VALA celebrates women artists in [R]evolution installation

Since it was founded in 2011, the mission of VALA Eastside has been to connect artists to artists, artists to the community and the community to art.

Portraits of the five artists featured in VALA Eastside’s [R]evolution installation. From left: Rebecca DeVere

Portraits of the five artists featured in VALA Eastside’s [R]evolution installation. From left: Rebecca DeVere

Since it was founded in 2011, the mission of VALA Eastside has been to connect artists to artists, artists to the community and the community to art.

Founder Jessica Lambert said the work the nonprofit does is to honor and recognize local artists for their work. And currently, the organization’s latest installation is doing just that.

[R]evolution is at the VALA Art Center at 7330 164th Ave. N.E. in Redmond Town Center and features five local artists and activists: Rebecca DeVere, Latha Sambamurti, Gwen Maxwell-Williams, Eva Moon and Laura Lee Bennett.

Each artist had their portrait painted and those portraits are hanging at the art center.

“Each portrait represents a different stage of the creative process,” said Moon.

The portraits were painted by Savvy Dani.

“When VALA invited me to paint these amazing artists, I jumped, of course,” Dani said during a talk at the installation’s opening at VALA on Dec. 10. “To be able to paint five interesting women from life was an incredible opportunity for an artist focused on realism.”

Dani said what excited her more was the chance to explore the artists’ common thread such as how an artist faces inspiration. Her portraits for [R]evolution are based on the answers she found as she painted them.

“The artist is in the state when the inspiration is just the seed of a dream, very nebulous and just a hint somewhere,” she said. “The artist is a dream weaver at this stage. A happy place to be.”

In a statement to Dani, DeVere said, “My inspiration comes to me ‘downloaded’ — a feeling, a passion with an urgency to complete or from my materials or plein air light and shadow, colors and shadow: combinations I learn from.”

These five artists featured in the VALA installation represent Redmond and the greater Eastside.

Lambert, who is also the installation’s curator, said while [R]evolution has a been about a year in the making, the idea for it has been there since VALA started.

“The seeds have been there for five years,” she said.

Tamar Alsberg also curated the installation.

[R]evolution — which will run through January 2016 — was initially titled Women in Art as nine times out of 10, it is women artists who come to VALA to find their voices, reinvent themselves as artists and to connect to a space that allows them to showcase their work, Lambert said.

“As the idea for the show evolved, we started to see a common thread woven into their work,” she said. “They have all been advocates within the Redmond community…These people needed to be honored.”

Lambert described the artists as having evolved and pushed art forward.

“They have all, in their own disciplines, broken the mold,” she said.

Each of the five artists is in a different field of art. DeVere is a painter who is also an activist for the arts. Sambamurti is a dancer, singer and producer who has organized a number of Indian cultural events in the area and currently sits on the Washington State Arts Commission. Maxwell-Williams is a fiber artist who also lectures and teaches quilting and textile art and is the founder of the Pacific NW African American Quilters Guild and co-founder of Eastside Art Quilts. Moon is a performance artist who feels it is important to be involved in the community, not just to share her art but also as an activist to keep art alive in the community. Bennett is a writer, poet and editor who has helped develop and run writing programs through the Redmond Association of Spokenword, or “RASP.”

“These are pretty influential people that we’re lucky to have in our midst,” Lambert said.

For Bennett, being asked was both exciting and dreadful.

“I’m not used to the limelight,” she said. “I’m used to focusing on the next task, whether it’s setting up chairs or emceeing a poetry reading.”

Now that the show is up, however, something has changed, she said. Bennett is engaging more with the community — both in conversation and performance as an artist.

“I feel it in my bones,” she said. “There’s no turning back. It’s a thrill to be honored and challenged in this way.”

Moon was equally honored. She said being asked to be included in the installation was unexpected, but it was also inspiring to have this type of responsibility to work harder to be worthy of the honor.

“To be recognized like this is sort of a call to action, too,” she said.

Sambamurti is also motivated to explore new horizons in her art.

“New pursuits will make me learn new things in life and help me grow,” she said. “I also want to serve the community more through arts. I want to be an inspiration to people to bring out their creativity, inspiration, passion and perseverance.”

Sambamurti’s work reflects this. She said the festivals she organizes allow people to understand other cultures and art forms and encourage people to learn new art forms from different parts of the world.

In a statement to Dani, Maxwell-Williams said art allowed her to find her voice.

“It excites me to sketch a piece and then take that working drawing and through the use of various techniques, colorful fabrics — turn those raw techniques into my personal statement,” Maxwell-Williams said. “I become thoroughly fascinated with the work at hand. I have the freedom to change, alter the work until it says ‘well done – it is finished, it is you.’”

Special events

In addition to the five portraits, VALA will hold a number of events related to [R]evolution through next month at its art center in Redmond.

• Jan. 15, 2016
Art Talk & Wine Night
6-8 p.m.
Join Vicki Todd in talking art and the revolutionary in all of us.

• Jan. 16, 2016
Revolutionary Artist to Revolutionary Artist
6-8 p.m.
Guest revolutionary artist and academic Todd discusses her process and how we all can capture that revolutionary within.

• Jan. 22, 2016
Live performances
6-8 p.m.
Poets Bennett, Chi Chi Stewart and Elizabeth Carroll Hayden will read from “I Am Not Cursed,” a retelling of the Demeter myth in three voices. Moon will read excerpts from ”First You Jump” – a musical that premiered in January 2015.

• Jan. 23, 2016
5:30-7:30 p.m.
Produced by Sambamurti, this show will feature Indian dance and music.

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