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Updated Sunday, December 16, 2012 at 07:01 AM

Local artist and exhibit catalogs offer opulent gift possibilities

By Michael Upchurch
Seattle Times arts writer

Local artists and local art exhibits often have gift-worthy catalogs published in tandem with their shows. Here are five beguiling, exhibit-connected coffee-table books that appeared this year.

“Patti Warashina: Wit and Wisdom”by Martha Kingsbury(American Museum of Ceramic Art, $45.95). While Seattle ceramic sculptor Patti Warashina didn’t have a solo exhibit in the area this year, she was a prominent presence in group shows of ceramic art at the Henry Art Gallery, Bellevue Arts Museum, the Museum of Northwest Art and Washington State Convention Center. Meanwhile, she got the full career-retrospective treatment at California’s American Museum of Ceramic Art (AMOCA). This beautifully packaged catalog is the welcome result. It covers Warashina’s incarnations as a pop artist, a surrealist, a wry feminist and, of late, a buoyant fantasist who brings an op art touch to the glazing of her oddly alert and enchanting clay figures. (Note: Bellevue Arts Museum just announced that it won an NEA grant to the bring AMOCA’s Warashina show to BAM. It opens July 12, 2013.)

“Ancestral Modern: Australian Aboriginal Art”by Pamela McClusky, Wally Caruana, Lisa Graziose Corrin and Stephen Gilchrist(Seattle Art Museum/Yale University Press, $50). SAM’s survey of contemporary Australian aboriginal art, drawn entirely from the holdings of Seattle collectors Margaret Levi and Robert Kaplan, was one of the local museum highlights of the year. The often eye-popping reproductions in this handsome catalog make clear why. Helpful commentary accompanying each plate sheds light on what’s going on in every picture.

“Maestro: Recent Work by Lino Tagliapietra”by Claudia Gorbman and Susan Warner(Museum of Glass/University of Washington Press, $50). Venetian glass artist Tagliapietra has a long association with the Pacific Northwest through the Pilchuck Glass School and Tacoma’s Museum of Glass. This catalog, accompanying his latest show at the Museum of Glass, leads you through a wonderland of elegantly fanciful shapes, colors and patterns that seemingly float, soar or do loop-the-loops in ways that defy their glass medium. The book is prefaced with an unusually eloquent essay by Claudia Gorbman, a professor at University of Washington, Tacoma.

“Ray Turner: Population”by Susan Warner and others(Museum of Glass, $80 hardcover, $45 softcover). Ray Turner’s oil-on-glass portraits (or “head paintings,” as he calls them) aren’t what most people think of as “glass art.” This catalog from his Museum of Glass show, being a print product, emphasizes his painterly qualities rather than the glass component in his art. And what qualities they are! His portraits of Tacoma citizens can be crisply striking or fluidly moody, while the vaguely anthropomorphic creatures that spring from his imagination in his “Good Men Bad Men” series can be downright spooky.

“Johsel Namkung: A Retrospective”(Cosgrove Editions, $175; to order, call 888-507-7375 or go to If you have a nature-photography lover on your gift list and you’re looking to splurge, this selection of 100 photographs by Seattle photographer Johsel Namkung, now in his 90s, is a grand way to go. Namkung’s tight focus on the patterns and textures of rocks, sand, wood, water, forests and meadows often pushes his work toward dazzling abstraction. The images are gorgeous, crystal-sharp and huge (hence the price of the book). Includes an autobiographical essay by Namkung and essays by Seattle photographer Art Wolfe and former Henry Art Gallery curator Elizabeth Brown.

Michael Upchurch:

Courtesy of American Museum of Ceramic Art
"Patti Warashina: Wit and Wisdom" dustjacket


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