Francesca Lohmann | Frozen Fluidity

Essay by David Strand | Photographs by Serrah Russell

Francesca Lohmann’s artistic process moves like a sea cucumber liquefying its body and pouring itself through the crevice of a rock, and then solidifying once more. Plaster, a recurrent material in her practice, operates in a similar fashion. She mixes plaster powder and water into a liquid soup that she pours into fabric casings that harden into solids over a matter of minutes. The result of these contained spills, shaped by gravity into lumps and coils, often evoke anthropomorphic, animal, and alien associations while simultaneously eluding them.

“It’s not something I dictate, it’s something I instigate,” Lohmann says, crouched near a pile of flour-white plaster coils in the open-air shed that serves as one-half of her art studio. The thick mass of sagging loops is intestinal and snake-like, resembling an enormous, petrified earthworm. “I set up a situation where something can happen within a set of parameters, then use the behavior of the material, gravity, and time to get at a result that is doing something compelling or unexpected.” Her works are at once familiar yet nameless, eliciting empathy through subtleties in scale and posture.

The other-half of Lohmann’s art studio, just a few steps away, is situated in a portion of her basement. If the open-air shed is dedicated to process, a lab for the messy activity of plaster casting, the basement is for presentation, a space for Lohmann to sit with her work. As we descend, ossified lumps dot each step like commas, sagging, slouching and slumping over the edge of each stair. They provoke pause, occupying a space outside of, but not divorced from language, that stirs viewers to guess the rest of the words in the sentence.

“Someone compared them to pets once,” Lohmann says about the lumps, which come in roughly two sizes: miniature, small enough to hold in one hand, or medium, large enough to need both hands. “I think it’s the relationship that we are so much bigger than they are, that they are maybe vulnerable. You want to protect them. People have very particular responses to different ones—about what their characters might be, or how they are feeling—which I find really fascinating because they are pretty simple gestures…. ”

Despite this indeterminacy, and the range of responses they provoke, the lumps like the rest of Lohmann’s works are utterly terrestrial. They are grounded by their overt physicality as expressed through their material properties.

In the center of the floor are a group of objects I immediately recognize, potatoes. However, upon closer inspection the potatoes are not quite potatoes, but iron-cast copies, with a thick seam running across their surfaces as a record of their making.

During her time in school, Lohmann ate potatoes almost daily. While she initially tried drawing portraits of them, something was lost in translation. She turned to iron casting, a process she calls “incredibly medieval in a really great way. Iron seemed appropriately heavy, earthy, and basic.” Rather than simply acting as a copy of a potato or a lump acting as the imprint of plaster poured into a sack, the works take on lives of their own; the copy is also an original, separate but related. This recognition opens up the idea of the interrelatedness of all things: as Lohmann says, “boundaries seem really obvious, but then you start to think about it and they become less obvious. You can’t completely separate anything from anything else.” She is fascinated by food for this very reason. Like plaster or a sea cucumber, food undergoes various state changes based on its interactions with its surroundings.

Leaning against a wall is a fairly large framed photograph of a lavender lump of taffy that is not quite liquid or solid, but a more sticky kind of in-between. Lohmann pulled the taffy by hand and left it on a table to congeal into a new shape as it slowly reabsorbed into itself. The paralysis of the photograph versus the glacial movements of the actual taffy evokes the dynamism of Baroque sculpture. Whereas Bernini’s frenzied and twisting sculptures of men and gods were caught in climatic moments of movement, Lohmann’s images of taffy and plaster objects are frozen in nearly imperceptible moments of flux. The excess of form and content in Baroque sculpture is edited away in favor of poetic simplicity.

This economy of means demonstrates the control Lohmann exercises in her practice while also providing space for chance and accident. “I am looking for moments of certainty; a recognition. What is the right form? It could be a million different ways but it ended up like that, which is what I like about the freezing aspect. Once something has set, I accept it or reject it; there is no fussing, no adjustments after the fact. It is the way it is. I like that. But it means that I produce a lot of waste…”

Lohmann’s work exists in a realm of productive contradiction, a state of frozen fluidity. Every sculpture or image is discrete, limited and finite, yet also always in the process of becoming, never simply being, even after the photograph has been captured and the plaster has dried. They are constantly in relation with all that surrounds them, turning subjectivity away from a single point and dispersing it across the complex web of relations that shapes the mundane in miraculous ways.


