Arts and Entertainment

Review: Eye-catching exhibits will also make you think

VALISE Gallery members peruse a collection of banned books that is part of the gallery’s current all-Island show based on the theme of censorship. - Elizabeth Shepherd/Staff Photo
VALISE Gallery members peruse a collection of banned books that is part of the gallery’s current all-Island show based on the theme of censorship.
— image credit: Elizabeth Shepherd/Staff Photo

Two big exhibits with lively, ecumenical approaches to art are on view right on Vashon, and you don’t want to miss either one of them.

The shows — “The Elephant in the Room, the Snake in the Suitcase, or What is Censorship, Anyway?” at VALISE Gallery and a group show of work by dozens of Vashon High School art students at the Blue Heron — both present ample evidence that Vashon is a place were lots of people feel free to express themselves. 

VALISE’s show, which was open to anyone who wanted to bring a work to the gallery, came in response to an incident that happened recently at Two Wall Gallery.

Back in February, a controversy erupted when the owner of the building that housed Two Wall made an unannounced gallery visit and personally took down several artworks, including a series of photographs of gay couples.

It was a low moment in the Island art scene, one that wasn’t improved by breathless coverage of the story by Seattle news outlets including KOMO-TV and The Stranger. 

The artist collective that makes up VALISE Gallery decided to do something proactive about the incident, and “The Elephant in the Room” is the result. The show explores not only the question of how artists are censored by others, but the different ways they sometimes censor themselves. 

There are more than 75 works in the show —  many of them stunningly beautiful, a few of them side-splitingly funny and all deeply personal. A thick binder filled with the stories behind each artwork is at the front of the gallery, and it’s fascinating to read why each artist in the show contributed what he or she did.

The main takeaway from VALISE’s show is that it takes a lot of courage and a big leap of faith to be an artist. 

At the Blue Heron’s show of work by Vashon High School students, there’s a different message — that the Island’s reputation for being an artist’s haven is in no danger of dying out with the next generation. 

Art teacher Amy Dubin and Blue Heron gallery curator Janice Mallman chose more than 100 pieces of art by dozens of students for the eye-popping show. With everything from gorgeous jewelry to shiny tile work to meticulous prints to heartfelt paintings, this is an exhibit the whole Island can be proud of. The kids are all right, indeed.

Both shows prove that art is not only something to look at — it’s something to think about, as well. It matters how well a community nurtures and treats its artists.

This month, it seems, Vashon is doing just fine. 

 

VALISE Gallery will be open from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday, May 21, for a walk through and celebration of its current exhbition. Call 463-5131 for Blue Heron Gallery hours.

 

 

 

 

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