purpose’; as women—and the waste.”
With waste, we do the opposite of taking care of something. Karen Hackenberg’s drawings of beach trash and natural elements tangled together as one brings up environmentalism. These pieces are made on an iPad Pro and drawn with an Apple Pencil. Digitally created on the spot, they are then later limited produced on rag paper. She says, “I take a humorous approach to the serious subject of ocean degradation in my paintings, presenting a tongue-in-cheek taxonomy of imaginary synthetic sea creatures.”
In a sea of seriousness, I appreciated the work that brought to light some fun in heavy themes and times. The best? The sculpture St. Felicia: Patron Saint of Farewells, Slayer of Fools by Lisa Myers Bulmash. A reference to a phrase from the movie Friday has grown into a present-day salutation that you express when you’re completely over interacting with someone. “BYE, FELICIA!” The piece glows with religious imagery and is surrounded by green moss.
With the help of Amanda Manitach, our juror this year, we have curated an amazing show. The ideas in this show have all traveled far, from the creators’ first inception of the work to its final form, dawning in the pages of this catalog, many hanging on our gallery walls. The themes represented in “Motherland” are so important: sexuality, pollution, population, immigration, and the environment. The gravity of them weighs on our consciousness. As we bear with the immensity of these themes, let’s remember to take care of each other, take care of the world we live in, and take care of Mother Earth herself.
— Timothy Rysdyke, Gallery Manager
At CoCA, we are embracing and recognizing our identity as a sanctuary. We want to create a space for our members, artists, volunteers, and the broader arts community, where people feel safe and welcome. Thanks to all of you who’ve helped build that sense of sanctuary already!
A few weeks ago, we sent our members a brief survey, to find out what you thought about our organization, and find out how we can serve you better. We’d held quite a few events, including our member show, portfolio reviews, and a VIP preview for our current show, but we wanted to make sure we weren’t missing out on what else we can do. Thank you for all the great feedback; here’s a sampling:
"CoCA has endured and persevered in Seattle. I think this gallery and its artists have the chance to really grow into something amazing for Contemporary Art. We just keep going!"
“High quality art and people!!!"
"Part of the Seattle art community"
"Lots of people creates a good buzz"
"Meeting new people in the art world"
"I felt super welcomed and appreciated at all of the events :)"
"The people and environment are wonderful"
"The member's show and closing gave me an opportunity to meet other Seattle artists, and the portfolio review was extremely helpful. You guys rock!"
"The lively, cheerful energy of the crowd”
Thank you for all of that! We’ll work on your constructive input, to help us continue serving as a catalyst and forum for the advancement, development, and understanding of contemporary art, and as a sanctuary for all. If you didn’t get a chance to chime in, or have more to add, we would love to hear from you! Please don’t hesitate to email email@example.com and tell us about your experience with CoCA.
This Mother’s Day, CoCA brings you an incredibly inspiring conversation with Patti Curtis Hair. Patti is an artist, mother, and now art gallery owner of Fogue Studios, which is an art collective for creatives over the age of 50. She is also featured in CoCA’s current member’s show, Creativity Persists. In this conversation, Patti dives deep into her beginnings as an artist, her unexpected pregnancy, and the wild, crooked path that led her to found Fogue Studios. Read on for an honest conversation about tenacity, new beginnings, and the beauty of motherhood.
Where did your artistic journey begin?
When I was in college, I was going to Cornish, and it was the happiest time of my life. I was thriving, and I won best artist my first year there, in 1991, and the winner got to be in CoCA. And it meant everything to me. It was a really deep, meaningful sculpture for me. I got to be at CoCA, and I got to go to the show. For me, the experience with CoCA, from the very beginning of my art career, and now the new beginning of my art career, is everything. 26 years later, it’s so meaningful. It’s just as important to me today as it was 26 years ago, that they picked my art [for Creativity Persists]. CoCA means everything to me.
In my second year, I met this guy who was a great painter, and I got pregnant. I finished school, which was good, and we had this bohemian lifestyle… We moved into a little rental house and we were poor. We were really poor, because he was an artist, and I was having a baby.
