Think of art lectures and you might think, tiny little art historian on a stage 35 rows away, marginally focused slides, or art terms you don't really understand. Above all, you might think, 'Stay in your seat and be quiet.' Well, dust off your preconceived notions; the new breed of art talk seems destined to thrive in Spokane. The First Friday Salons, held the first Friday of the month at the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture's Art at Work Gallery, are into their second year and going strong.
"They're going very well," says Yvonne Lopez Morton, marketing and public relations coordinator for the museum. "They just grew and grew, and now they draw very large crowds."
Part of the reason for their appeal lies in their informality.
"It's kind of a walking tour. Usually there's a little introduction, and then the artist moves from piece to piece, talking about the technique and discussing each one," says Morton. "People can ask questions throughout."
Morton says a lot of the credit for the salon's success goes to founders Kate Duignan and Suzanne Alvarez, who in turn pick high caliber regional artists like Ric Gendron, Shani Marchant, and this Friday's featured artist, & & RUBEN TREJO. & &
"Ruben Trejo's talk should be really interesting," says Morton, of the nationally recognized sculptor and painter. "His history -- being born in a boxcar -- is fascinating."
It bears mention, too, that the Lorinda Knight Gallery, 523 W. Sprague, has similar art talks on Saturdays. This Saturday, painter Kathleen Cavender discusses her latest work and current show on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 11 am.
& & & lt;i & The First Friday Salon, featuring Ruben Trejo, is Friday, Dec. 1, at 7 pm at the Art at Work Gallery, 123 N. Post. Call: 456-3931. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &
& & Intergalactic Installation & & & &
People driving through downtown are used to seeing art in previously utilitarian areas. Railroad viaducts, the grimy cement of an overpass, even the brick face of a turn-of-the-century building are graced these days by bright colors and the vision of art supporters and a handful of artists alike. On the East Side of the Lincoln Street overpass right next to Steam Plant Square, sculptor & & DAVID GOVEDARE & & has created the kinetic and colorful "Steam Plant Comet Show."
The metal sculpture is comprised of valves, pipes and a number of mysterious bits of metallic flotsam from the Steam Plant's industrious past.
"They pointed me in the direction of a dingy basement full of old relics of the Steam Plant's past," says Govedare. "My job was to find out what could be done with it."
Big comet-shaped bursts with pipe rod tails are welded together in a brightly painted arrangement that suggests the constructive joy of tinker toys, paired with an industrial respect for iron and machinery. It might be a given that motion, which infuses his other well-known public art pieces such as the Bloomsday runners and the wild horses on the bluff outside of Vantage, is a guiding precept of Govedare's work.
"Sculpture is kind of stoic. To take things that move might be my own way of unlocking the work, by having motion in it. Motion is evident in my work, but it doesn't have to be a part of it."
The painting of the project was opened up to helpers, including Govedare's son and wife, as well as friends who stopped by the studio.
"In doing this piece, in sharing it with other people, it became a series of collaborative conversations over time," says Govedare. "We talked about where it was going, and in the process it took off. I had some help in letting go of the finality of the final design."
Two steam valves recovered from the Steam Plant basement serve as prayer wheels. Passersby can spin them and make a wish. "It's based on the Tibetan tradition of a prayer wheel, and how in spinning you concentrate on what good thing you'd like to see realized," says Govedare.
One of the things Govedare would like to see realized is the continuation of his project on both sides of the overpass, as well as completely through the tunnel.
"I'd really like to do both walls. I still hope for that opportunity," says Govedare. "I look at the Steam Plant Comet Show as a nice little hors d'oeuvre, but it wouldn't be able to satiate my appetite as an artist as much as being able to keep that theme together on both sides of that corridor."
