Art Happened

Art Happened

It was a busy weekend in the Alexander household, but a fun one. In a wild convergence of entertainment, an enormous collection of events happened in Seattle. Griffey’s number was retired (24EVER!), Seafair—the annual hydroplane races and Blue Angels air show—were going on right outside my backdoor, and art was happening, a lot of art.

Longtime readers know that my amazing wife and partner in this life, Kari-Lise Alexander, is a painter, so art and art-related things were on our agenda for most of the weekend. If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw my Instagram Stories over the weekend. But, I am a writer, not a photographer, and I wanted to expand on everything a bit more.


THURSDAY

Stars on Her Eyes - Kari-Lise Alexander, 2016
Stars on Her Eyes – Kari-Lise Alexander

It was the first Thursday of August, which meant it was also the First Thursday Art Walk. Kari-Lise had a piece in the Seattle Squared show (this one) at a gallery called Axis. It was a fun little event. It was a good start to our art weekend, and it’s nice to see the neighborhood buzzing with life. I went and hit up another show across the street at a relatively new gallery, and then we bopped over to check out The Drawnk Show. I ended up hanging out with folks until late and arguing why Mad Max was one of the best movies ever made.

 


FRIDAY

The second Seattle Art Fair was taking place, and we made it a point to attend. This year’s event was even better than the last. A ton of amazing work ranging from sculpture to installation was displayed. Choosing a favorite piece was tough, but I think the highlight for me was Hew Locke‘s The Wine Dark Sea, Group 4. What I saw was just a small selection of his full series, but the works were fascinating, intricate, and carried a lot of meaning. There was a lot to unpack.

Hew Locke, The Wine Dark Sea
The Wine Dark Sea, Group 4 – Hew Locke

After spending three hours browsing the fair, we checked out Juxtapoz x Superflat, curated by Takashi Murakami. It was incredible. It was nice to see a new venue in Seattle focusing on new contemporary and pop-surrealist artists. The artists participating are all well established names and it was good to see another presence like that in Seattle.

superflat
Left to right: Selected Sculpture – Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor, Daybreak – Paco Poment

SATURDAY

DeathandtheMaiden
Left to Right: The Arsenic Waltz (Detail) – Redd Walitzki, Abby’s Ghost (Detail) – Travis Louie, Nosto (Detail) – Syd Bee

Roq La Rue has been a mainstay of the Seattle art scene for a long time, and it has become a keystone in the low-brow and pop-surrealism movements. It was the first gallery I ever visited when I moved to Seattle, and I’ve been hitting its events regularly for the last eight years.

PickingthePerfectPoison
Picking the Perfect Poison – Kari-Lise Alexander

Saturday was the launch party for its final show, Death and the Maiden 2. Kari-Lise had a piece in that show as well. Picking the Perfect Poison (pictured right) is one of my favorites and lucky for you prints are available. We spent a majority of the evening at the gallery hanging out with everyone who came out to see the show. It was great to see such a wide selection of Seattle artists represented.

It was also bittersweet. After the pieces come down, Roq La Rue is going away. It closes its doors this September. During the show and at the afterparty, a lot of locals—artists and fans alike—were sharing memories of the gallery and reflecting on how it had impacted our lives. It’s been a focal point of art walks for both Kari-Lise and me, and its exodus will be felt.


So, yeah, art happened and it was amazing. There were a few shows I missed, in particular, the Out of Sight show, which I regret. Our Sunday ended up being much quieter. We didn’t go to any galleries. I did some reading and spent a little time researching. I couldn’t get my brain in a space to write properly (despite my grand intent earlier in the week). Seafair was winding down. The Olympics were on. The Mariners swept the Angels.

It was a good weekend.

Influence my 2017 Convention Schedule

Help Influence my 2017 Convention Schedule

We’re smack dab in the middle of 2016, so it probably seems odd that I’m posting about conventions for next year. But, here we are, time waits for no author. It’s that time of year when I begin to look into my schedule for 2017, and I need your help. Currently, I’m looking at attending the following conventions:

What I want to know from you is what I am missing? What convention would you like to see me attend? Where should I go? What should I check out? Help me out! You can make suggestions one of two ways. The first is to leave a comment below. The other option is to shoot me an email at hello@kmalexander.com.

I’m open to any and all suggestions! One caveat, if it’s out of range for me driving-wise, I probably won’t run a table (logistically it becomes too difficult/annoying for me to haul books around), but I’d seriously consider panelist participation anywhere and everywhere.

Leave a suggestion!

riot

Yes, It’s Happening in Books

For a while now, in light of the recent string of tragedies we’ve seen in the world, I’ve watched fellow authors make a particular comment. (Most of the time on social media.) It can be paraphrased as such:

“None of the things happening in the world right now are happening in books.”

Okay, I can understand where they are coming from, but such a blanket statement feels a touch fantastical. Yes, the violence, destruction, hatred, and bigotry in books have little impact on the real-life lives of people, and yes, there is a solace there. But, to say those things don’t happen in the pages of fiction feels a little naive. Fiction deals with challenging topics all the time. Look at many popular book series on the market today; nothing is off-limits.

