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Memories inspire Bellingham artists for February Art Walk

Local artists seem to be bringing out a lot of work they’ve created over the last several rainy winter months for the Downtown Art Walk from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6, in downtown Bellingham, sponsored by the Downtown Bellingham Partnership.

Some of them are longtime artists, some are new to the game.

Steve Reed studied painting at Ohio University in the 1960s, but didn’t pick up the brush again until nine months ago. He had taken a few drawing classes at Whatcom Community College in 2013, but says he began a pursuit of painting after “serious prodding” from his wife, Kathy, and enrolled in an open-studio painting class with instructor Trish Harding at Studio UFO.

“I believe that all art is an expression of the unique story that is in each individual,” he says. “If left unexpressed, then it is forever lost. By exhibiting my work, I am seeking to share my distinct voice and elicit a response.”

Reed says he wants his paintings “to have the emotional content and themes of a great narrative: mystery, magic, adventure, intrigue, conflicts, contradiction and paradox.”

For the February Art Walk, he will have about eight paintings on display in the window of DIS on Cornwall Avenue, showing through February. His painting “Biertrinker“ is currently up at Dakota Art Store for the “Steinfest” exhibit through Feb. 14. Also, he’ll have four paintings exhibited at Jansen Art Center, 321 Front St., in Lynden, opening with a public reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 5, and showing through May.

Michelle Schutte doesn’t remember a time when she didn’t make art, or try to. She has been a familiar face in the artistic community since she graduated about 15 years ago from Western Washington University with a double major in studio art and art history.

She opened Hand To Mouth Art Gallery in 2003 and opened Jinx Art Space with Django Bohren four years later. They sold Jinx a few years ago to a local nonprofit, Make.Shift. Since then, she says, she has made more art than in all her previous years combined.

Bellingham has been good to her and she’s grateful for the support by her community in Bellingham, but her earliest encouragement probably came from her family. She says her great-grandmother was a prolific painter famous in Schutte’s family for her eccentricities.

“I found that endlessly interesting when I was young,” she says.

“I’ve been showing my work for decades, but in the last few years it’s been easier and more rewarding to exhibit than ever,” she says. “I find that the more work you make, the less precious each piece becomes.”

That might sound like a negative, she says, but it has been a gift to lose much of the fear that used to come with exhibiting her work.

“I’m less worried about and more comfortable with showing my work with every stack of paintings that I finish,” she says.

She works primarily in graphite, charcoal and acrylic on canvas. She either take photos or find them online before beginning sketches for each series. She’ll have a piece in the upcoming “Red and Pink” show at the Redlight on North State Street, but her main show this month is a solo show at Honey Salon on Holly Street, for “Love and Other Demons,” with more than 20 pieces.

Scot Casey is displaying photographs of his personal collection of bones and skulls at the Bureau of Historical Investigation on Holly Street, in his “Osteology Photographic Series” exhibit.

“I have always been fascinated with bones, aesthetically, as memento mori — a philosophical reflection on mortality — and as allegorical objects: the idea of the inner architecture of things, the bones of thought, the deeper truth that informs the flesh,” he says.

Several of the photographs are from a fully articulated cat skeleton Casey found years ago while cleaning out his grandfather’s barn in Texas.

“I discovered an old wicker picnic basket and within it was a mummified cat’s skeleton, beautifully preserved,” he says. “Except that it was missing the head. It was disturbing and mysterious. Those bones, in particular, hold a special significance for me.

“I also found a silver antique Russian samovar next to the picnic basket. I remember that when I brought them up to show my parents, I considered the cat’s skeleton to be the greater treasure.”

His mounted prints will be on sale during the Art Walk, as well as other photos.

Lisa McShane, who has been painting since she took art lessons at age 12, says light – and its interaction with water and land – is the essential element in her paintings. She travels frequently to places near where she grew up in Eastern Washington to study eroded hills and valleys, rivers and lakes, and to watch the changing skies.

She’s represented by Lucia Douglas Gallery in Fairhaven, and although she’s not participating in Friday’s Art Walk, she’ll have an opening of her solo show from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7. Her exhibit runs through March 6.

Her work, she says, is “increasingly focused above the horizon: the deep blue of mid-day, the color of sunset, the stars in the night sky. The eroded shapes of the landscapes are often abstracted and graphic – big shapes silhouetted against the sky with clouds and contrails forming the composition.”

For her, there is often a deep emotional memory in her works.

“Many of my best paintings are of places and times of day that trigger a memory of my children, my husband, my family, people I love,” she says. “To me these aren’t landscapes; they’re memories.”

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