& & & lt;i & The Steam Plant Comet Show is a permanent piece of public art on the East Side of Lincoln Street under the railroad overpass. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &
& & Open Door Policy & & & &
Open houses are a big part of the holiday season, whether it's a neighborhood get-together over spiced cider and a cheese plate, or a gathering in an art gallery to toast a new show. Two open house events this weekend, hosted by & & DONALD CLEGG & & and & & STEVE ADAMS & & , are a combination of both. Clegg celebrates his 20th anniversary as a painter with a three-day open house at his South Hill home and studio, and Adams shows a selection of new and previously undiscovered blown glass work at his studio near Latah Creek.
Inside Clegg's cozy bungalow, which will be the venue for his open house Dec. 1-3, paintings compete for space on the walls, lean against furniture and in some cases, remain a work in progress. Almost all, however, exhibit the changing intervals of nature.
"What I've done here," says Clegg, gesturing at a wall in the living room, "is work within a seasonal theme." In three still lifes, the fruit, flowers and leaves correspond with the various seasons. The pansies and cherries in one large painting are the rich hues of July's abundance -- magenta, purple, deep red, set off by the dusky orange of peaches. The flowers and fruit often come from Clegg's own yard. In another, bluish plums are set out with sprays of mountain ash.
The colors are so vivid and lush, it's easy to assume the paintings are oils. They're actually watercolors.
"There are a lot of bad watercolors out there. People think watercolors are pastel or transparent," says Clegg. "They don't realize the depth of color you can get from watercolor. Wyeth used to say, 'There is no weak medium, only weak artists.' "
Inside his studio, a length of green damask has been tacked to the wall, in front of which sits a cluster of dried leaves, a silver vessel and other assorted objects. Off to the side, a curling arrangement of oak leaves catches the eye.
"Occasionally, the leftovers themselves become a composition," says Clegg. "I'll have a grouping of something that might not fit in a piece or it might be so interesting I want to paint it by itself."
While Clegg's work is undeniably beautiful at first glance, it works on various levels. Clegg brings a studied eye to his painterly endeavors, evidenced by the way the leaves mirror the movement of the pattern in the damask, and the way a silver vessel is translated in paint to be both reflective and three dimensional.
"Composition is the thing I focus on first and foremost," says Clegg. "And symmetry is really important. If you don't have that right, then you don't have a painting."
Steve Adams knows symmetry well. As a glass blower, his work can be anything from a free form candlestick to a goblet that needs to hold liquid and stand balanced on a table top. His one-day open house at his studio in the Latah Creek neighborhood will be a show of new and old work.
"I'll have some brand new pieces," says Adams. "But I've been uncovering some old boxes, too, with some forgotten stuff in there. There's going to be a wide variety. One box had goblets from I don't know how long ago."
Adams' work shows periodically throughout the year at local galleries, including Art Spirit in Coeur d'Alene, but seldom is there so much in one place. His work, when held in the hands, has a pleasing heft, but remains graceful and luminous, almost liquid, in its execution.
While Adams half-jokes that one of the best things about the event is that it forces him to clean out his workshop, for the art-appreciating public, it's a rare chance to see art in its native habitat.
"It' a lot more fun this way," says Clegg, a longtime veteran of area arts and crafts shows. "I won't be making anything, but people don't often get to come into a studio. It's good exposure to see how artists work."
In our digitized, pre-fab, paper-shuffling society, it's also refreshing to spend time among handmade objects.
"It used to be lots of people made things," says Clegg. "In this society anymore it seems that most people make their living transferring paper from one place to another.
"Hardly anybody makes a living making things anymore."
& & & lt;i & Donald Clegg's open house is Friday, Dec. 1, from 10 am-8 pm, Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10 am-8 pm, and Sunday, Dec. 3, from noon-6 pm at 1527 W. 13th Ave. Call: 747-3249. Steve Adams' open house is Saturday, Dec. 2, from 10 am-5 pm at his studio at 1102 S. Spruce (11th Avenue at Latah Creek). Call: 838-2279. & lt;/i & & lt;/center &