Originally published by the Edmonds Beacon on January 27, 2018, written by Maria Mont
Oscar Wilde said that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life.”
Cascadia Art Museum’s new exhibit, “Northwest Design at Mid-Century,” presenting a variety of works and objects that define the Northwest aesthetic from 1948 to 1966, demonstrates the truth of that through a compelling variety of pieces, from paintings to furniture to jewelry and clothing to sculpture and pottery to textiles.
“The midcentury period, following the end of World War II, was a very important period for the United States,” Cascadia Board chairman Lindsey Echelbarger said. “As the economy exploded in the country, so did art and design. Although the work of Northwest artists had been largely forgotten outside of the area, it is not anymore due to the work of Cascadia and other regional museums.”
Walking through the show, visitors are treated to all that is represented by midcentury art and design, but also educated as to just how influential northwest artists were in this movement. Furniture from the period is recognized worldwide, but most may not know that the iconic ION Chair was designed and fabricated in Auburn by Seattle artist/architect/inventor/designer Gideon Kramer.
The exhibit features three ION chairs, as well as several of his other furniture designs.
Next to Kramer, furniture by George Tsutakawa is equally remarkable, including a smooth and spare side table with a bamboo lamp that embodies the movement’s natural, modern sensibility. Several of Tsutakawa’s sculptures are also featured, including a model of his “Fountain of Wisdom” for Seattle Public Library.
“I am grateful to have the opportunity to take two days to put the show together with family members of several of the artists,” Cascadia curator David F. Martin said.
Gerry Tsutakawa, son of George and an artist himself (with a public art sculpture featured in downtown Edmonds), loaned several of his father’s pieces to Cascadia for the exhibit.
Martin expressed his excitement about creating a show with a mix of types of pieces and media. In the same room as Kramer and Tsutakawa, are three stunning dresses, hand-painted or made from one-of-a-kind textiles by artists who are known for work across media types, such as Danny Pierce.
Pierce’s painting, the unexpectedly colorful “Untitled” still life of a cat and watermelon, hangs next to a painting by Katherine Westphal, who is best known for her innovative textiles.
The diversity of the midcentury movement may be one of the most noticeable features of this new exhibit, but the quality and charm and hope of the pieces resonates even more strongly. Whether you like midcentury design or not, each room and hall offered something to smile about and appreciate – somehow natural and simple, yet stylized and deliberate.
And as always, Cascadia makes you proud of the place we call home by showcasing the brilliant and influential artists from the Northwest.
In remarks to the patrons on opening night, Echelbarger made a point to thank volunteers, staff and supporters of the exhibit, which is sponsored by Steve and Gwen Johnson.
“Cascadia now invites a family, or several joining together, to underwrite an exhibition,” Echelbarger said. “We are excited to have Steve and Gwen as our first-ever sponsors. They are a wonderful example of the many people who give of their time and resources in our community.”
Gwen Johnson also leads the museum store, which is worth the visit if you are going to a show or not.
The show opened on Wednesday, Jan. 17, to the largest opening night crowd since the inaugural exhibit at Cascadia nearly three years ago. The museum now has more than 1,200 members.