January Art Salon discusses ‘Power of Narrative’

Posted 1/8/20

The Port Townsend School of the Arts’ Salon for the month is set to feature two of the three artists on display at the Grover Gallery in downtown Port Townsend, and The Leader was able to speak …

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January Art Salon discusses ‘Power of Narrative’


The Port Townsend School of the Arts’ Salon for the month is set to feature two of the three artists on display at the Grover Gallery in downtown Port Townsend, and The Leader was able to speak with one of them beforehand.

The Jan. 15 Art Salon on “The Power of Narrative” will take place at the Northwind Arts Center, and promises to be a discussion with artists Rikki Ducornet and Linda Okazaki about the impact of storytelling in their work, what drives their narrative process, and their insights on their own contemporary and historic influences.

Ducornet is billed as a transdisciplinary artist, whose drawings in this exhibit were originally used to accompany writings by Jorge Luis Borges, and she’s described her work as being animated by an interest in “nature, eros, abusive authority, subversion and the transcendent capacities of the creative imagination.”

In addition to painting, Ducornet’s writing has earned her both a Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Lannan Literary Award For Fiction, with nine novels, three collections of short fiction, two books of essay and five books of poetry to her credit.

Okazaki was born in Washington, and has spent almost all of her life in the Pacific Northwest. The degree to which she’s been inspired by her time in Port Townsend is a reflection of how much her coastal home for the past four decades has represented a stark contrast to both her Southern heritage and her years in Eastern Washington.

Okazaki credits her early pursuit of the visual arts to her grandparents, who raised her after her mother’s death, and provided her with an outlet for her creative energy.

“My grandfather was a kindly spirit and a great draftsman, so when we went to church services, he would let me draw in the church,” Okazaki said.

Okazaki’s educational and experiential history proved eclectic, as she trained under a Florentine expatriate artist living in Southern Oregon, before heading to Pepperdine University in 1965, right on time to experience the fallout of the Watts riots.

Returning to her home state allowed Okazaki to become an adjunct professor in the fine arts department of Washington State University for 10 years, where she taught color theory, painting and the history of women in art.

“I’ve always found solace in art,” said Okazaki, who moved to Port Townsend in 1980. “Having something like the Port Townsend School of Art when I first moved here would have been a dream.”

Okazaki acknowledged that her art since arriving in Port Townsend has been informed by the proximity of far more water than she had access to in the Palouse.

“Having so much green here made it hard to see structure or form in the landscape,” Okazaki said. “But the water is like Monet. It’s this cathedral of a palette. It can be whatever you want, if you know how to interpret it.”

Okazaki has no shortage of storytellers in her family tree, but she freely acknowledged that her impressionistic approach doesn’t create narratives that are nearly as linear.

“My grandmother held quilting circles, where one blind quilter would recite epic poems,” Okazaki said. “My aunt, from Arkansas, taught literature in a lively way. Even in church, I heard stories that resonated with spirituality, even though, later on, I was more into Buddhism.”

Okazaki draws upon dream imagery, visiting fictional places in her mind, inspired by real locations, whose deeper meanings often don’t reveal themselves to her until years or even decades later.

“What I’m looking for is an authenticity of feeling,” Okazaki said, who finds herself revisiting an imaginary locale she thinks of as “The Resort,” where the waves have been known to crash against the windows. “Each time I revisit it, it’s a different story. It’s like poetry, how it’s not always finished when you think it is.”

Nhatt Nichols, curator of the Grover Gallery, will moderate the discussion, which kicks off at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 15, at the Northwind Arts Center, at 701 Water St.

“Linda and I share in common lifelong desires to tell stories, but not every piece of art is narrative,” said Nichols, whose compulsion took her into the world of graphic novels, and the editorial cartoons she creates for The Leader.

Okazaki’s work has included creating images for the Port Townsend Film Festival, Centrum’s Jazz, Blues and Fiddle Tunes Festivals, and the Wooden Boat Festival, in addition to cover images for published books and music CDs.

Although illness has precluded her from taking part in the discussion, Ginny Banks’ photography and mixed media art is also on display at the Grover Gallery, primarily concentrating on the “Fiddle Tunes” music festival held every summer at Fort Worden.

Banks taught a workshop intensive in documentary photography coinciding with the festival at Port Townsend School of the Arts in the summer of 2017.

“It was a workshop that lasted a week,” Banks said. “We met for class time, and also went out to photograph the musicians attending the festival, as they jammed throughout Fort Worden. The narrative or story behind the workshop was about the freedom of enjoying music, and companionship with other like minded souls. The sun beat down that week, and the days were hot, but people managed to gather under the shadows of trees to share music with one another.”

The Art Salon series is a partnership between the Port Townsend School of the Arts and Northwind Arts Center, bringing artists, art teachers and other art professionals together for artist talks, panel discussions and lectures that are free and open to the public.


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