This painting “appeared” to the painter a year ago as she walked along Seattle’s Marion Street in the direction of 18th Ave., where the Immaculate Conception Church stood behind a screen created by the branches of an embracing cherry tree. The image brought to mind Camille Pissarro’s painting Les Toits Rouges, which can be seen in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. It is a painting made near Pontoise, France; a group of houses with brightly tiled roofs behind what the d’Orsay curator calls “densely intrusive vegetation.” Your local painter wanted to see if she could bring home some of the liveliness of Pissarro’s work. At the same time, she found herself intrigued by the Cezanne-like geometry of the neighborhood scene with its intricate web of diagonals and verticals.
October 2018: Nothing stands now on the empty space at 14th Ave and Spring Street in the Central District. One hundred and nine years prior to February 2017, that corner was occupied by the impressive brick, steepled building which became the Progressive Missionary Baptist Church after the United Presbyterians left in 1952. These changes reflect the many demographic shifts which have characterized the CD from its beginnings (Jewish) to Asian (until World War II uprooted its Japanese population) to its isolated condition (African American), the result of red-lined areas south of Madison Street as well as the intrusion of Interstate 5, to its present gentrifying condition in what has become a hot real estate market for Microsoft and Amazon employees (until what next? in the shifting sands of late stage capitalism . . .). "Demolition Man” documents a chapter in this evolution. Soon the inevitable high-priced condominiums will rise.
This is a second attempt to portray a pair of maples growing (for now at least) on 19th Ave in Seattle’s Central District. The first (Power Struggle, 2014) used a tunnel-like one point perspective to include City Light poles, trees reduced to wooden verticals recruited from our forests to support the energy needed to keep humans comfortable and informed. Implicitly, these de-nuded trees witness the impact of harvesting timber to meet human needs. By their side, living maples display the development of trees recruited to satisfy our taste for shade and décor and contorted as a result of conditions determined by human convenience. Their ability to survive in competition with both their defunct cousins and our demands for energy produced the remarkable shapes the painter studied as “plastic values.”
The guy in the psychedelic shirt seems at home in this version of the Central District’s Spring Street, where the double stairs, the empty garage and the nearby houses are “folded over, turned round.” Like the poet’s blue guitar, “things as they are /Are changed” when art happens: tourists will look in vain for this version in any real world. The painter hopes that her audience will enjoy these fictional spaces, explore them with “clandestine steps upon imagined stairs.”
Mid-20th c., Jean DuBuffet declared that only artists uncompromised by the dominant culture were free of its nefarious influence. “Art brut” or “raw art” by painters expressing themselves without formal training was “authentic.” Later in the 1970s, “outsider art,” work produced without the blessing of “high culture,” was thought to be part of a “modern” movement challenging traditional values.
The Queen of Fact, oil on canvas, 30 x 48 inches, copyright ©2017, stands at the corner of East Columbia Street & 18th Ave., behind her a formerly empty lot, the subject of another Perry painting: Immaculate Limo. Equipped with purse and portfolio, she seems ready to join Seattle’s “prosperity bomb.”
A Thing Apart (36”x38,” 2015) is making its first appearance in public today. It has been lingering about the studio for some time past the date when its “real” version disappeared and construction of a new, four unit condominium replaced it at the corner of 17th Ave. and East Marion St. in Seattle’s Central District. The opposite end of this doomed house behind the already X’d wall inspired a still earlier work, Purple Couch (2013).
Fortunately sueperry-paintings is a path selected by few; otherwise its proprietor would need feel even more reprehensible for its neglect since March 2015 when the last post was made. Be that as it may, it’s time to put regrets aside. As a way of re-establishing a foothold in the present, she thinks (on this snowy day in Seattle) to step back and review the Xmas cards familiar to many readers as illustrated Holiday Greetings from Sue and John in the years 2015-2017:
Hey, folks! Please don’t say
“He passed away …” When I’m dead,
Just say that I died.
---John Perry: one of the 2000 haikus from Textes, a book of haiku which John composed in his last four years of life