Rising: 13 women raise their voices

By Anelyse Morris

Nestled in the heart of downtown Bellingham, a small frame shop bustles with artists and art-lovers alike. Paintings and sculptures stretch across the walls, and above them in big, black text reads: “Rising — Thirteen women. One purpose.”

Fourth Corner Frames kicked off their latest art installation, Rising, an art collection created by thirteen women from Bellingham, with an opening reception on Friday, Nov. 16.

The exhibit will be available for viewing until Dec. 31 with an art walk reception on Dec. 7 from 6-9 p.m.

The pieces featured range in mediums and styles from oil paint to fiber and clay, traditional to avant-garde. They are all united under the theme “Rising,” with each artist’s work an interpretation of how they connect to the theme.

Laurie Potter, one of the artists and a long-time employee at Fourth Corner Frames, said she’s been involved in the Bellingham art community for 10 years. She, along with the other 12 other women in the group, meet once a month to share their art and give each other feedback and motivation.

“My favorite thing [about the group] is really the support and the camaraderie,” Potter said. “Sometimes creating art is somewhat solitary so my favorite thing is people supporting each other and helping with ideas or uncertainties, it leads to some wonderful friendships.”

Potter said she approached Sheri Wright, owner of Fourth Corner Frames, about using the gallery for the Rising exhibit. Having worked with Potter and many of the other artists in the past, Wright thought it was a great idea.

“I’m real excited about the show,” Wright said. “I think it’s very spot on as far as everything that is going on with the world politically, environmentally and with gender identity. It’s a great theme, a great show and the art they’re producing is really wonderful.”

The group then came together to come up with a theme and landed on “Rising” to highlight different aspects of today’s society, Potter said.

Many of the artists had different interpretations of the theme. Potter said she usually works with pastels and acrylics to create 2-D, representational work, which often involves realistic and identity-driven images. However, she said she wanted to use this show as an opportunity to try something different.

“I wanted to explore something with metaphor and a little storytelling that goes beyond the realistic,” she said. “This particular piece for the show is a little bit more conceptual.”

Potter’s piece is a multimedia project, focusing on birds and landscapes. She said she wanted to do a type of advertising for nature, an idea she thought of years ago and was now ready to put into action.

Deb McCunn, another member of the collective, decided to go a different route for her pieces, focusing instead on the rising identities of women. She debuted two clay sculptures of rabbits that she modeled after two women, a staple in her artwork.

One of the sculptures titled, “Jessica: She elevated others,” was inspired by Jessica Vachon, an elevator operator for 37 years at the Federal Building in Bellingham. The piece is equipped with elevator elements such as buttons and a platform base, integrating Vachon’s identity with McCunn’s use of rabbits to portray women.

“She looks poised, confident and competent, the photos made me wonder what other things Jessica could have accomplished if more opportunities had been open to women at the time,” McCunn said in an artist statement.

McCunn said her favorite thing about the group of “Rising” artists is the support and encouragement of each other. She said their monthly meetings have been a truly nurturing experience for her.

Potter said her favorite part of the event is seeing all of her fellow artists’ work on the wall for everyone to enjoy. Even though the theme is so open, she said all of the pieces are connected in one way or another.

Wright stood at the edge of the room during the event, watching all of the artists and attendees socialize.

With a smile, she said, “I had no idea what we were working with, but this… is a really cool show.”

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