Essay by Sharon Arnold | Photographs by Serrah Russell

The way to Seattle artist Tim Cross’ studio is through his living room, past the dining room, and up a rickety wooden stepladder to the attic. Once there, the first thing you notice are the innumerable fluttering scraps of paper and fabric pinned to the walls, piled on his desk, and scattered or stacked on the floor. The sun streams in through small wooden-­paned windows.

In one gabled window ledge, a black cat sits with its eyes closed, basking in the warmth of the day. Materials and books fill the shelves. A computer and camera sit on the desk. This is the space of a working artist.

I sit down to listen as Tim begins to talk about the work he’s making. He speaks quickly, a cascading tumble of ideas, observations, and opinions that belie his soft­ spoken demeanor. It so happens that Tim is an iceberg. When you first meet him, you’re likely to catch only a glimpse and a quick hello, accompanied by a shy smile before he is gone. You get the idea that he is soft­ spoken and quiet. But once the lid is cracked open and a real conversation begins, Cross’ unfettered ricochet of thoughts and historical knowledge is formidable; ­There much to be discovered just below the surface.

Like his demeanor, Tim Cross’ work appears playful and mysterious but has serious, formal, and intellectual undertones. Hovering somewhere between printmaking, painting, and collage, Tim employs a method using xerox and laser transfers. This is a process in which pre­-cut pieces of paper are arranged on an armature of silk cloth to build a composition. It’s a simple trick turned highly sophisticated technique, leaving even the most expert viewer completely mystified by the artwork’s construction. The result is a soft floating piece that resembles something between a painting, print, silkscreen, or batik­ dyed cloth. Cross refers to each of these cut and transferred pieces as his brushstroke: building hue, value, and form the same way a painter builds layers and architecture into a composition.

Because of the way transfers leave the pigment deposited on the surface, this kind of work is often mistaken for a print. This isn’t exactly wrong -­ the technique leaves large blocks of ink on the surface in a similar process as printmaking. Specifically, the ink is transferred from the paper onto a surface ­ in this case, silk, ­ by soaking the paper and fabric in matte medium which adheres it to the surface.The texture will vary depending on the photo or drawing chosen, its color, and whether it is a carbon or laser copy. Each hand­ cut patch represents an element of another drawing or photograph that the artist has selected based on the kind of mark, saturation, or shape it will leave on the surface. Similar methods or combinations of methods are each, at some point, found in art history.

The collage artists in early Synthetic Cubism and Surrealism used photographic images, and various mid­ century artists through the present have employed the use of photomontage and image transfers. Reaching back to meet his predecessors where they left off, Tim Cross echoes their process. He layers a series of ready -made images, creating blocks of tint and textural elements to tell a story and describe a kind of mark­-making. Some of these depict maps and roadways; photographs of trees and green spaces; satellites, planetary rovers, or other fictional vehicles meant for traveling to the moon or Mars. Other images are manufactured color fields resembling hazy skies, sometimes mirrored like some sort of Rorschach inkblot. And still others are are abstractions that he has drawn himself, copied, and multiplied to use. These textures not only create fields of repetitive shapes, but physical cracks and folds, revealing the weakness of the medium while incorporating it as part of the composition. Every structural element is exposed. The frayed edge of the paper is often left on the surface of the silk. There is no trickery to the composition. Nothing is hidden, polished or overly finished.

The particular series of image transfer works made for Vignettes describe a repeating field of horizontal black and white chevron­ shapes laying on their sides. The shapes look like lead, or obsidian. The pieces drape gently, their edges revealing a gauzy silk that move softly against the wall. Their lightness defies the heaviness of the objects they carry, floating on the horizon like a mirage in the distance. This series conveys its narrative through a particularly eloquent and symmetrical brevity. It reminds us of a cityscape, mimicking the patterns found along the sides of buildings or pressed into concrete; or of rock formations, like so much shale piled up in shards along the edge of a cliff; or crystalline forms in a geode or a cave.

Whatever the associations we discover, Cross’ keen visual cues are a doorway, or a mirror, into a landscape we don’t always observe. They inspire us to look closer, revealing our own adventurous desire.


