Vermillion is currently exhibiting works by Pacific Northwest artists Jay Steensma and Ree Brown, both considered "Northwest Masters." I wonder to myself, upon arrival, what it takes exactly to be considered a "master" of a particular field of art. It would seem that Steensma and Brown are masters of frumpy, dark, semi-abstract paintings. Not to say I hated the work, I really didn't; after begrudgingly lingering in the gallery space after the bar was overrun with the participants of a monthly discourse, the work started to sink in. I felt like perhaps I could see into the artists' minds, and seemed to find out things I didn't want to know in the first place.
Vermillion is showing off the final pieces of the late Steensma's estate, and Brown (who is now 84) visited the gallery for the opening. Their work is described as "outsider art." Brown has had no formal training and his paintings and sculptures almost look like the handiwork of a child. In a couple of pieces, Steensma pastes a forlorn photograph onto his canvas, only to cross it out in favor of what looks like intentional water-damage.
Vermillion itself has white walls, and high, black ceilings; the place feels a bit like an art bunker where people can come to hide out in the back bar for a slosh-fest, although my hot toddies were not deftly made.
All in all, I felt a little out of place, even after co-curator Mark Mueller sidled up to me for a brief and friendly conversation when he noticed I was taking notes. Despite the good cheer, I was a little desperate to get out of there. I'm used to being ignored at galleries, and I tend to like it that way.