Take J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, which began as a children’s book; it danced with bullying, bigotry, racism, and the aftereffects of murder. Harry Potter himself suffers, at the very least, mental abuse at the hands of his aunt and uncle (you could probably argue physical abuse as well.)

The world of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, a darling of the YA genre, is horrific. The children of an enslaved populace are forced to fight to the death for the entertainment of a wealthy, hedonistic society and its corrupt government. It’s not a pleasant place.

George R. R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series, which is the most mature of these examples, deals with the consequences following a myriad of tragedies. You name it, and it’s there: violence, rape, murder, torture, war, slavery, incest, rebellion, terrorism, bigotry, regicide, patricide and on and on and on and on. The novels are laden with grim events.

That is how it should be. It is what makes fiction so great. Fiction is a safe space that lets us confront those problems; fiction lets us experience both the beautiful and the terrible. It allows us to see different perspectives that we may never face in our daily lives. That kind of intellectual experience hones us as people. It makes it possible for us to build up generous amounts of empathy, so when real-world problems confront us (and they will, believe me), we will have the tools to face them. As Neil Gaiman so eloquently explained in his essay Little Triggers,

“There are still things that profoundly upset me when I encounter them, whether it’s on the Web or the word or in the world. They never get easier, never stop my heart from trip-trapping, never let me escape, this time, unscathed. But they teach me things, and they open my eyes, and if they hurt, they hurt in ways that make me think and grow and change.”

It does a great disservice to hand-wave away the terrible and sometimes disturbing themes of fiction. If anything, I believe that they should be celebrated. The personal value brought on by these perspectives is unmeasurable to us as a society, and thankfully—unlike real life—if a book ever gets to be too much, we can always close it for a little while.

Vince Lombardi

If We Chase Perfection…

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”

Vince Lombardi


Saw this quote posted over on The Passive Voice today, and I knew I had to share it here. Great advice from one of the greatest NFL coaches of all time. Creative pursuits are always a struggle, but the only way to lose is to quit. Chin up. Shoulders forward. Press through. You got this.

Unrelated: I cannot wait for football to start.

Where in the World was K. M. Alexander?

Trails of the Broken Road

Kari-Lise and I spent some time wandering the trails of the Broken Road (yep, it’s based on a real place) over the long holiday weekend. I shared a little collage on Instagram, but I wanted to post the larger pics here. Enjoy.

Everything here was shot with my iPhone 6S and processed with VSCO.

The Masonic Gunboat

The Masonic Ironclad

Recently, I have found myself researching the American Civil War for my “riverpunk” project, Coal Belly. I have always been drawn to that era, the division of the United States was dramatic enough, but couple that with the rapid advances in technology and it makes for a strange world. Since Coal Belly is primarily a Weird Western that centers around steamboats and rivers, I was doing research into the riverboats of the Union Navy during the Civil War. That, in turn, led me to pictures of ironclad gunboats, which brought me to the USS Baron DeKalb.

USS St. Louis later renamed the USS Baron Dekalb
Commissioned as the USS St. Louis, this gunboat was later renamed the USS Baron DeKalb

It’s an intriguing photo that displays the tank-like aspect of early naval gunboats; because of their half-submerged shell-like appearance you can see how they got the nickname “pook turtles.” Usually, I file away images like this into an “Inspirations” folder, but before I could do that, I noticed something strange in the picture. There is a small, odd object hanging on the spreader bars between the DeKalb’s stacks. Let’s zoom in a bit closer…

Masonic Symbol hanging between the stacks of the USS Baron Dekalb
Is that a Masonic symbol hanging between the stacks of the USS Baron DeKalb?

Look familiar? That certainly appears to be the Freemason Square and Compasses hanging above the boat. There’s even a ghostly “G” fixed in the middle. Now, there have been are many books (fiction and nonfiction works) and loads of silly conspiracy theories written about Freemasonry’s ties to the founding of America. It is common knowledge that many of our founding fathers were involved in fraternal organizations. So while seeing a Freemason device hanging on the spreader bars of a US naval vessel did not come as a surprise to me; I was intrigued.

The mystery did not stop there. I spent more time poking around and found a few other interesting tidbits. One site noted the odd similarities between this photos of the USS Baron DeKalb and the USS Carondelet. It’s pretty uncanny. In fact, you could argue they are the same picture, just edited ever so slightly. The forward flag has changed between the images, and the Carondelet seems to have an inverted star in place of the Masonic symbol, but a lot of the photo is identical, even the trees in the background.

USS Carondelet (Left) and the USS Baron Dekalb (Right)
USS Carondelet (Left) and the USS Baron DeKalb (Right)

I also found an article reposted from the Scottish Rite Journal that suggested that one of the Dekalb’s captains was most likely a Mason, which could explain the symbol. Additionally, General Baron DeKalb—the riverboat’s namesake—was also a Freemason. So it’s possible the device was hung out of respect for him.

What does this all mean? I don’t know! Nevertheless, it is an entertaining little mystery and one I was happy to stumble upon. Many of my loyal readers know that I am a collector of American folk art that stems from American fraternal organizations and secret societies (particularly the Independent Order of Odd Fellows,) so it is always fun when I find bits and bobs like this during research. It’s a good example of how rich and complex our history can be, and how little details can lead to expansive stories in their own right. Plus, it was just too much fun to keep to myself.