The Lavender Palette: Gay Culture and the Art of Washington State

In this groundbreaking exhibition, Cascadia Art Museum will be the first museum to explore regional gay culture through the work of early- to mid-twentieth century gay and lesbian artists. This is an important collection that examines the effect this group had on shaping the cultural identity of the region.

The majority of the art in this exhibition has never been seen by the public. Cascadia Art Museum has curated works from family collections, national and local private collections as well as major institutions including the Smithsonian American Art Museum. This is a rare and exclusive opportunity to view these pieces exhibited together before they are returned to their original private collections.

Many people are aware of what is termed “The Northwest School” after a 1953 LIFE magazine article gave the region’s artists a national identity. Three of the four major painters associated with this movement were gay and this exhibition will be examining their work in relation to their personal life experiences.

The Lavender Palette exhibition will feature a few well-known artists such as Mark Tobey (1890-1976) and Morris Graves (1910-2001). However, the strength of the exhibition will be in the reintroduction of extraordinarily talented but lesser-known figures such as Thomas Handforth (1897-1948), Mac Harshberger (1900-1975), Orre Nelson Nobles (1894-1967), Sarah Spurgeon (1903-1985) and Virginia Weisel (1923-2017). Mediums represented include paintings, drawings, photography, design objects and ceramics.

***Mature Content: Please note that our West Gallery will feature paintings and photography that will be viewable only by adults over the age of 18.

Image credits:

  • Thomas Handforth (1897-1948), Untitled, circa 1950. Conté Crayon. Collection of the Tacoma Public Library
  • Orre Nelson Nobles (1894-1967), Seattle Waterfront Design, for the Fette-Li Company, Peking, China, 1930. Private collection
  • October 24, 2019 - January 26, 2020