Cascadia’s new exhibitions offer a study in artistic contrasts

The exhibits explore the roots of abstract painting in the Northwest and rare photographs from master pictorialists.

EDMONDS — Cascadia Art Museum opened three new exhibitions June 5 — two of which have contrasting ideas.

“Origins: Northwest Abstract Art,” focusing on the roots of abstract and non-objective art in the Northwest, “Painted with Light: Northwest Pictorialist Photography,” featuring rare photographs by Northwest masters of pictorialism, and “Gifts and Promised Gifts to the Museum’s Permanent Collections: Part II,” in celebration of the museum’s fifth anniversary, all are showing through Oct. 10.

David Martin, museum curator, explained that he paired the exhibits “Origins” and “Painted with Light” not because they go together, but because they don’t.

“They’re like opposites; they’re so drastically different,” Martin said. “I like to plan shows like that where you go from one exhibition and then you go into another that is so completely different. You get these extreme points of view.”

“Origins: Northwest Abstract Art” features abstract and non-objective art from 1920 to 1960.

Peter and Margaret Camfferman were among the earliest modernist painters in the Northwest. Peter (1890-1957) and Margaret (1881-1964) moved to Langley in 1915. Husband and wife established an artist colony at their home on Whidbey Island.

The Camferrmans, who both trained at the Minneapolis School of Fine Art, taught at Brackenwood Art Colony until Peter’s death in 1957.

“Unlike Mark Tobey and Morris Graves, the Camferrmans liked to progress with their art and didn’t have many people collecting their work,” Martin said. “It just wasn’t important to them, although they did well even nationally. They were self-sustainable on Whidbey Island and didn’t seek the publicity.”

Another avant-garde artist, Maude Kerns (1876-1965) was one of the earlier exhibitors at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting in New York, now known as the Guggenheim Museum. The Oregon artist also showed her work at the Seattle Art Museum and the Eugene Art Center, which was named the Maude Kerns Art Center after her death in 1965.

Kerns studied at the University of Oregon, the San Francisco Art Institute and the Columbia University Teacher College. After earning her degree at Columbia, she taught for Seattle Public Schools for 14 years.

Also in the exhibit are works by Louise Crow (1891-1968), Raymond Jonson (1891-1982), Mark Tobey (1890-1976), Worth Griffin (1893-1981), Vivian Kidwell (1898-1981), Glen Alps (1914-1996) and Virna Haffer (1899-1974).

“Painted with Light: Northwest Pictorialist Photography” features photographs from 1910 to 1930.

Pictorialism made photography an art form by approaching it the same way painters and printmakers do. The movement was made popular in Washington by the Seattle Camera Club in the early 20th century.

The Northwest masters of pictorialism include Ella McBride (1862-1965), Asakichi “Frank” Kunishige (1878-1960), Myra Albert Wiggins (1869-1956) and Wayne Albee (1882-1937) — most of them members of the Seattle Camera Club.

The exhibit includes Myra Wiggins’ rare platinum print, “Hollyhocks,” which was shown at the 1910 “International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography” at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York. Wiggins was the only Washington artist included in the exhibition.

“The young woman who’s in the ‘Hollyhocks’ photograph — I actually knew her,” Martin said. “I met her right before she passed away. She was Myra Wiggins’ daughter and I met her in 1989. Her name was Mildred.”

Mildred was likely 14 years old in the photograph. She died not long after meeting Martin, in 1990. She was 94.

The “Gifts and Promised Gifts to the Museum’s Permanent Collections: Part II” expands on the previous show.

The museum’s permanent collection, which started in earnest about a year ago, now includes at least 50 works by more than 20 regional artists from the late 19th to the early 20th century.

Lauren Carroll-Bolger, development and marketing manager, said “Gifts and Promised Gifts” led to more gifts to the museum’s permanent collection — enough gifts and promised gifts to stand alone as their own exhibition, hence the “Part II.”

Featured are artworks by Kenneth Callahan (1905-1986), such as his 1930s painting “Mt. Index;” Imogen Cunningham (1883-1976) photography, including the iconic “Unmade Bed” from 1957; and several Northwest landscape paintings by Dorothy Dolph Jensen (1895-1977), one of the founders of Women Painters of Washington in 1930.

The exhibit also includes work by Peggy Strong (1912-1956), Guy Anderson (1906-1998) and Clayton James (1918-2016).

Cascadia was open to members only June 3 and 4. Carroll-Bolger said a record 120 members visited the museum to see the three latest exhibitions in that time — which may be linked to Snohomish County’s COVID-19 vaccination rates.

Her must-see of the new exhibits? It’s Maude Kerns’ “Movement and Counter-Movement” painting from 1943.

“She’s this Victorian woman who is creating this non-objective art, which has no basis in reality,” Carroll-Bolger said. “It’s basically all art elements. It’s an interesting juxtaposition. It’s bright and colorful, and it feels very ahead of her time.”

Originally published by the Everett Herald, written by Sara Bruestle. Thursday, June 10th, 2021.

Read the original article at this link.