First of all, before I start gushing about how far Cornish College of the Arts has come since well, ever; but at least since I've returned to Seattle, I have One. Small. Request.
Dear Cornish, please do your graduating students a favour and level the playing field - paint that black wall white.
Alright here it is. There's a huge space in South Lake Union. The graduating class gets to use it. Inside, once you get past the ridiculously cramped entrance, it's stellar and gorgeous with sweeping high ceilings in some places and a lush uber-pro gallery feel in most places. It's the perfect venue for these fledgling artists to show off their work in the way they deserve. But unlike (oh god, here it comes) my graduating class who painted their own floors, hung the clip-on-lights (perilous ladders over fragile paper installations!) and who painted their own walls if they wanted some funky colour (always under advice to think about it first); there is now a crew who does it for them. I personally feel this robs students of the critically important experience and perspective gained from putting a show together from the ground up.
 Hold up, I'm totally wrong about something. Claire Johnson, SOIL member and exhibition director extraordinaire works her ass off for Cornish to help get this exhibition running smoothly and looking good. She says students do some of the gruntwork, painting, etc. I acquiesce my point above, but I'm sticking to my guns on the theatrics.
Alors! Apparently, the crew is from the theater department. This theatrical attention is expressly given to the Black Room and it shows. Given I've already used the word "theatrical" you can imagine it is that. What about the rest of the rooms and hallway, and oh my, the more cramped ones upstairs? Some might suffer. That's the way it goes, but I'm hoping those who craved more intimate spaces got them, and visa versa. It's only my opinion, but I have to say that two years in a row, the OMGWOW when you walk into the Black Room almost completely overshadows the work on the wall, and in the end it wouldn't matter what was there, it would look good and I don't trust it. For me, this potentially places anyone not in the Black Room at a tremendous disadvantage, and even for a graduating class as strong and cohesive as the last two, this is bad news.
So enough of that, here's the good news - this show has real impact. There's enough amazing art that I actually didn't catch everything on my camera, which made me sad, sad but it meant I was participating! There's a lot of great stuff! All the video work was incredibly strong and captivating to watch and I was so happy to see people playing with the medium.The students and their work are intellectual, smart, and thoughtful. Each artist I stopped to speak with had insightful things to say on what they've built and though they were dazed they held up and came across as professional. Many of them directly referenced past and contemporary art history in their work and conversation, and had a lot of clarity (not to say they're/we're not uncertain or confused on some things) and crafted opinions about the environment they'll be moving into. Most of the work in the Black Room would be good no matter what the colour of the walls. And the work upstairs is not ill-presented and suffering.
These are smart young artists stepping off a cliff into the unknown. Let me tell you something - we are all of us every day, stepping into the unknown. These guys just happen to get a real good chance to do it with bang and with style. And no matter how harsh I've been on my Alma Mater in the past, it doesn't change the fact that I have love for this school, and want to see it and all its graduates succeed. I want to see these artists pour into the scene with passion and vigour. I want to see Seattle grow because she's self leveling, self sustaining, taking care of and nurturing herself.
I think I said it best when I said this:
I want the students to break free. I want them to delve into what terrifies them and come out the other side. I want them to stop fighting the medium and hiding in the comfort of safe ideas. I want them to step outside of their minimum daily requirement of past and contemporary art history and go to First Thursday, Portland galleries, and Vancouver. I want them to get out of the rut which seems to haunt me with the memory of what Seattle art used to be, look like, taste like. Or at least get better at it if they're going to do it.
Dear gradating class of 2009. Don't be scared.Get the hell out there and transform, grow, and do things. Read. Write. Engage, participate and challenge.
So do it. All of us. Together. I'm [We're] right [t]here with you.
The 2010 Cornish BFA Show runs through Saturday 29 May, so hurry! You have 2 Saturdays and a bunch of weekdays!
9th Ave Studios
427 9th Ave N
Student work from top to bottom: 1,2,3 - John Backstrom, archival prints and video. 4,5,6 - Kris Dales, self-made tools and burnt paper. 7,8,9,10 - Derek Ghormley, various installation, wood. 11, 12 - Eddi Dughi, video and neon. 12 -Anne Kimball, etching and ink. 13,14,15 - Allyce Wood, twine and paper installations.