Things That Kill- Fred Birchman


Things That Kill curated by Norman Lundin

“Consider, for example, such varied assassins as leaded water, pills, red meat, too much sun…. Consider, for a moment more, that of the many things that kill, countless are appealingly beautiful as well as lethal, seducing artist and viewer. How to handle these “killers” in such a way that the intended expressive implications are conveyed, is as formidable an artistic challenge as engaging the more overt content implied by the show’s title.” -Norman Lundin

Including work by: Fred Birchman, Brian Blackham, Marsha Burns, Joe Crookes, John Fadeff, Ellen Garvens, Jim Holl, Michael Howard, Amy Huddleston, Caroline Kapp, Dianne Kornberg, Riva Lehrer, Brian Murphy, Elizabeth Ockwell, Anne Petty, Glenn Rudolph, Graham Shutt, Kathy Vargas and Evelyn Woods

September 1 – October 29, 2016
Opening Reception: First Thursday, September 1, 6 – 8pm

Artist Interview #6 Part 3: Fred Birchman


1. In what way is your work a reflection of the theme “Things That Kill”? Is your work for this show in line with or an exception to your usual way of working?
All of the objects are quite literally and obviously, “Things That Kill”. This was definitely not a stretch for me or outside my usual way of working in that I started with a kernel of an idea and riffed on it. It is a bit unusual for me to work thematically, but not too much of a stretch.

2. How did you approach the subject matter?
I took the theme (or the “objects” of the theme) and used them as a basis for the work. For “Overture”, I took the trappings of targets and target shooting and used those elements as an abstraction of sorts, hopefully subjugating the loaded (no pun intended) content. Same for “Hatchet Job”. An axe handle and blade are quite beautiful as objects by themselves and by detaching the pieces, that is a bit more evident. It’s probably no accident that a person could read certain things into the separated objects, such as the detachment of the head from the “heart”, but I view that as an ok subliminal response. Icing on the cake, if you will.

3. Are there any anecdotal notes that may give insight to a new viewer about your work  in “Things that Kill”?
I used to work as an illustrator for my day job and working with themes and content were a given. Conversely, I usually resist narrative or story telling with my studio (fine art) work. That’s hard to do when working with such charged content.

One thing I should admit is that, “Witness” was really Norman’s idea. He was responding to the wrecking balls that I have in many of my current drawings and he suggested I use that. My normal response is to immediately reject that kind of advice, but somehow it stuck and I like what turned out.

IDENTITY Method: Degrees of Separation- F. Scott Hess


IDENTITY Method: Degrees of Separation
Darlene Campbell, Kenny Harris, F. Scott Hess, Ira Korman, Judy Nimtz, Sarah Perry, Robert Schultz & Peter Zokosky

July 7 – August 27, 2016
Opening Reception: July 7, 2016: 6 – 8 pm

Method: Degrees of Separation, the second of three IDENTITY exhibitions, highlights the art process with a special appreciation of historical methods within a voice of haptic ways of seeing. The featured artists come from various points of view—conceptually, pictorially, and aesthetically—yet collectively they share a deep dedication to creating artwork by way of a traditional method. In curator Eleana Del Rio’s words “Tradition by way of ‘method’ – stated loosely – is the exhibition’s topic.”

Artist interview #48: F. Scott Hess


1. What is your ideal working environment? – space, music, lighting, etc.
At various times in my career I’ve had some quite ridiculous studio spaces, like a flat in Vienna where I shared the hall toilet with the old lady next door, or small shacks at two different residences once I moved to Los Angeles. Now I paint in the garage, which seems quite spacious. I get studio envy easily because I’ve never put much effort into where I paint. I see some other artists with spectacular spaces and wish I had that, but have never found it necessary in the creation of my work. I think that is because when painting my head just goes into that image space, and I don’t pay any attention to my surroundings. The lighting has to be good, however I don’t require natural light, just bright and neither too cool or too warm. I also listen to music or books while I work. It is a good time to catch up with the classics of both.

2. Is there a specific motivator in getting you into the studio? – after morning news? coffee? after family is asleep at night?
I don’t need motivation to get into the studio. I’ve been quite prolific over the course of my career. Painting is what I want to do to most, so there is no special effort required. When I was younger I painted from about 9AM into the night, but once I had kids I usually knocked-off at 6PM. Even though the kids are now grown I still stop at six unless I’m under a deadline or just really pushing to finish something.

