It is a great honor to be invited to be a blind juror for an exhibition, and also a great source of stress. For a call as expansive as this—the Contemporary Northwest Print Invitational—I wanted to do right by you, the printmaking community of the Pacific Northwest.
While there were hundreds of excellent submissions to choose from, I ultimately strove to select works which communicated, skillfully and with emotion, contemporary perspectives of the region that are less visible in our cultural economy—works that may not make a good postcard for tourists, but which helped me to see this place from alternative vantage points.
The pieces I selected can be roughly grouped in four categories:
- Portraits of Resilience and Resistance: these images celebrate and, in some cases, advocate for communities that are the backbone of the Pacific Northwest but whose experiences have been pushed to the margins. I was especially taken by the artists’ skills in linocut and woodcut in this grouping, as they recall the strong history of printmaking towards social transformation: I saw shades of WPA posters, Emory Douglas’s venerational images for the Black Panther community newspaper, and slices of life carvings familiar to me from my youth in the Philippines.
- Nature in the Round: incorporating circularity into their compositions, these prints made visible to me the cycles of birth, life, and death inherent to our natural world, which have been gravely interrupted by capitalism and environmental destruction. If we view them as mandalas, how might we use them to begin to think and to act to break the cycles of violence which harm us all?
- Sky and Sea in Soft Focus: these two pieces by different artists evoke the style of pictorialism, and in doing so interrupt the divisions that my mind makes between photography and printmaking, and between reality and imaginary. I would like to live in these expansive spaces, rather than continuing to be confined at home in this time of pandemic-induced quarantine.
- Space, Deconstructed: These three prints function as spatial studies that abstracts sites we believe we already “know,” such as the Duwamish River. In their effective use of layering, these prints engage us multi-sensorially and affectively. I do not need to see a mountain to be moved by the waterscapes and landscapes of this gorgeous region, or to recognize beauty amongst the disorder and difficulty of the city.
Finally, I included “Tardigrades In The Field,” an intaglio print that utilizes a style very much associated with European imperialism—the maps! the banknotes!—for absurd and visually striking ends which I imagine are also subversive in intention. In this moment where so many of us are fighting for our lives, I want to take up the mascot of a microscopic bear that can survive massive amounts of radiation, and come out on the other side happy, healthy, miraculously enormous, and with their community intact. What a vision for us all in the Pacific Northwest, indeed.
-Thea Quiray Tagle
About Thea Quiray Tagle
Thea Quiray Tagle, PhD is a scholar, curator, educator, and writer whose research broadly investigates socially engaged art and site-specific performance; visual cultures of violence; and grassroots responses to political and environmental collapse in the expanded Pacific Rim. She holds a PhD in Ethnic Studies from UC San Diego, and is faculty in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts & Sciences at the University of Washington Bothell. Her writing has been published in the Journal of Critical Ethnic Studies, Asian Diasporic Visual Cultures and the Americas, Hyperallergic, Art Practical, and at the Center for Art + Thought. She has written catalog and exhibition texts for artists including Alejandro T. Acierto, Romson Regarde Bustillo, Dewey Crumpler, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Azin Seraj. She has presented her research, facilitated public programs, and curated contemporary art and performance exhibitions at venues including the Asian Art Museum (San Francisco), The Alice Gallery (Seattle, WA), Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Vachon Gallery at Seattle University, and the Smithsonian National Museum of American History.