Artscape

KPLU's weekly feature about art in the Pacific Northwest.  Available online every Sunday and played on-air on Monday mornings and afternoons.

A new exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum invites us to experience Australia like we never have before: through the eyes of Aboriginal artists whose culture is considered to be one of the oldest in the world.

More than 100 paintings, sculptures and photographs are featured in this first-of-its kind show on the West Coast. The exhibit is called "Ancestral Modern," a title that relates to the fact that Aboriginal culture is at least 50,000 years old but the artwork on display is no more than 40 years old.

A political tale of the little guy going up against the establishment that happened in Seattle more than a decade ago is now on the big screen in movie theaters.

The film Grassroots tells the mostly true story about former monorail champion Grant Cogswell running against incumbent Richard McIver for a seat on the Seattle City Council in 2001.

Jessica Martin

On stage at ACT Theater is a play about two inmates and their different outlooks on life. One man is on Death Row and has found God. The other is facing attempted murder charges and has lost faith.

The play is called "Jesus Hopped the A Train." It was written by Stephen Adly Guirgis and world premiered in New York in 2000.

Now it's in Seattle, in a production by a Seattle company called Azeotrope that thrives on material that's edgy and provocative.

Katherine Banwell / KPLU

The new LeMay Car Museum in Tacoma is a dream come true for car lovers. But it’s also worth a visit if you’re into art. The color and shape of the vehicles is a feast for the eyes, and there’s art history too, if you consider such things as hood ornaments and how they’ve changed over time.

Listen to this week’s Artscape by clicking the listen button above to get the full picture.

Siamak Poursabahian

Where do gestures come from? Is it nature or nuture...or just from our own imagination?

Khambatta Dance Company explores these questions in performances this week at the Seattle International Dance Festival/Beyond the Threshold. In a work called "India Calling," the Seattle-based company looks at the gestures we've inherited from our parents.

The piece, for five dancers who wear red costumes, includes live monologues and videotaped interviews of people telling stories about gestures.

Mark Kitaoka

Teatro Zinzanni, which has been around since 1998, serves up a different kind of dinner theater. Acrobatics as an appetizer. A contortionist with your crudite.

Housed in a red-and-yellow antique mirrored spiegeltent, Zinzanni delivers shows served alongside a five-course meal. The waiters dance. The audience participates. The concept started in Seattle and it was so successful, Zinzanni now also has shows at a venue in San Francisco.

But the show now playing is a first for the venue and it's also more personal for the star performers.

Sean Porter

The film "Eden" tells the story of human trafficking through the tale of a Korean American teen in New Mexico. It's part horror film and part survivor's tale and it's based on a true story.

It's Seattle director Megan Griffith's third feature film.  And it's a project she was drawn to because of the actual narrative:

Elise Bakketun

"Madama Butterfly” is a story about love, heartbreak and sacrifice and it’s beloved by opera fans worldwide.

It’s the current production at Seattle Opera. The cast features superstar soprano Patricia Racette, who has played the role at least 100 times, including at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

Jennifer Wing / KPLU

A tiny space with big ideas. This is the motto of the Telephone Room in Tacoma. It claims to be one of the smallest places in the world where artists display their work.

Pamela M. Campi Photography

Three months after a sell-out run, “Spring Awakening” is back in a production at  Seattle’s Balagan Theatre.

“The Art of Racing in the Rain” tells the story of a wannabe race car driver living in Seattle. The story, though, is told through the eyes, ears and nose of a unique narrator: an especially philosophical dog.

Photo by Lindsay Thomas

The ballet “Apollo” features four dancers in a story about the Greek god of music and three muses.

It was a signature role for Peter Boal when he was a dancer with New York City Ballet.

Now he's staging the ballet at Pacific Northwest Ballet, the first time since taking over as artistic director in 2005. And Boal is teaching the ballet to four male dancers who'll be dancing the role for the first time.

He says he's been waiting all these years for the right time as well as the right dancers.

1928 Model T Fords, top hats, and thousands of people spilling out onto 9th and Pike. It's the opening of Seattle's Paramount Theatre (originally called the Seattle Theatre). Now that rich history is archived in the new, fourth-floor Paramount library. 

Right now the Tacoma Art Museum is the only place on the West Coast where you can see the controversial exhibit, Hide-Seek, Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.

The show covers nearly 150 years of art from the gay and lesbian perspective. It also explores the theory that the gay and straight worlds intermingled more freely before World War II.

Photo by Florangela Davila

There's the type of art that hangs in museums, roped off to the public and well-guarded.

Then there's the kind of art that someone like Bill Blair of Victoria, B.C. creates. Art that's whimsical, kitschy, and suitable for places as distinguished as your home Tiki bar.

Exhibit A: His series of photomontages about fish, created after he became fixated with salmon puns.

"There was everything like 'Salmon-40-salmon,' a giant salmon with a nose cone of a Boeing 747.

Photo by Erinn Hale / Courtesy of Village Theatre

"It Shoulda Been You," the new musical at Issaquah’s Village Theater, is for anyone who has been part of a wedding. There's joy as well as bickering; second-guessing and sometimes, suffering.

The bride’s Jewish. The groom’s Catholic. The parents don’t like each other and wish their children were marrying someone else. And an ex-boyfriend also shows up.

