Seattle studio visits: Arnold, Molenkamp, Offenbacher

I’m wrapping up my Seattle posts today with work by Sharon Arnold, Ryan Molenkamp, Matthew Offenbacher, and a couple gallery visits.

Referencing “women’s work,” which is traditionally undervalued and often ignored, Sharon Arnold‘s projects involve hours of tedious, repetitive labor such as cutting small shapes from hundreds of sheets of paper, or hand stitching yarn on rolls of cash register tape. An artist, curator, and writer, Arnold focused on sculpture, semiotics, and art history at Pratt, then moved back to the Northwest where she got her degree in 2006
from Cornish College of the Arts. We had a great conversation about how our art practices are a necessity, but also a burden. Despite the lack of compensation, adequate resources, and exhibition opportunities that many artists face, we are compelled to do it nonetheless. When Arnold displays her large-scale projects, which take months to complete, she wants viewers to acknowledge what a huge amount of time and effort she has invested.

Believing that art should be local, sustainable and accessible, Arnold founded LxWxH, a project designed to introduce new collectors to Seattle artists and art writers. Each LxWxH edition costs a mere 130 bucks and includes original work by two Seattle artists with a short essay by a local writer. The project’s primary goal is to create a bridge between artists, writers, and the general public. The May edition features the beautiful watercolors I saw in Ryan Molenkamp’s studio,

 At top: Sharon Arnold shows me a project that involved covering hundreds of pieces of paper with stitched string. Above: Hundreds of sheets of paper meticulously cut with thin, bar-like shapes.  
Note: Arnold just curated TEXT EDITOR, an exhibition that
investigates how artists interpret nonsensical language or text through
their use of printmaking/letterpress, photography, drawing, video, or
sound. At SOIL through June 2, 2012.

 On the way to Ryan Molenkamp’s studio, we drove by Western Bridge, the exhibition space maintained by mega-collectors Bill and Ruth True whose collection includes video, photography, and other media by an impressive roster of international art stars. Perhaps they should fund one of Arnold’s projects–it wouldn’t cost very much.

Ryan Molenkamp‘s studio is full of new work. Best known for his paintings based on old photographs that depict the early Seattle landscape, Molenkamp has recently taken a more decisive turn toward abstraction.

I stopped by Space where Cornish undergrad JD Banke had an exhibition of charming paintings and silkscreen prints on wood panels.

More of Banke’s work.

We walked over to Greg Kucera and saw a terrific Brion Nuda Rosch show, on display through May 12.

After the panel discussion on arts writing at Cornish, I went to Matthew Offenbacher’s studio, where he showed me paintings made on cheap white fabric that resists the paint. We looked at a painting of horses and talked about making art that’s more accessible to the general public as a conceptual stance.

With Gretchen Bennett and Wynne Greenwood, Offenbacher produces Seattle Catalog, a crossover venture that is both an art project and a for-profit company. A tri-yearly sales catalog, Sea-Cat features a curated selection of work by Seattle artists. Although they haven’t had much success selling the art, as an art project, Sea-Cat has been doing really well. Offenbacher also publishes and edits La Especial Norte, a small newsletter, sort of a zine, written by Seattle artists.

Offenbacher’s latest paintings are still lifes on linen.

And finally, Offenbacher took me next door to Gretchen Bennett’s studio where we talked about the TV series “The Killing,” set in Seattle (and unlike “Portlandia,“) filmed mostly on dark, rainy days. Best known for her Kurt Cobain portraits, Bennett is fascinated to see how her town is depicted in the sullen crime drama. (Sorry, readers, I didn’t take any pictures of Bennett’s recent work.)
Well, that’s it. I had a wonderful time visiting Seattle. Big thanks to all the artists and writers who took the time to show me around, show me their work, and share their community.  And special thanks to Robert Yoder, who included my work in “SQUEEZE HARD (Hold That Thought),” a two-person exhibition at SEASON, on display through June 30, 2012. Without the show, it wouldn’t have occurred to me to strike out for the Northwest.

NOTE: Yoder’s solo show “DILF!” opens tomorrow at Platform in Seattle, and if you’re in Basel, look for his installation at Frosch & Portmann in VOLTA8.  

Related posts:
Matthew Offenbacher’s gift
Gretchen Bennett’s love letters to Kurt Cobain in Seattle


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  1. Hi Sharon. I just read with great interest your piece about artists in Seattle. It is always interesting to see what artists elsewhere are up to and to have a lens upon their studio practice. Thank you for your coverage.
    In the piece about Sharon Arnold, a rather touchy subject was brought up – the amount of time and effort that goes into the production of a piece of art…
    I totally agree with you that we artists make art because we must regardless of compensation or exhibition opportunity. What I disagree with is the notion that the public be aware of the time and effort that goes into each piece as part of the viewing experience. IMO this is not relevant to the viewing experience. Does it really matter how long it takes to make the art? As a very process involved artist the end product is what I am sharing with the viewing audience. Someone may ask a question regarding the process, then it is appropriate to share that information –
    When I look at art I'm not thinking "Wow – I bet that took a long time to produce or hey, this is great look at how much time this artist had to appropriate to make this art" rather my subjective reaction to the work is all about the impact of the imagery presented to me. The time spent doesn't factor into my appreciation of the piece. Perhaps an artist makes 30 drawings in a month – and at the end of a month has only one or none that fulfills their vision- isn't that artist spending a huge amount of time to make that singular strong work? I think so – and in the end…who really cares? Don't we all, whatever our creative process, spend tremendous amounts of time and effort to create our art?
    Would you ever include in an artist statement the information that says how much effort and time it took to make the work? This information belongs in a proposal for a commission –
    I look forward to your comments.

  2. Thanks for the thoughtful comment. Perhaps I should rewrite that sentence. Unlike most projects, Arnold's is specifically about drawing attention to unrecognized labor, thus when people gasp at the amount of work invovled, she considers the work a success.

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