A conversation with Sierra Stinson & Serrah Russell

Vignettes has partnered up with artist and curator Serrah Russell. We decided to have a casual conversation regarding our goals with Vignettes, Seattle’s community, what we find exciting in the world at large and a little back and forth banter via googlechat.  No edits were made to this dialogue except for links to what we are discussing – Enjoy!


Sierra:  Hiya!
Serrah:  Hey!
Sierra:  So, lets begin. I was thinking we can chat a bit about you and me now working together with Vignettes, sound good?
Serrah:  Absolutely!
I’m so thrilled to be working together!
Sierra:  Cool,  ME TOOO! I am really excited to have you now on board and yes, we’ve had a few conversations about things we want to do in the past but what is it that you want to be involved in and feel is the future for a malleable project like Vignettes? You come from such a great background as an artist and running Violet Strays for the last few years now.
Im curious what are you currently inspired by and want to do?
 Sent at 3:34 PM on Monday
 Serrah:  It feels natural to work together. From the first time we met for tea at Oddfellows back in 2010, maybe,
I felt like we totally got each other’s vision and sensibility. And we began to have plans to collaborate together right
away. And what I’m so excited about is that it feels like some of those plans are happening now with Vignettes.
I remember us talking about the idea of import/export, scheming up ways to support local artists and create
connections between artists and alternative exhibition spaces outside of Seattle.
Sierra:  Yeah, import/export has been there from the beginning.
There are so many great spaces in and outside of Seattle and we could use the exchange part to happen.
 Serrah:  I think I’m currently inspired by the potential of what Vignettes can be, of what Seattle can be, and really
a more connected art experience, less insular.
 Sierra:  I was thinking about the insularity the other day, how bummed I am that people based in Seattle don’t often attend gallery exhibits of artists not based in Seattle.
 Serrah:  And I think what I have always loved about Vignettes, was the way it isn’t fixed, it shifts and grows.
 Sierra:   Yeah, that’s the goal, since our world is constantly shifting so do our ideas, needs and projects.

 Sent at 3:40 PM on Monday
 Serrah:  Yeah, it’s tough. I think because we’re still a small city and we all get to know each other, art exhibitions are social scenes. I think the studio visits are hugely important on Vignettes Collection because I think that creates an emotional connection between viewers with the artist, so whether you personally know the artist or not, you start to feel like you understand them and their process.
 Sierra:  Definitely, it’s actually my favorite part right now.
 Serrah:  Which is going to be hugely important as we expand to artists and an audience outside of the Pacific Northwest
Sierra:  Vignettes began with studio visits back in 2010.
 Serrah:  I was photographing at Chandler Woodfin’s studio last week and I said the same thing to her, that this is my favorite part, because it becomes about conversation and getting to know the work better through photography and the written word.
Sierra:  I did a studio visit for nearly every artist and it’s one of my favorite things to do in general, see what people are
up to creating and where their brain and heart are in their work.
Oh yeah, Im excited to see those images of Chandler’s space, isn’t it beautiful?
 Serrah:  I think studios are like a home. I always loved visiting friend’s childhood home because you can tell a lot about them. It’s like you see their space that they create in and you intrinsically understand the work better.
 Sierra:  Exactly!
 Serrah:  The space is amazing and she is doing some really exciting new work. She’s cutting up her paintings and collaging with them. So naturally I’m obsessed with that  🙂
 Sierra:  haha of course.
I spent a lot of time in my dad’s woodshop as a kid and I just watched him create so much, I was always fascinated with process.
So this series is definitely fulfilling that interest of mine.
At the same moment its offering a venue to other writers.
Serrah:  Yes, and the writers have been so amazing. So uniquely different but really giving you a sense of the person, their space, and their work.
Rich Smith wrote of my condo building that it smelled like “bubblegum and weed” and I’ll never forgot that description. haha
 Sierra:  ahhh sooooo goood.
Rich had never written about an artist in that way before. I’m looking forward to Amanda Parker’s Q&A with Lindsey Apodaca, those two are going to be good friends after that one.
I can tell.
 Serrah:  !!! YES!
that’s the other thing that I’m so excited by with Vignettes, the connections that are being made. It’s a way to play match-maker for artists in a way.
 Sierra:  which is my favorite thing to do.
Serrah:  I think Vignettes has been doing that all along, thinking of collaborative shows you’ve curated, the Vignettes/APRIL collaboration… I mean, Adam Boehmer and Maggie Carson Romano…come on, it’s just too perfect!
 Sierra:  hahaha well they were a match made in heaven.
and the APRIL folks are fucking perfect.
I love everything they do and with such enthusiasm for words
Serrah:  100%. YES!
Sierra:  That said what last year took place for you that shifted anything inside of you either goal-wise for you as an artist or
curator or business woman? I know you travelled a bit, went to Frieze London…exhibited a lot.

