For the first time appears to be a running theme this season at the Bellevue Arts Museum as it opens three new exhibits this month.
Whether its Northwest artist Jason Walker’s first solo museum exhibition, “On the River, Down the Road,” featuring his three-dimensional blend of nature, industrialism, or the first American viewing of Australian glassblower Nick Mount’s “The Fabric of Work” collection, or John Economaki’s woodworking tools, the museum’s second floor is a series of new revelations for visitors, according to Director of Art, Craft, and Design Stefano Catalani.
Having three shows all open across the museum’s second floor is a rare treat in itself, he said. But to have three new shows is extra special, especially because of the three vastly different mediums, which somehow have universal connections to each other.
While Walker uses pipes, light bulbs and other industrial widgets to create landscapes both natural and man-made, as well as animals intertwined in both worlds, Economaki has built his tools with various animals of the Pacific Northwest in mind. Mount’s glass bob’s feature designs, textures, and concepts found in both Walker and Economaki’s art.
Although the decision to feature the three artists wasn’t done with commonality in mind, Catalani said the coincidences, themes, and connections create a “feeling for people to go ‘oh’ when they see the similarities.”
All three exhibits are now open to the public, and if the current trend continues, Catalani said the museum’s attendance record of 63,000 set last year, will surely be broken.
“It’ll be a really rich fall for us and the visitors with these three here,” Catalani said.
It’s no coincidence that as visitors walk up the main staircase the first thing they see is a quote from Economaki about his work.
“Quality is contagious,” he writes. “Nothing is more important to a woodworker than his tools. If you owned a tool chest full of well-crafted tools, how could you possibly justify doing shoddy work? You dishonor your tools, you dishonor yourself.”
Economaki’s quote is applicable to all three artist’s work, said Jennifer Navva Milliken, curator of craft, who joined the museum in June.
Mount’s work, which is spread throughout three gallery rooms, features 28 “tableaus” and a total of 67 pieces spanning just part of his vast catalogue of work.
Flanking Mount’s glass garden, Economaki’s exhibit tells the story of the Portland toolmaker’s history, passion and dedication to precision and excellence, while Walker’s work challenges viewers perception of nature versus man-made.
“Usually in my sculptures I tend to juxtapose an ‘urban’ scene on one side with a ‘wild’ scene on the other side,” Walker told Catalani. “So I thought what if I expand this approach to the whole room? I can have a predominately urban scene on one side of the gallery, juxtaposed to a mostly wild scene on the opposite wall while the rest of the sculptures converge towards the middle where they become this melting pot for these two domains.”
Capturing parts of American authors Jack Kerouac and Edward Abbey essence in three-dimensional art, Walker’s pieces ask questions of the U.S. food industry, industrial expanse, and corporations, while allowing viewers to make up their own minds as how to handle the future.
“The very definition of nature changes as humans interact with it,” Catalani said.
Through glass, wood, or salvaged materials, each artists creates their own take on those interactions.For more information visit www.bellevuearts.org or call 425-519-0770.
Josh Stilts: 425-453-4290; email@example.com