Once my daughter was about two, I just couldn’t be poor. I knew that I needed to create a life for her that wasn’t this life, that wasn’t being broke, and on food stamps, and struggling, and trying to do art. So I put my art on a shelf, and I ended up with three jobs. He never worked, except for painting. But he wasn’t a good marketer, and so we were broke. I was supporting the family, and I just thought, I’m not doing this anymore. So I put all the art stuff on the back burner, and I got a divorce, and I worked really hard, and I moved up in the ranks of the company.
How did you find your way back to art?
One day (it was actually Mother’s Day) I walked by this tattoo place, and I said, “I’m going to get a tattoo.” I got this flower on my foot, because I wanted to be able to look down and to remind myself to never ever compromise or lose my artist’s soul. This flower on my foot represents my soul of being an artist, to never ever forget who you really are. When I would start to forget or to compromise who I am, I just had to look down at that flower. I always knew someday I’d get back to [art]. I just knew. I was never bitter, or mad, or resented my daughter. I cherish her, and there’s no way I’d be the person or be doing any of this if I weren’t her mother and if I didn’t have that experience.
Once my daughter was done with school, I just thought, “I really want to start something just for myself, and in this point in my life after 25 years, I’m gonna be an artist again”. I started creating The Pretty Bones, and I started applying gilding and jewels and cosmetic pigments to bones, to animal skulls. I spent my entire career preying on young women’s insecurities, saying, “you have to wear makeup to be beautiful”. But really the beauty is in the bones on the inside, and we’re all the same and beautiful on the inside.
How do you think your art would be different if your life hadn’t taken a detour?
I think it would be really mediocre. That’s why I love this collective of artists over 50, because the depth of experience that they have. A lot of them already had careers, and they’re coming back to their art.
I certainly would not be opening this gallery. [My daughter] really gave me the drive. What I lacked in self-confidence, I made up in pure determination and tenacity. It comes from my mom. My mom is super strong, she’s been through a lot. She’s always in a good mood, she’s always fun and happy to be with. She just never gives up. She was really the strength of our family. She is really the one that influenced me to never give up and believe in myself. I’m very lucky to have had a mother like that.
How did Fogue come to be?
I am a product developer, designer, and marketer. I was director of product development and design and marketing for a half-billion dollar cosmetic company, but I was always made to feel kind of marginalized; there’s a lot of marginalization that goes on with people over a certain age. I was talking to this 32 year old white guy, and he was like, “I’m an artist, I’d like to talk to you about being in your gallery”. I’m like, “Sorry, you’re not old enough”. He was like, “What do you mean?” and I go, “You have to be over 50 to be part of our collective. He goes, “Don’t you think that’s discriminating?” and I go, “Okay, white guy, I’m pretty sure you can never talk about discrimination”. And he goes, “I like older people, I don’t discriminate”. And I go, “That’s great, that doesn’t mean that discrimination doesn’t happen, because you don’t do it. Ageism is real.”
The millennial term for old people is “fogues”, like “don’t be such a fogue, mom”, like an old fogie. That’s where the name comes from. I’m gonna call it out. I’m not gonna be embarrassed.
From Mother to Daughter
What I am trying to teach my daughter to this day is that the pretty is on the inside. The strength is in your bones. The strength is within you. It’s not how you look. Some of it is how people perceive you, because perception is something. But the true strength is what’s inside, and it’s okay to be fragile and strong.
Also, the strength of your inner child--never lose that. Don’t lose your spirit, don’t lose your spark. That’s the gift that my mom has given me. She’s in her 70’s, but she’s never lost that spark. You just don’t let it go. You keep it lit. There will be times in your life, where you think, “I just can’t do it anymore”, and you can’t get out of bed. But you work through those times, and that’s why it helps to be an artist, or if you’re a runner, or a writer. Just have something that lights your spark again.
I think a lot of people don’t keep anything for themselves, and that was something I made sure I never did. I had a network of other moms, and [my daughter] would go and have sleepovers, and then I would have sleepovers at our house. I always made sure that I kept me. I wasn’t just someone’s mom. You have to separate yourself out, and you have to forgive yourself. You can’t have mom guilt. You have to say, “I am a better mother, because I have a life.”