Did you feel a shift? My year was full of shifts including this big launch of the site and Im curious about you.
 Sent at 3:53 PM on Monday
Serrah:  Great question. I did feel a shift but I think it was a bit more gradual than marked by big events, aside from traveling to Europe. That was huge. Since my husband Robbie was traveling for work, I tagged along and pretty much spent as much time as I could, for three weeks, seeing art. And man, the art world is big. I went to two international art fairs, Frieze London and FIAC Paris and it just expanded my view of what art is out there, that people are buying it…I loved it.

Honestly, seeing so much large art in the museums was thrilling and I think has made me want to expand my practice to a larger scale.
Sierra:  That’s great!
Serrah:  But what I remember loving was that I didn’t know anyone there and I often didn’t even speak the language so
it was just about looking at art. It was really quiet and focused. And I feel I don’t get that as often here.
Sierra:  I went to Frieze NY last year and it was so fascinating.
Talk about a name dropping fair.
Serrah:  But it was powerful to look at art that I didn’t always have a context for, where I didn’t know the background of the
individual, and didn’t feel like my viewing was about a social context.
Sierra:  It’s great, to just fill yourself up with it.
 Serrah:  I would also say that this year was also a shift of wanting art and art projects to be sustainable, and to be profitable.
 Sierra:  I’m happy there is a market around, and do want to find a way to tap into it.
In a different way though.
Sent at 4:00 PM on Monday
Serrah:  Definitely. I think what is exciting is that there are so many pockets, so many groups.
And I think what I most love about the internet is that you can reach people in those sub-groups, all over the world.
Sierra:  exactly.
and I’ve been thinking about our subgroup.
Last night MKNZ and I were having a heart to heart about all of the brilliant artists we are in the company of, after having co-curated ‘In the absence of…’ at Greg Kucera and working with so many different individuals in the last five years.
We decided there is a movement happening here.
And it’s important and beautiful
Serrah:  It truly is. That’s why I’m here. and why I’m staying here.
me:  me too, and its why I have to leave to gain perspective.
Serrah:  I wanted to ask you what keeps you here in Seattle? I know we’ve talked about how important travel is to your
life and your creativity.
Sierra:  its so important
Serrah:  Maybe you can touch on that a bit…
Sierra:  definitely, well….
honestly I have attempted to leave Seattle and thought about leaving it repeatedly throughout the years.
But I always find myself staying.
at my own will.
I think it’s actually this movement, this community of artists that keeps me here.
They are inspiring, as MKNZ calls them – they are lyricists.
Serrah:  oh, that’s lovely.
Sierra:  Yes, its actually the perfect way to describe what is going on here. They are artists who are working in the same way as a lyricist, they are creating short poems expressing emotion.
Serrah:  It’s really fitting that travel is so important to you, because it really speaks to what Vignettes is and what Seattle is as a city, sending people out into the world, but bringing them back to a beautiful home-base.
Sierra:  They are reacting to the changes in the city thoughtfully and emotionally and through beauty and to their own relationships around them
we all are really.
 Serrah:  You’re right! Artists are making work that is emotional and personal, I’m particularly thinking of how true that is of “in the absence of…”
Sierra:  that exhibit was really moving to me, and it just happened. Klara and I thought of the artists and they all delivered pieces that resonated that were new or needed a space to house them in their entirety.
It was a once in a lifetime experience I feel as far as group exhibits go
 Serrah:  I also think something is really cool about a city where it is starting to become a norm for spaces to share their spaces with other artists/curators. There is a lot of overlap and collaboration
Sierra:  There is.
Seattle is a city full of collaborators.
Hence why Im here, its one of my favorite things to do.
And why I really needed another person involved in Vignettes because I want to create something greater then myself and that is through collaborating.
It’s the same with relationships.
 Serrah:  Agree.completely.
I know I wouldn’t want to do anything like Vignettes or Violet Strays alone.
