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From Fashion to Tagalog Theater

Part I: WaNaWari’s Ongoing Success

WaNaWari held a dynamic and entertaining fashion show on Sunday Sept 1 in their back yard. The original designs by Malcolm Procter of Wolf Delux were strutted for more than 45 minutes by children, youth, and elders, skinny, mature, buff and not so buff. The audience was as fashionable as the models.

They had all clearly been instructed on how to model clothes and took great attitudes, but we all enjoyed the children the most. A warm feeling permeated the whole event fulfilled the WaNaWari promise as a center for Afro Centered culture and life as a counter to the gentrification of the Central District.

The exhibition filling the rooms in August featured Henry Jackson-Spieker’s “Points of View,”[reviewed by Lisa Edge in Real Change August 21–27], Natassja Swift “Remembering Her Homecoming,” [reviewed by Jasmyn Keimig in The Stranger August 28], along with Xenobia Bailey “Vibration and Frequency Experiment,” Marita Dingus “Selected Works” and Martine Syms “Some What?”

Marita Dingus, untitled, 2019, mixed media, image courtesy Susan Platt.

I am going to focus here on Marita Dingus. This installation felt liberated from the constraints of white owned gallery spaces, in which the artist has shown successfully for many years. Here she let loose the frightening energies of oppression, conveyed through black metal junk put together into figures. The blackness of the metal became a force of its own. Knowing that Marita’s work can be light hearted (see the floating copper babies in Douglass Truth Library), historical (the works owned by the Seattle Art Museum), metaphorical (in her many cork and wire figures), here I saw heaviness, and darkness. Marita always adds painted faces to her figural assemblages: these faces seemed weighed down by their dark metal bodies.

Part II: Mary Ann Peters “traveler”

A stunning exhibition by Mary Ann Peters (until October 26 at the James Harris Gallery) addresses migration by combining the detritus of the nomadic experience with the artist’s exquisite drawing in the unusual medium of watercolor and gouache on clayboard. “traveler” (small t to suggest every person) has three sections. The first gallery is anchored by a drawing centered on the figure of a traveler carrying an enormous rolled blanket. He/she stands amidst ruins of vaguely classical architecture, the inverse of a tourist sight. Three other works in the gallery suggest a field, a courtyard, and a “way station.” In a fourth “nightingale” (that bird brings luck in folk tales) several nightingales hover over a disturbed landscape. The works sharply contrast in texture and mood through Peters’ virtuoso drawing, representing what the artist refers to as “dismissed moments in unknown territory.”

In the middle room stands “impossible monument (the gatekeeper’s shadow).” As with the drawings, we need to look closely: the opaque column has jewelry encased inside, a reference to the portable wealth that migrants must trade for survival.

Mary Ann Peters “traveler,” 2019, watercolor, gouache on clayboard, 24 x 36, photograph by Rafael Soldi, Image courtesy of the artist.

Finally, in the back room “this trembling turf” includes three large intricately detailed drawings in white ink on black clay board. They surge across large surfaces evoking magnetic fields that move through solid ground, referring to the sound waves used by forensic archeologists to find buried bodies. Peter’s virtually “old master” command of drawing requires close looking as we imagine the layers of metaphors.

The overall theme of the exhibition is to displace the obvious mainstream narratives of migration with the “under the radar” experience of living (or dying) as a migrant.

As I left the gallery, I was overwhelmed by the presence of the detritus of the homeless who gather near Pioneer Square. Our narratives of homelessness and migration share the same misconceptions and obliviousness. Peter offers an alternative to that “subjugating discourse” in her subtle work (604 Second Avenue, Wednesday to Saturday, 11am–5pm).

Other exhibitions include Jean Bradbury’s “On My Head. In My Heart” until October 18, at the M. Rosetta Hunter Gallery at Seattle Central College. It is “part of an ongoing exploration of clothing as a language that expresses the apparently opposing values of tradition and individuality.” (Monday through Thursday, 9am–3pm, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings from 5–7pm).

June Sekiguchi “The Pulse of Water,” opens at ArtXchange Gallery opens October 3 from 5–8pm until November 30. “Using intricate scroll-cut wood constructions, Sekiguchi takes the audience on a journey to Laos, using pattern, light and projection to create an immersive installation.” More on this next month.

ARTS at King Street Station will host the workshop production of “Tagalog sa King Street,” a collection of one-act plays written and performed in the national language of the Philippines. Thursday, October 3, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, October 5, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. (303 S. Jackson St. Top Floor, Seattle, WA 98104). RSVP online!

Upcoming at WaNaWari:

“The Deeps & Unknown Senders”

September 28 to October 12, by C. Davida Ingram, a multi-sensory journey about healing. Thurs 5–8pm, Fri 2–8pm, Sat & Sun 11am–5pm.

911 24th Ave, 98122; 206-321-2711

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