Artfully Edmonds: Continuing our chat with James Martin, plus theater, music and more

Moonlit Picnic by James Martin (1993)

Part 2 of two parts. You can read Part 1 here.

James Martin took to drawing and painting early. He had a little studio of sorts set up in the basement next to the coal room when he was a little kid. “when I saw something interesting, I’d tell my mother — ‘I’m going to paint that!’ But first I had to get the coal in.”

That was a common chore back then. The truck would pull up next to the coal chute and some lucky kid would shovel it down to the furnace. Martin’s reward for getting the coal in was painting time.

He still has that urge to “paint that!”

“I enjoy art. Art is interesting. Painting is interesting. When you do it – there’s something that motivates you. I take my work to the gallery, (well, now they come and get it) but after it’s gone, I feel like – now I have to start again.”

My first reaction to a Martin painting is an involuntary belly laugh. Aside from the amusing style of painting, there’s generally a seemingly random juxtaposition of images that short circuits my attempt to understand what I’m looking at. It’s that non sequitur that makes me laugh.

The nearest analogy I can come up with for how Martin’s paintings come together is a sort of visual jazz improvisation. First comes the germination of an idea. It’s probably no surprise to any person involved in a creative endeavor that this can sometimes be the hardest part.

The idea might manifest itself in the form of the principal focus of the piece. “Just start, don’t worry about anything,” he says. As the composition progresses, ideas come. Martin tells himself – “Yeah, put that in there… put that in there…” generally, it works out. In fact, one of my favorite things about Martin’s pieces are their compositional balance. It’s sort of ironic that he achieves that balance in such an improvisational way.

There’s a story being told in his paintings. One can hardly help trying to decipher what the story is.

Cover of James Martin – Art Rustler at the Rivoli, by Sheila Farr (2001) University of Washington Press

Phen Huang, owner of Foster White Gallery in Seattle, put it this way: “I love that his conversations are like his paintings, with the subject changing every couple of sentences or so. People delight over his sense of humor and play. His exhibitions always elicit giggles and slow people down. Like a meditation, they can spend hours pouring over his work.”

Martin has never been much of a fan of attending his own openings. He tells an amusing story of going to an opening showing his work that also promised the work of Morris Graves, which piqued his interest. As he remembers it, a gallery representative picked him up to drive him to La Conner. At one point, the driver fell asleep on the freeway and Martin had to grab the wheel to avoid crashing. “That’s the closest I’ve ever come (to being killed),” he said. Then, when he arrived, he was met with a mountain of books that he was expected to sign. He spent the entire opening sitting behind a table. When it came time to leave, he asked to see the works by Morris Graves. It turned out that it was a single very small piece by Graves sitting in the window.

In spite of all that, I imagine that if art lovers in our community were to decide to recognize Martin’s work with an exhibit today (and could provide a well-rested driver) he might go.

Maybe we could prevail upon another (unrelated) local Martin, David Martin, curator of the Cascadia Art Museum, to put a show together. After all, we have one of the most notable Pacific Northwest artists alive today right here in Edmonds. Wouldn’t it be fun to celebrate his life and work?

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Saturday, April 7

Edmonds Bookshop Author Event:
Meet Janet Haupt, author of In The Shadows of 10,000 Hills

The Edmonds Bookshop
111 5th Ave S

Described as a sweeping family saga that crosses racial and cultural boundaries. Set in Rwanda in the aftermath of a horrific genocide, it follows the stories of three women who discover something unexpected – grace, when there can be no forgiveness.

For information:

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Franky Castle leads art lovers through a recent Cork and Canvas at Hunni Co.

Thursday, April 12
6:30 p.m.

Cork and Canvas with Franky Castle

Hunni Company
186 Sunset Ave.

Artist Franky Castle is back for another wine and paint. He’s planning a mosaic experience with his signature vibrant urban style. Two glasses of wine from Arista are included as well as Appetizers by Angry Fish Jam. Beer and mixed drinks also available. Canvas, paint and materials all provided. Take home a one of a kind masterpiece and enjoy a wonderful night of culture, color and fun.