Sent at 4:11 PM on Monday
Serrah:  It’s made stronger by two voices, opinions, visions and man power.
And also, I think it’s a lot more fun!
Sierra:  so true.
so much fun!
and you like earl grey tea!
Match made in heaven.
Serrah:  And I think we all know that there’s no point in doing any of this, if we’re not enjoying the process of it.
Sierra:  hahaha definitely.
Serrah:  oh girl, I’ve had about 4 cups of earl grey today already. I’m so glad we get each other on that front.
Sierra:  hear hear!
I’ve had two cups of earl grey and two mint.
Serrah:  side note. I always thought hear hear! was here here!
Sierra:  is it?
Serrah:  I literally just learned this week that I was doing it wrong.
Sierra:  hahaha
 Serrah:  no. you’re correct. I was wrong for years
Sierra:  I never knew.
was just guessing.
its easier to say then type out ya know?
Serrah:  Well, the reason why I think it’s correct is because I saw Rich Smith post it on Facebook.
So I’m pretty sure he would know.
Sierra:  im sure he would.
Serrah:  Hear here! is nice though
Sierra:  well you know how I feel about the word ‘here’. 😉
 Sent at 4:15 PM on Monday
 Serrah:  oh yes!
 Sent at 4:16 PM on Monday
Serrah:  I love every word that has multiple meanings. Well, that’s kinda obvious, almost every word has multiple meanings but words like “entrance” “leaves” “rose”
Sierra:  oooooo good ones.
I know what you mean.
Serrah:  I’m curious about a ritual or tradition that is part of your life…
Sierra:  haha i know where you took that one from.
Hmmmmm let me think.
Serrah:  Yes, I’m stealing your own question from the symposium panel at Bellevue Art Museum.
I read this book “Daily Rituals: How Artists Work” and ever since I am fascinated by the details of artist/creatives daily living
Sierra:  ritual is very important.
i was raised with a lot of ritual, in its different meanings.
 Serrah:  The book is really a range but some that are memorable are so many people who incorporate a daily walk into their life, specific meals/drinks. I think it was David Lynch who would have a chocolate milkshake and 7 cups of coffee at a diner before writing.
I also think it’s fascinating that there is both conscious and unconscious ritual, and they both matter.
Sierra:  I think now as an adult I’ve grown more accustomed to weekly rituals, I’m a creature of habit but I don’t often make time for myself daily, it happens every few days a week where I take time.
in a conscious way
I do drink tea daily and that feels intentional. And I’ve been writing daily. But it can occur at any hour and it doesn’t have to be for a length of time, it just has to happen.
Lately being around certain people is very important to me on a weekly basis.
 Sent at 4:24 PM on Monday
me:  to walk around with, have dinner with, go to Vito’s and listen to Ruby Bishop every Sunday with.
Serrah:  sounds lovely.
Sierra:  To be in good company and learn from one another, to converse and discuss and learn from one another.
I recently was out of town at a residency, gone for a month and it was difficult to spend so much time solo. I do like to be around people, it feeds me and inspires me and I learn a lot from others.
At the same moment it was good to create solo rituals.
Like a morning walk and tea time and then go to a hot spring and just take time, like Olafur Eliasson’s practice ‘take your time’
Serrah:  I think that solitude is good but it is difficult. Definitely a shift. It’s an opportunity for growth but can be a struggle at the time. Even in Europe, although I definitely had an amazing time, I felt a disconnect.
Sierra:  and disconnect is really interesting, you learn a lot from it.
Serrah:  daily hot springs! sigh…sounds magical.
me:  haha yeah well I was lucky I happened to be in a town that used to be named ‘Hot Springs’ haha
Serrah:  I think that quiet solo time is so important to being energized and creative. I want us to be able to create that for artists in the future.
Sierra:  Definitely.
I’ve always been interested in creating a space for artists to create work, not only exhibit.
When I was in school my practice was all about displacement and situational luck.
Serrah:  Tell me more!
Sierra:  I went abroad because I wanted to feel that is see what it did to my practice.
and to*
Serrah:  displacement is so related to traveling and to import/export. There’s something so powerful in that movement.
Sierra:  it really is. You learn a lot and it kind of stunts you and then releases you
and the inspiration arrives.
Serrah:  RIGHT!
stunts you and releases you. that’s the truth.
