Every so often I pop into Bellevue Arts Museum, and whenever I do, I realize I should go more often. Don’t be fooled by the museum’s focus on craft: This is a place that does exactly what good art should do–it blurs the boundaries. Aesthetically-driven craft, sculptural art–it’s all there, from Tip Toland’s eerie, life-size nudes to Etsuko Ichikawa’s gorgeous, ceiling-high slashes of flame.
Just opened this month is “Intertwined,” an exhibition of contemporary baskets from the collection of Arizonans Sara and David Lieberman. And it’s awesome. Taking up nearly all of the second floor, the show involves artists from all over the world, and in a jaw-dropping array of media. There’s embroidered felt, seagrass and rice paper, twine, zippers, pistachio shells, stainless steel mesh, cherry and maple shavings, grapefruit peel, beads, feathers, horsehair–anything and everything can be woven, apparently.
One of the artists is Jill Nordfors Clark, a Tacoma artist whose basketry is inspired by Native Northwest art. Her piece in the show, “Desert Journey” (leftish as you come up the stairs) is built of four-foot-high canes, brittle-thin, which are bound by gut in a honeycomb pattern. Desert-colored, reaching straggling up past their bindings, the canes sway and swim in the formal gut weavings. The minimal neatness is offset by this random rhythm.
Clark’s represented in Tacoma by the American Art Company. Here’s what she has to say about working with hog gut (also known as sausage casing):
“You can buy natural sausage casing packed in salt from a meat market. When wet, it is white, opaque, and resembles fettuccine. When dry, the casing becomes transformed into a delicate, translucent, parchment-like material.”
Other highlights: a tiny Pomo-style basket in willow and feather that would hold a quarter, maybe; a sculpture of two conjoined “Sisters” in a petticoat of woven twine; a swirling basket of salmon skins (tails flying) from Native Alaskan Fran Reed; and a host of restrained bamboo vessels from Japanese artists.
“Intertwined” is a beautiful, extensive and unusual collection, worth a trip to Bellevue any day.
Bellevue Arts Museum is open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Fridays, 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Sundays at 510 Bellevue Way NE, Bellevue (opposite Bellevue Square mall.) Admission is $9 adult/$7 seniors and students/free for under-six and first Fridays.