For information call Hunni Co at 425-582-0671

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Artist Danny Pierce – Tom Codding – 1963

Thursday, April 5 – Sunday, July 1

Modern Alaska: Art of the Midnight Sun, 1930–1970

Cascadia Art Museum
190 Sunset Ave. #E

Cascadia Art Museum will present works of art created by mid-century Northwest artists related to their travels to Alaska. Photographer Verna Haffer, painter and printmaker Danny Pierce, Stephen Fuller, and native Alaskan artists Bernard Katexac and Joseph Senungetuk are featured.

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God of Carnage cast.

Friday, April 6 – Sunday, April 29
8 p.m. (Sundays at 2 p.m.)

God of Carnage

By Yasmina Reza
Directed by Rick Wright

Phoenix Theatre
9673 Firdale Ave.
Edmonds (Firdale Village)

A Tony Award-winning comedy of grown-ups behaving badly. God of Carnage begins as two high-strung couples meet for a civil discussion about a playground fight between their sons. The conversation quickly escalates into a laugh-out-loud, train wreck of an afternoon among savages.

Described as “ninety minutes of sustained mayhem” by The New Yorker, the New York Times hailed God of Carnage as a “four-way prize fight” and the Chicago Tribune praised Reza’s play, calling it a “savvy and deliciously caustic new comedy.” This must-see received the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy, as well as the Outer Critics Circle and Drama League Awards for Best Play.

Cast: Debra Rich Gettleman, Phillip Keiman, Amy Gentry, and Jaylyn Green
(Contains strong language)


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Sunday, April 15
3 p.m.

Cascade Symphony Orchestra Ensemble Concert

Edmonds United Methodist Church
828 Caspers St.

Members of the Cascade Symphony Orchestra will perform in a variety of chamber ensembles. The small groups will perform works by Mozart, Faure, Villalobos, Bill Smith, and Grieg.

Tickets here.

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Ponente Wind Quintet: Jeff Boersema (horn), Julian Banbury (basoon), Elena Alberstone (flute), Mark Oesterle (clarinet), Megan McCormick (oboe)

Saturday, April 21
6 p.m.

Music at the Museum Presents: Ponente Wind Quintet

Cascadia Art Museum
190 Sunset

Flute, clarinet, oboe, horn, and bassoon are the elements of the ensemble Ponente — named for a favorable Mediterranean west wind.

Music of Seattle composer Alan Hovhaness, Grainger and Faure will be included in the program.

Music at the Museum is a monthly one hour concert series each third Saturday of the month. Ticket price includes admission to the current exhibit and allows time to dine at one of Edmonds many excellent restaurants afterward.

More information

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Duke Ellington

Monday, April 23
7:30 p.m.

Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra Presents: Ellington’s “Such Sweet Thunder”

Enjoy an evening of great classic jazz with the SRJO as they pair Duke Ellington with William Shakespeare. As part of the Seattle Celebrates Shakespeare Festival, SRJO teams up with local thespians to present selections from plays and sonnets and the Ellington music that it inspired.

Edmonds Center for the Arts
410 4th Ave. N.

For information:
Tickets here.

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Now through May

Oso Anniversary Exhibit

Faith Community Church
10220 238th St. S.W.

Former Edmonds mayor and photographer Gary Haakensen was the county official assigned to oversee the rescue and recovery of the catastrophic Oso landslide of March 2014. Haakensen captured the devastation and damage of the event that resulted in the loss of 43 lives. An estimated 270 million cubic feet of mud descended on the community.

The photographic display will be available for public viewing through May on Sunday mornings, and Monday through Thursday by appointment.

For more information: 206-542-8883

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By James Spangler

When not actively scheming about ways to promote the arts in Edmonds, James Spangler can be found (highly caffeinated) behind the counter of his bookstore on 4th Avenue.

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