 Sent at 4:32 PM on Monday
Sierra:  thats why when one is displaced it is good to take time because you will go through the motions of adjustment then find a place to create
at least that is what I experienced
Serrah:  So what is situational luck?
Sierra:  ah…well
 Sent at 4:33 PM on Monday
me:  situational luck is sort of a phrase I coined a long time ago as a term to explain serendipity or synchronicity
perfect timing.
 Serrah:  perfect!
Sierra:  it was born out of a game I used to play which we called ‘two word derby’
and we would come up with combinations like ‘jesus adhesive’ or ‘free-range citizen’ or ‘tarpaper loveshack’
those were some of my favorites and ‘Situational Luck’ became my thesis
Serrah:  nice.
Sierra:  What do you see happening with Vignettes? Do you have goals beyond what we are currently up to?
 Serrah:  I did a similar thing once with a friend where we both came up with our favorite words and then we created pairings
with them and some of them were just so lovely. They were like little word collages in a way.
 Sierra:  oooooo nice!
I love that idea.
I did something similar with Adriana Grant for Violet Strays way back when.
Her words and my images and their random order / happenings.
 Sent at 4:39 PM on Monday
Serrah:  I want Vignettes to be THE place for art online. I want for collecting art to be a part of everyone’s lifestyle, just like
fashion, home decor, food. I want  us to bridge the gap in a way and make art collecting enticing and accessible and possible.
Sierra:  !!!
Serrah:  Yours and Adriana’s Violet Strays was so beautiful! Of course, I loved it!
Sierra:  awww shucks.
Im excited for this different venue of sorts. I do think physical space is necessary too but online there are possibilities and a
bit more freedom in scheduling and what you can put out and how often.
 Sent at 4:43 PM on Monday
Sierra:  and your audience can be larger. That is a major goal. We need this to not just be a Seattle centric thing.
 Serrah:  I definitely want to find ways for us to use Vignettes to connect with people outside of Seattle, but also to be able to
build Seattle into a place for creatives, for collaboration and that artists would be drawn here, whether physically or virtually. It’s such a great place to make work in
Sierra:  it really is.
Serrah:  And like you said, the community is what makes it great.
Sierra:  and the people, the landscape, the FOOD.
Serrah:  That too 🙂
Sierra:  #bestfood
Serrah:  #mountains and #islands
Sierra:  yessss
Serrah:  It’s an inspiring place. I’m excited to see how the city continues to grow. And I am trying to think big. I think that’s what I felt when in Europe, just think bigger!
Because, Why not?!
Sierra:  Yes, I just had a meeting with Greg Lundgren and he is thinking BIG and it’s really great, seriously why not?
I mean Seattle is becoming a global city
Serrah:  And I love that! There is so much to be gained from that. I’ve been a bit frustrated by the pushback to the shifts in the city.
Sierra:  we are even getting an art fair this year. I mean Vignettes can’t afford to be a part of it but you know we will be somewhere as a satellite around it. DIY is a big part of Seattle culture.
and its where we come from.
Serrah:  I mean, I get it, but I also just see so much potential in expanding in size and increasing the diversity.
 Sierra:  there can be so many approaches.
Serrah:  I think there will always be the DIY element. You have to have both sides for there to be an alternative response.
Sierra:  exactly.
for there to be a petri dish of culture.
Serrah:  And yes, the art fair. Looking forward to seeing how that develops and what that brings.
Sierra:  yeah I hope it imports a bit. that would be refreshing.
 Serrah:  It’s very true to the city to have both sides of the coin, and hopefully we can all get to a place where the different
outlooks and approaches aren’t divisive but are instead supporting and balancing
 Sent at 4:51 PM on Monday
Sierra:  honestly they feed one another and respond to one another.
 Sent at 4:53 PM on Monday
 Serrah:  I’ve always liked juxtapositions anyways.
 Sent at 4:54 PM on Monday
Sierra:  It’s good to have it them!
I just want institutions to start inviting me to things though, I mean I’ve been curating in this city for over five years and still never an invite to an opening. sigh 😉
Serrah:  Yeah, that’s strange. But like we talked about before, maybe you just have to ask. Or we start deciding what we need and just take it.
Sierra:  I’m learning, sometimes Im slow at these things, like how to ask for things.
