This morning, I drove out to West Seattle to visit Nathan DiPietro at his studio in his basement. It's a very Seattle artist situation: He has a garden, he has a child, he has pets, he knows the names of the plants in his neighborhood overlooking the industrial harbor. And in his basement, the first thing I saw was the scene below, which he just put the finishing touches on—depicting the giant floating radar system that has parked itself for the last two months in our harbor (which Brendan got to tour).
DiPietro positions the radar system in the middle of a scene full of invasives: ivy vines, blackberries, horsetails. He's working on another painting, too, of his toddler son building a sandcastle on a Florida beach with his back to the crowd gathered to watch the last shuttle launch. (Interestingly, DiPietro's father once worked as part of the team that calculated reentry for shuttle launches; he has been out of a job for a few years now.) That one's still in process, but there's another finished painting I'll you can see on the jump, picturing the burning of the ship Tonquin off Vancouver Island at the start of the 19th century, when a settler captain insulted a native chief, setting off a bloody battle and fire. DiPietro sets it as a 1950s movie set with actors playing the roles and props ready to be used, in a pointed critique of the tendency either to ignore history or to fantasize about and exploit it.