Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Studio visit: Nate Braunfeld

I had the pleasure of meeting up with Nate Braunfeld in his International District studio in Seattle this week.  Nate is midstride in completing several projects for upcoming exhibitions* and in documenting his work before moving out of his studio (and out of the Northwest), but I was able to catch him before everything was packed up and shipped out.

Here are some images of Nate in his studio with projects new and old:

Nate Braunfeld in his studio

Nate's workbench with parts of the 'Triangulation' series

In his work, Nate condenses, collapses and implodes landscapes.  He is interested in real data points—be it the specific topography of the Puget Sound basin or panoramic views as observed from particular peaks in the North Cascades.  Nate is intrigued by the idea that we seek out these places, in solitude, to have transformative experiences that connect us to things greater than ourselves.  At the same time, he is a bit cynical at the idea of seeking out—of pursuing—such an experience.  In restructuring the landscape, Nate’s work requires viewers to reconsider and redefine their relationship to space and to place and to the universe.  At times Nate’s work puts you at the center of it all and dwarves you by packing in an impossible density of information about the landscape that surrounds you.  In other works, he shrinks and condenses space and time in ways that make you feel particularly large, but moved to consider the details of a landscape shrunk so small that you peer into it, as though staring into a crystal ball.

For To Be Alone Together Nate will be creating work in dialogue with a large Paul Horiuchi collage.  At the time of our visit, Nate was very much entrenched in considering how to respond to the Horiuchi piece.  He is compelled by the work’s atmospheric quality—in the way in which it speaks to a soft, misty light and by the absence of any figure or horizon line within the work.  Nate has given himself a couple of parameters: fog and photography.  Both wrestle with light, one in its dispersal, the second in its capture.  He is mid-stride in generating methods in which to capture light as it is dispersed.

In the past, Nate has used photography as a component in his sculptural works, but seldom does he ask his photographs standalone.  He wonders if just taking a photograph is too easy?  For this new work, Nate is posing for himself the challenge of how to make a photograph be enough on its own, rather than as one of many elements in a sculpture.  Is there a way to multiply or to distill the image or to alter the basic photographic materials and imagery to their essence in a way that moves beyond a snapshot or a traditional landscape image?   When does a photograph become more than a record of an event, an expression or a place?

Nate shared with me a range of artists and artistic approaches that are influencing his thoughts and his process for this new piece along with the Horiuchi collage. 

Here are a few:

David Hockney, Christopher Isherwood Talking to Bob Holman, 
Santa Monica, collage of chromogenic prints on board, 1983 

Michael Wesely, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2004

Robert Smithson, A Non Site, Franklin, New Jersey, 1968

Chris Engman, Three Moments, 2009

I asked Nate whether he considered himself to be a Northwest artist?  Yes.  And for him, our particular landscape of tall mountain peaks and the mistiness of our weather have given him an appreciation for and a curiosity about sightlines—about what we can see and from where and under which weather conditions.  Much of Nate’s work relies on collapsing and expanding sightlines, allowing the viewer to see and to comprehend more at once than they would otherwise be able to see.

Here is a sneak peeks at some of Nate’s latest work:

Dimensions: 33" x 17" x 14"

Dimensions: 28" x 18" x 50" 

Finally, I asked Nate whether he had to pick one: alone or together?  Alone.

*In addition to seeing Nate’s new work at the MoNA October 4th, 2014 – January 4, 2015, as part of To Be Alone Together, you can see more of his work at the following exhibitions:

Bellevue, WA

Pilchuck Eair Exhibition
Seattle, WA
10/17/14- 11/29/14

Schack Art Center
Everett, WA

You can also find out more about Nate and his artwork on his website:

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Artists Visit MoNA Collection

As we all know, an image of artwork never does the work justice. Thus, two Saturdays in June and July, nearly all of the artists in To Be Alone Together were able to make the trip up to La Conner to view the works selected for them in the MoNA collection. Artists studied the works, explored the gallery for ideas on site-specific pieces, and learned more about the collection from MoNA Exhibitions Director Lisa Young. And no trip to La Conner would be complete without stops at the farm stands and ice cream parlors!

Thanks to all the artists who took time out of a precious summer Saturday to join us, and thanks to Lisa for making the collection so accessible.

 Paul Komada examines the pieces of Doris Chase's Ad Lib Moon.

Michelle Penaloza jotting ideas while looking at MoNA collection works

Monday, July 7, 2014

Barbara Straker James quote

The following quote is one that sits permanently on the walls of the MoNA Gallery. Barbara Straker James joined MoNA as Curator in 1995, and built the MoNA collection (now numbering approximately 4,000 pieces) until her retirement in 2002.  Barbara was married to artist Clayton James, painter and sculptor. James's painting, Yellow Night , is included in this exhibition, being paired with work by Aaron Haba. Seattle poet Michelle Penaloza will work from Barbara's quote, as well as take a more global view of the exhibition and the history of Northwest Art through her work. 

The Museum of Northwest Art is
dedicated to the art of this region.
The idea of a “special Northwest
vision” and the museum that 
emerged from it owes its genesis
to the artists who came of age in
the cultural isolation of the late
30’s and 40’s. Never a school,
neither wholly consistent, nor 
totally inclusive it nevertheless
succeeded in creating a  fresh
language and new imagery which 
established a regional identity for
the first time. But time and art 
move on - -  like rivers of the
Northwest which are narrow at
their source and broad as they
sweep down into the valleys; art
defies limitation, ignores
restraints, moves on in an endless
flow, redefining itself, absorbing
new influences, facing new
challenges. The Museum of
Northwest Art reflects this flow.
Barbara Straker James
Curator Emeritus