or for help.
its good to realize you don’t have to do it alone.
Serrah:  Oh totally. Me too. I’m learning to have more of a voice and find the strength in that.
Sierra:  There are a lot of people who will step up and help ya out, I mean without them the vignettes collection wouldn’t exist! For that I am very grateful.
 Serrah:  Megumi and I were talking yesterday about how the best advice to give younger artists is to just reach out, ask for what you want,
collaborate with the people you look up to, if you wish something existed, make it happen.
Sierra:  Definitely.
I was telling a good friend the other night to not act out of fear because if you do it wont get you anywhere, its similar.
Serrah:  Completely! I mean, I started Violet Strays with very little experience and even fewer artistic connections but people trusted me,
got on board, and created beautiful, new work
Sierra:  You gotta be open and ask for what you need and want and put yourself out there.
Serrah:  Yes! No fear.
Sierra:  yeah and it was such a brilliant concept.
there really isn’t anything else quite like it around.
 Serrah:  I purchased a rose leather wallet from Vignettes by Lindsey Apodaca that says No Fear three times on it. It’s on my drafting table so I look at it on the daily. It’s such a good reminder.
 Sierra:  I love that wallet.
That’s why I want to approach the gallery artist relationship differently.
to give the artist more because they deserve it.
to enable.
 Serrah:  As a curator it’s humbling and amazing that people are willing to share their art with you. To trust you to care for it. I take it seriously.
 Sent at 5:02 PM on Monday
Serrah:  I like the word enabler so much better than curator. Just because it feels more true, at least in my practice.
me:  definitely, I feel more like a facilitator and an enabler.
Serrah:  It’s like ‘how can I help this person be their best?’ ‘how can I care for their creations?’
Sierra:  true and its about creating space and room and trusting the artist
That is currently a theme in the next two Vignettes off-site exhibits.
We will be guest curating at GLASS BOX gallery, which is the old OHGE LTD. space for the month of March.
Serrah:  I love the risk and trust that comes into play within the relationship between curator and artist. To me that relationship can make or break an exhibition.
Sierra:  that is so true.
Serrah:  I’m so excited for those exhibits! And that the Glass Box gallery exists. New spaces are important. I was just talking to Paul
Komada and he was saying that it feels like there is a real revival and good energy happening, what with Glass Box, The Alice (at the old LxWxH space) and Interstitial having a physical space in Georgetown as well.
Sierra:  Yes, I’m always happy to see new spaces. We can always use space.
Sent at 5:07 PM on Monday
Sierra:  There is always someone to exhibit!
 Serrah:  and Rafael with Studio 126 Seattle.
Sierra:  yes!
Rafael is such an inspiring artist in this city.
Serrah:  I think that’s going to be important too, creating a space for artists to be commercially viable, creating community.
 Sierra:  He is young, originally form outside of the country and exhibits both in and outside of the city.
Serrah:  He’s smart and poetic and just the sweetest as well.
Sierra:  yes and yes!
and yes!
Well you know thats a big part of artists selected for Vignettes, they are brilliant artists and compassionate people. Or at least that’s my impression of them 🙂
Serrah:  gosh, we’ve been so gushy about Seattle and it’s people and Vignettes artists.  🙂
Sierra:  seriously.
talk about a love fest.
well I have an excuse I was recently not here and fell back in love with it, haha
 Serrah:  totally. I was going to say that. I know I wasn’t involved in Vignettes back when the artists were selected but I look through them and I love all of them and I wouldn’t change a one!
Sierra:  however I am getting really hungry sitting here and typing.
I wouldn’t either.
Serrah:  You need to get food!
 Sierra:  haha I do!
Okay, this was a lot of fun.
Serrah:  The best.
me:  I’m excited for the future and the unknown.
and drinking lots of tea.
Serrah:  I’m so glad to be working with you. Thank you for picking me to join you and Vignettes!
yes! The now and the next!
 Sierra:  It just made sense to me. I didn’t think much about it.
Situational Luck.
You were the perfect other half
now lets do this.
Serrah:  Go!
onward and forward. xo
Now get yourself something to eat, my dear!
Sierra:  will do! Talk to you later xx
Serrah:  Always! Thank you! xo