I was a better mom because I never resent [my daughter] for making my life not what I thought it should be. I appreciated her for the inspiration she gave me to work hard. Once you have a kid, it’s discovering a part of your heart you never knew you had. I just had no idea the overwhelming devotion and dedication and love I would have for another human being. True unconditional love.
CoCA would like to wish all mothers a wonderful Mother’s Day.
You can find Patti Curtis Hair at foguestudios.com, where she is currently accepting applications for membership at Fogue Studios.
Fogue Studios’ opening night will be at Art Attack (the Georgetown Art Walk) on June 9th, from 6-9 pm.
I was 32 years old. Suddenly single and alone in Seattle, a city I had no family in, and friends I would see once a year if that. I moved here from Thailand with my boyfriend. The move was brutal on both of us, financially and mentally. I struggled with the lack of sun, and mostly the lack of friendliness. Dwindling away in the darkness of the Seattle winter and freeze, I slowly made art but I had no way of exhibiting it. I lived in Pioneer Square and went to all the art walks but formed no concrete art relationships. I walked past private events at galleries while eyeing them with jealousy, wanting to belong so badly as an artist. This barrier seemed impossible to permeate for a long time.
Till a painting of mine got into a juried exhibition at Gallery 110, a gallery in the TK Arts Building. On opening night, I walked next door to CoCA, instantly drawn to the display of posters from the Women’s March in 2017. It was Shepard Fairey’s “We The People Are Greater Than Fear” that caught my eye. This represented me. This organization was giving people like myself the spotlight and a voice (as well as free posters, how ridiculously generous). I found out later that CoCA was the first brick and mortar to exhibit that poster by Shepard Fairey. The following month’s exhibit was titled “Make America Create Again” and it made so much sense. CoCA was a platform helping artists cope with the election of 2016, and it was fighting back with creativity. It was just what I needed to come to terms with the angst I was feeling at the time because of the political climate and the racist, sexist backlash of hatred it had resonated.
I signed up to volunteer and was put on the roster for a few docent shifts here and there. Sitting at the desk explaining art to visitors and chit chatting with fellow volunteers, I noticed how much I liked being surrounded by contemporary art and artists. CoCA is not a place where you flaunt your ego. We’re all volunteers, we do this because we love art and artists. We’re humble with our olive branches where toxicity has no place. I work full time in Advertising so when an opportunity arose for me to take the responsibility of managing CoCA’s social media, I hesitated for a second wondering if I would be able to do this organization justice, but I went for it anyway. It was the first of many leaps I would be taking with CoCA.
A year has passed and I can’t even begin to describe how much CoCA has helped me grow as an individual, as an artist, and as a Communication Specialist. Through CoCA, I was able to attend Seattle Art Fair last year. I went to artist talks by Oscar Tuazon and Jennifer West. Listening to these successful, working artists talk about their work processes was a truly inspiring experience.
Because of my extended social media duties, I was introduced to the behind the scene workings of the gallery. For the first time ever, I saw how a board operates, how shows are chosen, the curatorial planning, cataloging artwork, the construction and deconstruction of shows, the archival project (CoCA has existed for 37 years) and the scope of growth in marketing. My favorite part quickly became getting to know the backstories of each artwork and why they are selected to be represented at CoCA. On a regular day, there is just so much art info at my fingertips, it is truly a nerdy “artgasm” of sorts.
During the 24-hr CoCA Auction and Marathon last November, I stayed up with the artists all night making social media posts while photographing their art in progress. You truly sense how much talent surrounds you in the PNW when you see 25 artists creating artwork after artwork right in front of your eyes in a matter of hours. As an artist, you can’t help but respect their dedication to contemporary art. At the very core of what we do at CoCA is making art to support future artists and help contemporary art live on.
As a working artist myself, being surrounded by quality art and artists has helped me stay driven and focused. I had multiple exhibitions last year, and this year I have a few coming up as well, including one with fellow CoCA member artist Kamari Bright. These days I feel a constant urge to create because I know the artists I interact with at CoCA are thinking and doing the same. Our friendly competition keeps us going and keeps the Seattle art game strong.