The musical is the first collaboration by composer Barbara Anselmi and lyricist and librettist Brian Hargrove.

Angela Sevin / Flickr

Did you know that in just about every sacred text there is a reference to the environment? From the Bible to the Koran, to ancient Buddhist writings, there are passages that talk about how people have either been destroying the Earth or how we need to do a better job taking care of it.

A new coral work performed by Seattle First Baptist and Plymouth Church focuses entirely on the environment. It's called A Song For Our Planet.

courtesy of the publisher

There's a new book and CD that looks back at the potent soundtrack of the Black Power Movement. Listen, Whitey! The Sights and Sounds of Black Power, 1965-1975 (Fantagraphics) is the first book by Bay Area-transplant and Seattle author Pat Thomas.

"It's a book about how the music inspired the movement and the movement inspired the music," he said.

The Academy Awards are coming up this Sunday. There are many wonderful films that don’t get an Oscar. And there are lots of not-so-great movies that win the coveted award.  Seattle’s “20-20” awards look back at past Oscar winners and how they’ve stood the test of time.

Photo by Ryan K. Adams

What does 30 minutes in a person's life look like?

Artist Susie Lee asked and answered that question while spending time at the Washington Care Center, a long-term nursing facility and rehab unit.

What she created is a series of  highly-composed video portraits that are sometimes so quiet, you think they're still photos. The videos are silent. They last 30 minutes long -- real-time; there is no editing. And they feel so intimate, it can make viewers uncomfortable to watch.

Photo by Bain News Service / Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

The bloodiest event in Pacific Northwest labor history, the event that left 7 people dead and many more seriously injured, is the subject of a new mini-opera by Wayne Horvitz and Robin Holcomb at Seattle's ACT Theatre.

Called "Smokestack Arias," the work tells the story of the events of Nov. 5, 1916 when two boatloads of Industrial Workers of the World -- "Wobblies" -- arrived from Seattle to Everett.

From the beginning of time when single-celled organisms were the only life on earth, to the multiverse where people can exist in parallel realities, to a dying woman who relives her romantic past through a photograph that freezes with the end of time – those are some of the plots for an upcoming showcase of Seattle-area playwrights.

Courtesy of "Cavalia"

There’s a village of white tents that look like a castle rising from Redmond’s Marymoor Park. It's home to both arena and stables for dozens of horses, the stars of "Cavalia: A Magical Encounter Between Man And Horse," which has been billed as "equestrian ballet."

Created in part by one of the people behind Cirque du Soleil, the show is a spectacle featuring acrobats, aerialists, musicians and, of course, riders. But these are riders who do stunts like ride standing up (picture "watersking" on a pair of horses galloping in a circle) or riding while doing the splits.

Photo courtesy of kevinberne.com

The latest play at Seattle Repertory Theatre is called "How To Write A New Book For The Bible." It's about a priest who comes home to take care of his dying mother.

It’s a true story, written by Jesuit priest and playwright Bill Cain.

Which partly explains the play's title. Cain says the play "is about sifting through the presence of God in the reality of family."

"I wonder what Bing (Crosby) would think about this film. He was a pretty hep cat so he might dig it."

Thirty years ago, Spokane was home to a small, passionate group of punk rockers. Artist David Halsell was part of that scene. (Studded leather jacket. Mohawk. Member of a band that threw up on people).

Now he and several other ex-punk rockers have made a documentary based on interviews with 30 musicians about that alternative music scene in their hometown.

Rachel Solomon

Jenny Solomon has an entire room in her house dedicated to arts and crafts. She usually has 10 projects going on at the same time, and right now, she’s knitting a balloon animal, beading jewelry and learning to draw.

Solomon is wearing a necklace and bracelet she made, too. And in the free time she has left over, she plays the harp, a hobby she picked up from her childhood.

The Fairmont Empress in Victoria, B.C., has all the features you’d expect to find in a fancy hotel: luxurious accommodations, fine dining and a spa.

But the city's landmark hotel also has its very own "artist-in-residence." She's painter Judy McLaren, who typically paints commissioned portraits, scenes of the sea as well as landscapes.

Photo by Robert Wade

The newest show at the Seattle Art Museum features thousands of records, a DJ booth made out of an old church pew and a hands-on record player.

The installation is called "The Listening Room" and it's the latest work by Theaster Gates.

Florangela Davila

Forget about sugarplums dancing in his head. Architect Eric Drivdahl is drooling over cookie staircases, pretzel fences and a giant Rice Crispy treat mountain covered in 100 pounds of white chocolate.

"Look at this whole building, it's made out of candy," he says.

He's in the lobby of the Seattle Sheraton hotel, the site of the annual Gingerbread Village. This year's theme is "Holiday Express," with all six gingerbread marvels replicating world-famous train stations.

Katherine Banwell / KPLU

Eerie sounds from vegetables and sculptures that look like happy caterpillars. Those are some of the "promising objects" you'll find in an exhibit of the same name. The show is at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and features the art of Alison MacTaggart.

MacTaggart likes creating art that has a familiar aspect to it but something unfamiliar as well. The results are quirky sculptures that are cheerful and noisy. They encourage all sorts of communication and show visitors her sense of humor.

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