Serrah Russell | Scraps

Essay by Rich Smith | Photographs by Megumi Shauna Arai


“I don’t want to know the answer; I want to feel the question.” // Serrah Russell.


The halls of the Klee Building smelled of weed and bubblegum as I walked them on my way to Russell’s apartment, which, as is the case for many in a rent-hiked city, also serves as her studio. Russell has no explanation when I ask her about the funny combo of smells in the hallway, but is quick to offer water, iced water, tea, iced tea, a place to sit, anything I need. She gives me the tour. If you step out onto her balcony and look west, you can see a sweeping view of Elliott Bay, its expanse of blue, its islands and mountains that are easy to confuse with clouds. Look due north and you can see a wall of other condo windows. Living rooms with the television off. A dude in a Facebook t-shirt just standing up. Couches with nobody on them. And to the east is downtown Seattle with its pile of towers marching up to Capitol Hill. Mountains and buildings, street lamps and trees, garbage and gold.


On top of all that she’s got these amazing desk lamps that look as if they could have been recovered from a sunken ship’s captain’s quarters. It’s at this desk where she puts in most of her hours. A framed piece by Stand Up Comedy above her desk reads: “I’m Working Hard to Make Art Come Easier,” which seems to be the mantra of her newfound routine. “Every morning I force myself to sit here and work for an hour. I even allow myself to feel bored if I need to.”


She sounded like she was doing her best to hold back a Virginian accent—echoes of twang and gentry—and the hard work ethos she’s adopted reminds me of the protestant ethics pumped into the young boys and girls of my hometown in the Midwest, but she’s lived in Washington her whole life. As a conversationalist, she’s a quick talker. Her thinking is discursive—ideas fracture, and then she loops back to complete them. And its here, in the way in which the English language courses through her, where the connection between her thinking processes and her art-making process seem most apparent to me. Indeed, Russell admits to being a heady creator: “I spend so much time finding the fragments, thinking about them, matching them up, creating them, discarding them, and then repeating this process again and again.” Though an individual piece might only take a few moments to construct, so much thinking and failure precedes a given piece that each seems to hold the weight of hours of work.


In her collages Russell upends our sense of scale and of likeness: warm hands root mountains in air, pleather shares a line with lace, hotel hallways fill with turbulent water–or are they clouds? Her work reveals an eye drawn to weaving together seemingly disparate images. She’s got an eye that sees the limb in a limb, the high ridge in a window still, and the maple leaf in a Dick’s burger wrapper tumbling down the street. When she jams a log next to the wrist of a disembodied limb, she’s opening up radiances of relation between objects. In her more abstract work she delights in jamming together textures that don’t often share a stage, and playing with angles in a way that blurs the line between the image and the frame of the piece.



As far as subject is concerned, she seems most interested in exploring human experience through natural elements. “Everyone knows what a tree is. So a landscape can allow a commonality of experience, where the viewer can bring her own thing to it. I suppose I could show someone’s sad face, but I’d rather show a tree that’s degraded with all its leaves blown off.” Her generosity toward the viewer extends to her treatment of these landscapes, too: “I like that landscapes feel simultaneously solid and yet constantly in flux. It feels permanent and totally not, somehow.” By not directing us one way or another, we viewers are kept in this same kind of flux, which empowers us to take our own paths of interpretation and appreciation. In this way, her clipped and minimal landscapes give us space to create our own vast and detailed countries.


These fragments, she claims, are not worlds but are of a world. And this idea hits on another of her obsessions: absence and presence, the way in which something that’s there indicates something that isn’t there, or vice versa. “You don’t always get to keep everything, you know? But you do get to keep a part, and I’m interested in what you can tell with that little part.”


Lately, though, she’s been thinking about going big, making larger pieces that pop off the page—but she’s reticent. “I haven’t been making large pieces because I think that the “bigger equals better” thing is an idiotic idea. It’s kind of macho. But then I think, ‘Is my work smaller because of what it is, or is it because of a lack of having seen other female role models of this sort of thing?’” She shows me a version of a piece she did for Portland Center Stage, a large collage of body parts done in greyscale. Everything in the piece has its opposite pair: black and white, hard lines and soft lines, smooth and rough textures, masculinity and femininity: the piece explores the very question that worried her about making it in the first place. If she plans to continue to bring to her larger works this level of sophistication and thought, then I say blaze on ahead, sister.







bring to light

Serrah Russell and Julia Salamonik

August 2, 2011

There are some who let you in as you travel along, some where closeness is found. It is them who sway our fascination. We are waiting, always hoping to glimpse their intimacy and it is that precise moment we delight to preserve.