Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, opus 1700, acrylic on paper

Early in January 2016, I did an extended interview online, the transcript of which is posted here in part in the Interview category. Except for this first post, the posts are listed in reverse order due to the nature of how blogs are posted chronologically, that is, the earliest are at the bottom of the blog file. To read the interview posts in the order of the actual interview, go to the end and work forward.  However, due to the nature of interviews, they can pretty much be read randomly.  There is a certain building of context toward the end of the interview, but most posts stand on their own and deal with a single question.

Q: To get started, I’d like to explore a few aspects of your background. You emerged from Seattle and the University of Washington School of Art right at the end of a particularly significant era in the history of that University’s art department.  At that time it was one of the strongest painting departments  in the world with 17 faculty, two of which were from the famous Black Mountain Arts school. In the previous decade it had produced Chuck Close and Dale Chihuly, and had a  direct connection to the Northwest “mystics” School of Tobey, Graves, Callahan, and Anderson via George Tsutakawa.  Yet, even though you’ve always been focused on painting, you were also quite active in the Seattle Performance Art scene of the time. Why was that? What was going on there? What was it like there at that time?

ReeL: There was tremendous cross-arts collaboration, interaction, and pollination.  Remember this is the city where John Cage met Merce Cunningham  while Martha Graham was at Seattle’s Cornish School of Allied Arts before they all went to New York. They had already set the collaborative tone.  By the time my generation came along, the young dance, theatre, fine art, and music scenes  [music from nascent Grundge to New Music to formal composers] were in constant communication with each other, attending each other’s events and helping each other.

There were people like Stuart Dempster, an ongoing member of the core music group that worked with Merce Cunningham, who were at the University and active in the local arts community. Dempster encouraged everyone to reach across media and ignore boundaries between the various arts.. This ignoring boundaries was an attitude congenial to my own approach to things. I’ve always thrived on diversity.

Q: And the visual arts scene?

ReeL: We had a healthy and thriving gallery scene, with the core older galleries like Foster/White who had handled the Northwest School and first launched Chihuly and many others, New galleries supporting the youngest artists and one of the best alternative spaces in and/or. Eventually the museum also started supporting the younger scene. For example, I was repeatedly asked to lecture there whenever I had an exhibition or an idea the curatorial department thought was interesting. They let me use their slide library and access their collection at any time.  Little things like that to make things easier.

With the collapse of the old port, the adjacent area, Bell Town, was converted from old Seamen’s bars to a thriving arts and cultural scene. Many of us, including myself, had our studios there or close by in the industrial spaces opened up when the shipping moved to the container port south of downtown. I shared a space with another painter on Virginia, about six blocks up from the Virginia Inn, on the fourth floor of an old furniture warehouse looking into the 30th floor of the downtown skyscrapers.  We had over a 1000 square feet with twelve foot ceilings and a sleeping area.  I was living on two to three hundred bucks a month.

[more to come]

Contemporary Abstraction

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, #1925 Rebar 9, acrylic on canvas, 54 x 48 inches

Sullivan Goss : An American Gallery exhibits Erik ReeL’s Rebar 9,  featured  Continue reading “Contemporary Abstraction”

The Pulse of Life

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL studio, canvas stretched on wall

After all the events of the last few weeks, it now feels like months ago when I was listening to the horrific events that unfolded at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, not able to get the images out of my mind.

Especially one young man’s description of his ordeal, hiding in a bathroom stall with 17 [seventeen!!] other people, all wounded, all slowly bleeding to death as they waited over two and a half hours for help [two and a half hours!].  The shooter came around and shot into the stall, but remarkably, never entered it.

The young man said he couldn’t get the smell of the blood out of his mind.  He shot video from inside the stall and sent to friends so that they would know that they were all alive and give some clues to any potential rescuers.  Why did they have to wait almost THREE HOURS for help? Only five made it out alive.  Just heart-rending. Horrible. Horrible.

Continue reading “The Pulse of Life”

Early Drawings

Erik ReeL early drawing
Drawing of John Coltrane by Erik ReeL age 15, pencil on paper, 1967

Continue reading “Early Drawings”

Beauty is a form of knowledge

Reel in studio
Erik ReeL in studio, photo Jonas Lara

A man shoots fashion in the street.  He looks for something the fashion houses haven’t seen yet. He becomes famous. Late in his life he is invited to speak. He says:

“Beauty is a form of knowledge. If you seek beauty, you will find it.”

After the excesses of the 18th century, many would claim that beauty was a superficial pursuit.  But I say:

Just because someone has a superficial idea of beauty does not mean beauty is superficial.

Because that photographer is right. Beauty is a form of knowledge.

Painting Technique

Erik ReeL painting
Erik ReeL, opus 1762, acrylic

Q: I’d like to move on to your technique.  At this point it seems you’ve established a distinct working method involving some very specific techniques. When did you start working in this way, or in this direction.

ReeL:  From the very beginning actually.  There were hints of it in how I combined dry and wet media in that first oil I did when I was twelve. That piece that got kicked out of the student show when I was 15 and put into the professional show was in some ways, technically, a forerunner of my current technique. Then I experimented with a lot of other approaches, often returning to develop this technique further.

When I left college and was involved with the and/or alternative space in Seattle, a bunch of us Continue reading “Painting Technique”