3. What is your preferred medium? Do you work on one project at a time or several?
Oil paint is the medium I am most at ease with. In college, and a couple of years after, I was just doing drawings and etchings, When I learned to paint (it took at least two years to do it adequately well) I loved the speed of application, the intense color, the variety of brush strokes, and the surface of the paint. I continue to do sketches and life drawing as important means of study, and I do finished drawings when someone asks me to take part in a drawing exhibition, but otherwise my energies are directed towards oil painting. Usually I work on only one piece at a time because I find that most efficient. In my Paternal Suit project I often had ten or more pieces going at once, and that slowed down progress on the whole series.

4. Is there anything you would like to share as personal interests outside of the studio – outdoor activity, cooking, reading, museum/gallery hopping?
Except for art related interests, I’m probably a very boring person. I’d rather be painting than socializing, going out to eat, or seeing a movie. I enjoy hanging out with fellow representational painters the most, as we all have a common interest that consumes us. I have enjoyed traveling with my family, preferring places where we can spend an extended amount of time, like five-weeks north of Rome, a couple of summers in a small village in Greece, or a year in Iran. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in museums all over the world, especially when I was younger, and still enjoy seeing great painting as much as anything out of the studio. My wife and I have always enjoyed hiking in nature, and take two or three long walks a week in our local Griffith Park.

5. In what way is your work a reflection of “tradition by way of ‘method’”?
With all of our screen devices that cascade thousands of images before one’s eyeballs everyday, there isn’t a more traditional method of creation than that of applying colored mud to a woven surface and producing an image meant to be stared at for hours if not years. Mankind has been painting for 40,000 years, so I come from a long history of mud daubers.

6. With the examples of your work represented in IDENTITY Method- Degrees of Separation, are there any anecdotal notes that may give insight into your artist vision to a new viewer?
Transfiguration grew out of a decision my wife made to have the giant rubber tree in our front yard cut down. She was sick of the continuous rain of brown leaves and a root system that invaded the whole neighborhood, but I saw the tree as the most beautiful thing on our property (it sure wasn’t the house). When it came down it felt like a violation ecologically, aesthetically, and personally. Of course, there are wonderful Freudian implications there as well, and so I painted an image with the two of us, a tree coming down behind the houses, and my arms out-stretched in Christ-like identification with its truncated form.

Studio Drama has two sides of the artist at work, the expressive and the critical. You need both of these to make art that is any good. You start in an inspired state, expressing a vision you have as best you can, fluidly and ‘in the zone,’ as they say. But this is a good way to churn out crap as well, so your inner critic has to step-in, take a look at what has been done, and say, “This shirt is the wrong color, that gal’s nose is off-center, this figure has big hands, and the whole composition has to move left three inches.” It is a back-and-forth collaboration between two diametrically opposed individuals. It sort of resembles the US Congress. I’m amazed I ever get anything done.

Kathy Gore Fuss & Amy Huddleston, Direct Observation: Two Approaches


May 7 – June 30, 2016
Reception for the artists: May 7, 2 – 4pm


Both Kathy Gore Fuss and Amy Huddleston work from direct observation, but they use this traditional tool very differently. One would never confuse their two bodies of work.


Four years ago Kathy Gore Fuss began spending much of her painting time out in the forests around her Olympia home rather than in the studio. She was curious how working from direct observation would change her painting. It has sharpened her eye and guided her hand as well as deepened and expanded her narrative vision of the forest. This is perhaps especially true in the work on view as Gore Fuss has, for the past year, filled the unique role of artist in residence at the Port of Olympia, and as such she has had access to the loading facilities and crews of Chinese and Japanese ships that dominate the shipping of lumber at West Coast ports. Her narrative begins in the forest and follows through to the loading dock. While the narrative content, explicit and implied, is there, her intent is not to document but rather to use the “Industrial Forest” as a vehicle for her ideas about painting. Gore Fuss understands that her narrative serves the painting, not the other way around. These paintings are “stand-alone works” and compelling as the story is, do not require the narrative to find meaning as works of art.
– Norman Lundin


Interview #41: Kathy Gore Fuss
1. Are you a full time artist, if not how do you support your art?
My earlier years as an artist were a juggling act between studio time and part-time employment. In the last six years, I have quit all of my fake jobs and work solely on my art.


