Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Everybody Liked the Fishtown Art Show Except Me

Everybody liked the Fishtown Art Show at the Museum of Northwest Art in LaConner. We had the Opening Day this Saturday and the museum was packed with happy people, looking at walls dense with art and minutiae from days gone by, of poetry and late-night sake parties, stories of Fishtown back in the day ....

Everybody liked the show except me. I'm sorry to be the designated heavy in this picture, but I was not swept away. I thought the show was nostalgic and sentimental. A little too sweet, like a cherry pie made with too much sugar -- it needs a little tartness.

I felt very emotional viewing these old familiar pieces -- like Bo Miller's Chevy Mandala. But I didn't trust the emotion.

It was like a high school reunion or "Old-Fashioned Hippie Days" at a theme park.

Charliev Krafft had a great time. He was one of the featured artists, and I liked seeing his earlier paintings, back when he was making beautiful paintings. His current art is quite a bit different. You can see it at the Smith & Vallee Gallery in Edison. You can see the connection between the past and the present in Charlie's art.

But the connection was missing in the show over all. It was musty-dusty, moldy-oldy stuff dug out of attics and crumbling shoe boxes. Memories.

I don't have much use for memories unless they connect to where we are going today.

Where are we going? I don't know and I got no sense of direction from the Fishtown show -- just an old path down a road that used to be.

I love the past and the history of our lives -- when it serves, when it's real, and when it gives strength.

But I didn't get that from the current show. There was something missing. The show was all about the beginning of Fishtown and not one piece about the end of Fishtown.

So let me have an opinion -- the end of it matters, the end matters as much as the beginning. The end was about drama and conflict and an almost violent destruction of the cabins so sweetly depicted in the show.

The beginning was stillness and quiet, the end was a theatrical crescendo.

Some young artists came out to Fishtown in the late Sixties to escape the turmoil sweeping the land -- the demonstrations and riots and raging war in Viet Nam.

They left the city to connect with a larger presence. They cultivated quiet and nurtured simplicity.

But the conflict which they escaped came back with a vengeance in 1988. The conflict was real and genuine, over the logging of the woods behind Fishtown, and a radical challenge to property rights that the Fishtown residents launched, in order to stop the logging.

It's a long story, but the protest and resistance was as much a work of art and a work of beauty as any ink-stained sumi poem composed by candlelight.

It's too bad they left that part out of the show -- that essential bit of truth, and that's why I didn't like it.

That Photo of Richard Gilkey. See a video version of this Fishtown art show rant at my Facebook page, LaConner Views.

I wanted to see the photo of Richard Gilkey, a great artist, a native son, an ex-Marine, being led away in handcuffs by the Skagit County sheriff's deputies in January, 1988. He was arrested, among many people arrested, because he stood on the ground, on the property of the Chamberlain Family, and blocked the logging trucks.

Gilkey and the others made a radical challenge to the dominance of the old farm families. This rebellion of artists-without-property had to be crushed. And it was crushed.

So the story of Fishtown ends in a tragedy, and the old farm families won.

But did they really win? The farmers themselves are threatened today and asking for help to preserve their way of life. Isn't it time they realized that the Fishtown artists were their true friends?

But no, the conflict remains unresolved. I was involved in the Fishtown Woods Massacre of 1988 and I am still persona non grata on that hallowed ground.

Charlie Krafft went out there last week -- tried to go out there but he was shown the door. Get lost!

Maggie Wilder still has access. She lives in Steve Herold's old place. Steve stayed out of the conflict in 1988, perhaps wisely, and his cabin was spared the vengeance of destruction.

We just need to add that one photo of Richard Gilkey to the Fishtown Art Show. To make it real. To make it whole. Otherwise it doesn't matter. Otherwise, it's just an old story about some old men and what they did when they're hearts were young and gay.

Campground Meditation. I have been tent camping these past few days at the campground in Washington Park in Anacortes.

This morning I went for a walk and left my package of Fig Newtons on the picnic table.

Dumb and dumber. You know what happened. "Caw, caw, caw," the crows were laughing in the trees when I came back from my walk. They ate every one of my cookies.

Rascals! This is serious. They're not getting any more of my snacks. The food is in a box with a lid and a frying on top of the lid.

Just try, Mr. Crow, just try. Caw-caw yourself. Find some other fool.

Subscriptions and Signed Copies of the Book. It used to be that you sent in $25 and did not get much more than my appreciation, but now you get a signed copy of the Frog Hospital book.

This book is a treasure that will still be worth reading ten years from now.

Send a check for $25 to Fred Owens, Box 1292, LaConner, WA 98257. Or go to the Frog Hospital blog and pay with PayPal.

Thank you,

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

send mail to:

Fred Owens
Box 1292
LaConner WA 98257


Anonymous said...

Hello, Fred--and thank you for both your comments about the Fishtown Show (which I may see later this week). I have a photo of my sister, Margaret/Meg Munsey (later Cayou), who lived in Fishtown at the time, being carried away by the police from the logging protest you write of. Clyde (who coined the name Fish Hospital) was on the river when she was. Glad you are contributing to the history of the place, and that the museum staff understand your good intentions in writing about the need to remember and include the end (and middle) of Fishtown as well as its beginnings. Thanks again, Victoria Scott

dhelm said...

Fred, Don't know if you know this part about Richard's arrest. We were being dragged into the Paddy wagon when he showed up. He hadn't planned on being arrested but was so incensed by what he saw that he jumped right into the fray. I had the pleasure of sharing a cell at the jail with him and John Kaguras, who just happened to have designed the Skagit County jail.