The idea behind the new Allied Arts “Emerging Artist Exhibition” is straightforward enough: a show featuring art by people outside of the circle of Yakima art regulars.
That’s not to say Allied Arts undervalues the established artists who provide the local scene’s foundation; it’s just that organizers of this show wanted to see what else would turn up if they called for new work by new artists.
“We hadn’t really done a ‘here’s some new faces you should be paying attention to’ show,” Allied Arts Executive Director Michael Liddicoat says.
The call went out last year, and the response came from all over the state. There were local artists such as furniture maker Gary Galbraith of Ellensburg and glass worker Olivia Lahti of Yakima, who hadn’t shown work in local galleries. And there were artists such as sculptor Sandi Bransford of Bothell and graphic designer Boris Gaviria of Kirkland, who have shown extensively west of the Cascades but are making their Yakima gallery debuts. It was different from a typical Allied Arts call for submissions in that there was no specific theme for artists to incorporate. It wasn’t the regular stable of artists doing something that fit the show, Liddicoat says.
“They didn’t have to think of what to do,” he says. “These are things they have in their repertoire that they needed an opportunity to show.”
Among the most striking pieces is Bransford’s “Skin Deep” (pictured on the cover), a ceramic bust finished with acrylic and oilstick. It’s a deeply textured piece with twigs sticking up from atop its head, making a kind of spike-forest pompadour. The texturing of the face and shoulders — “It kind of reminds me of bark,” Bransford says — gives the sculpture a weathered, rustic look. The figure has a sort of soulful quality in the eyes and mouth, but his emotion is ambiguous. He looks sad. He looks amused. He looks thoughtful. It depends on the angle, the light, the mood of the person viewing him.
“A narrative is always happening with my work,” says Bransford.
But it’s up to the audience to determine what it is. In “Skin Deep,” the man has a story, but not in a specific sense. The message of the piece, insofar as there is a definable one, is that people are more complex than they appear on the surface.
“It’s just about how in our culture and our society, we are judged by our surface,” Bransford says. “People want to categorize you. So what happens when your appearance is outside the ordinary?”
A painter by trade who several years ago switched to three-dimensional art, Bransford has shown work extensively in the Seattle area. But she was actually born in Yakima. Part of the appeal of the “Emerging Artist” show for her is that she’ll gain a new audience in her old home.
“That’s always important — to get your work out there to as many different groups as you can,” she said. “And I hadn’t shown in Yakima.”
Galbraith, who has been part owner of a Seattle woodworking gallery for 30 years and taught at Central Washington University, likewise had not shown in Yakima. His furniture, such as the large two-person chair with the fused glass head-piece that highlights the Allied Arts show, is unusual and doesn’t fit into easily definable categories. So getting it in front of as broad an audience as possible is just good business, he says.
“I’m reaching out,” Galbraith says. “What I do is so unusual, I don’t have commercial marketing success. I’m looking for clients.”
His newer work, which marries form and function (you really ARE supposed to sit in his chairs), is the product of decades of evolution as an artist. So, even though he’s been a professional artist and an art professor, he’s still an emerging artist in that regard.
“You evolve to the point of being true,” Galbraith says. “You’re no longer looking to the history of art for your ideas; you have your own history, unlike younger emerging artists.”
• Pat Muir can be reached at 509-577-7693 or email@example.com.