A disclosure before we dive in. I am not an art critic (though, I wish I was). I am, however, a lover of art.
Jesse Nelson’s first attempt at a pop-up art show in downtown Everett was impressive. The Gallery was held at Basecamp, an Everett Music Initiative defunct venue turned culture hub that currently houses Vertical Gardens NW, Soniphone Records and the monthly Everett Makers Market. With new Culture-crats trying to prove their way in, Jesse Nelson and Sal Wolfson’s Trash/Talk set a high bar.
The brick walls of Basecamp were the perfect frames for Sal Wolfson’s work. Reclaimed wood panels with drip painting figures set against snappy, often funny, impactful quotes. The figures reminded me of Picasso’s African Period, with the hard-hitting quickness of modern street art. There were multiple pieces that really stuck out to me, but I’ll share about just one. I don’t know its official title, so I’ll just call it by its statement, “How Much for the High Horse?”
This piece shows two figures looking up towards the sky against a horse’s legs and one of them is negotiating on a price – a price for being better than someone. I love the juxtaposition of someone negotiating on something that will make them better than someone. I mean, how clever. Taking the moral high ground and being diplomatic in being better than. I’m not sure if all of his pieces could have meant new and unique things to different people, but fear of failure seemed to be a theme highlighted in his work.
Jesse Nelson’s work is always thoughtful and challenging. In a discussion he had mentioned that one of his most impactful influences is the feminist, theorist and artist, Martha Rosler (who just so happens to currently have an exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum). When immersed into this context it really breathed life into Jesse’s work. Jesse never seems satisfied by art without what feels like a political purpose.
One piece that garnered a lot of discussion were his two figures in conversation. This fine Venetian glass work with the 60’s bobble-heads on top was a clear rejection of what I’ve heard him term as - the lush quality of glass - the way people treat it as a piece of furniture.
His other pieces were equally challenging, including a piece you may not have noticed if you were there - the door stop. It was a glass gallon jug. Jesse made this piece (and others like it) while in Rochester, New York when they experienced a water crisis not unlike what Flint is currently going though. Another clear indication of his rejection of glass as a luscious object but one that can be thoughtful and have a political purpose. Clear but undrinkable water.
Jesse Nelson and Sal Wolfson’s Trash/Talk is a testament to Everett’s growing and powerful art movement. The event was well curated and cohesive. If Sal’s major themes were failure, fail he did not. If Jesse’s were an affront to the system at large- he absolutely achieved it in establishment of Everett Pop-up Arts and this milestone in the Everett arts community. I was told there will be an attempt to make this a quarterly thing, and I can’t wait for the next one.