2. When did you consider yourself an artist?
It was always my dream to be an artist. I was enormously proud of all of the artwork I produced in Elementary School. Walking home from school I was frequently hassled by some bullies who thought it great fun to rip my artwork out of my hands, toss them in puddles and jump up and down on them while laughing. Being a problem solver at an early age, I figured out that I could fold up my paintings, tuck them in my underwear and transport them home safely, much to my mother’s surprise. My first regular exhibitions were, of course, on the refrigerator.


3. What are your influences?
The Impressionists have had a huge hold on my fascination and passion with nature; Pierre Bonnard, Claude Monet, Pierre Cezanne, and Camille Pissarro. I have also looked to the women in our past who dedicated themselves to their craft; Lois Dodd, Alice Neel & Emily Carr. Some of my current heroes are right here in Seattle, Helen O’Toole and Ann Gale.


4. How big is your studio, what kind of lighting?
In 2010 I designed and became general contractor for the construction of my first official studio. The studio is 24 X 32 feet with a 12 foot covered back porch which I use for messy, dust generating projects. There are three skylights that give me good north light along with several windows that offer me views of my gardens and back yard. The property is a double lot; the house is situated on one parcel and the studio is on the other. I live in Olympia, Washington which is an affordable, arts oriented family supportive community 65 miles south of Seattle. This is the first studio I have had that is under my own supervision and it’s a complete delight to know I will work here the rest of my painting life.


5. What is a typical day in the studio like for you? Do you listen to music, radio or tv in your studio?
I was a studio artist for most of my career, working exclusively in my studio space. Ironically, just after I completed the construction of my new studio (2011), I began aggressively painting outdoors (Plein Air). Initially I thought I was intentionally avoiding my new studio space, but the transition in my painting practice shifted outdoors to be in nature. I spend extended amounts of time on site and then return to the studio to the solitude. I do listen to music in my studio. It includes opera, jazz, show tunes, world music and old classics.


6. What is your preferred medium? Do you work on one project at a time or several?
I have worked in a wide variety of materials over the course of my career, but I have returned to my first love: drawing and painting. Oil paint is my medium for painting and graphite, charcoal and pencil are what I rely on for drawings.


7. How is your process different in the studio compared to when you are out in the landscape?
My painting practice starts with direct observation outdoors. When I select a site, I will often work there for weeks or months while developing a relationship with it. Over the course of a year I will move around to different sites, requiring me to address the questions I have about where we live. Wealth and beauty; how do they affect my relationship to nature? My studio work involves analyzing the technical challenges I started wrestling with outdoors. The state of flux, the sense of urgency I work from outdoors gets to take a back seat to a more analytical approach in the solitude of my studio space.


8. In your drawings & paintings, what does it mean for your work to succeed?
I have a vision in my head of what my painting should be. There have been times with a particular painting where it has seduced me into thinking I have solved the dilemmas, answered my questions and I have become the painter I have always hoped I would be. That’s what my artwork and I would describe as “succeeding”. Then the glow wears off; I am humbled and humiliated by my folly and I start another painting or drawing.


9. How do you understand form in relation to expression? Or, what part does expression play in your work?
My process relies heavily on the tension between direct observation and abstraction. My forms are naturalistic; some more organic, others more heavily rooted in geometry. I am most pleased with my painting when my process of abstraction utilizes intentional and reductive interpretations of an objective image. My hope is that my painting will offer enough of the essence of the site with a strong chord of my interpreting how I see it.


10. Do you have any special or unique tools, devices or process that you use in your art making?
I consider my dog as one of my most unique tools when I am working on a site outdoors. He is hard wired to his senses in a way that I aspire to be, but am not. I think he considers himself at work as much as I am when we are in the field. His awareness is acute and he sees, hears and smells things that I might be too self-absorbed to notice. He is my connection to nature.


11. What do you do outside the studio, aside from a job?
Bicycling, hiking, gardening and listening to old jazz records. I start most of my days with one long walk with my dog at a local park. I also offer a one week painting workshop once a year at my studio.