CoCA is growing at a rapid pace. The number of likes, views, and engagements on social media is increasing every day, as is our number of interns and visitors. And with it grows my responsibilities as the Social Media Manager, member, and artist. When I look back to consider how CoCA became my sanctuary, I am reminded about how Jody Bento (curator of the current member show “Creativity Persists”/SAM Gallery) told me how much she loved my piece “WTF II,” or how an artist I immensely look up to wants to get coffee with me over the weekend, or how I did my first Artist Talk last year with cues on public speaking from CoCA Executive Director Nichole DeMent or the bold statement CoCA made last year by supporting “Yenom Wen” by New Mystics, a show about new money in Seattle and ongoing homelessness crisis.
When I post on CoCA’s social media, I frequently use the hashtag #CoCAfam in support of the family I didn’t know I had. A community that took me in like I was a missing piece. The artists who love and support CoCA are the people you want to know because they’re the ones who will fight for you. It is with immense pride I say, I am now one of them.
CoCA is a nonprofit that relies on donations for meaningful exhibits and engaging art experiences for all. GiveBIG is happening right now and I invite everyone to join me in supporting CoCA with a GiveBIG donation, big or small. Together, let's help the #CoCASanctuary thrive.
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The energy was high at Pioneer Square’s First Thursday Art Walk. A diverse array of smiling, brightly dressed members of the Seattle community, including students, artists, mathematicians, engineers, and architects, crowded through the CoCA door, eager to attend the opening night of CoCA’s new exhibit, Art ∩ Math (Art intersect Math).
This exhibit, created and curated by Kate Vrijmoet, Katherine Cook, and Dr. Dan Finkel, is a thoughtful, interdisciplinary collaboration featuring works from 17 artists and mathematicians. Art ∩ Math seeks to explore the intersections of these two traditionally antithetical subjects and prompts conversation centering around topics of sameness, shape, form, function, and more, asking viewers to consider and share how an understanding of one field (art or math) illuminates the other.
The exhibit revolves around four central themes: equivalence; geometry and topology; algorithms, iteration, and chaos; and networks and graph theory. Each theme is displayed on one side of a pillar at the center of the gallery, and color-coded lines connect the themes to their corresponding artworks. This serves as a jumping-off point for experiencing the exhibit.
Eavesdropping on attendees’ conversations proves that Art ∩ Math is powerful. Casey Curran, a kinetic artist who attended the event, comments, “When you look at [Yellow Quintessence and Response], they just seem like abstract paintings, but then knowing that they came from a very regimented system… they have to be constructed in this way, and these rules create these colors and shapes... That kind of abstraction is really fascinating.”
Chris Graesser, architect, who also visited CoCA during the Art Walk says, “I think it’s sort of fascinating that you can approach the intersection of mathematics and art through so many kinds of mediums. Anything from origami to 3D printing… It’s also interesting that the artists are not necessarily making the things themselves. Take [Folds I-IV], the artist isn’t really making this, because the machine is making it. It’s being generated by an algorithm that the artist has made. There’s a separation between the artist’s hand and the actual making… there’s a lack of immediacy.”
June Sekiguchi’s piece, Collapsed Geometry, is featured in the show and she shared the inspiration and process behind her work, “My father was a mathematician, but I didn’t absorb his sense, you know, the mathematics part. So my piece is about taking the material and collapsing it. It’s also metaphorical for my collapsed sense of mathematical understanding”.
She also echoes the importance of curators Katherine Cook and Dr. Dan Finkel’s mission, by noting, “I had watched Dan’s TED talk, and when he was talking about math education, I was like ‘oh yeah’, use math like a language, and teach math in a way that is understandable to people, instead of this kind of abstract disconnect… I feel honored that they saw my work and included it”.
Art ∩ Math will be featured at CoCA through April 14, 2018. We invite you to join us for several other events:
Sound Bath: http://cocaseattle.org/exhibitions/2018/3/18/sound-bath
The Beauty of Math Pi Day Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/178585679535021/
Two opportunities to experience Katherine Cook’s “Necessary and Sufficient” Dance Performances: https://www.facebook.com/events/178585679535021/
Gathering for Gardner: https://www.facebook.com/events/217385755505573/
For more information on the exhibit, please visit: