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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Five generations of family through art

“Origins and Evolutions” opens Jan. 26 at Gallery Syre

Sara Genn and her father painting at Lake McArthur, Yoho National Park.
Sara Genn and her father painting at Lake McArthur, Yoho National Park. // Courtesy of Sara Genn.

Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified the artistic team as being run by Corona. The team is led by Syre. The story has been updated for clarity and to correct the error.

By Georgia Costa

Gallery Syre, an art gallery in downtown Bellingham, will introduce “Origins and Evolutions: 5 Generations” — a new exhibition that showcases five generations of family through their paintings. 

The Cordata gallery will open the exhibit to the public Tuesday, January 26. It displays the work of Clara Anderson, David Syre and Amy Healy. Anderson is Syre’s grandmother and Healy is Syre’s daughter.

Sarah Corona, the marketing associate of Gallery Syre, said although the three people are from very different generations, there are a lot of similarities throughout the family’s artwork. 

Fortunately, Healy was able to spend some time with her great-grandmother, Anderson, before she passed. Healy is based in Seattle and her father, Syre, lives in Everson, Washington. He is 80 years old.

“I think we all use color in a way that creates a feeling or mood,” Healy said. “My great-grandma created many cold, snowy church scenes that projected glowing windows of warmth. My dad’s use of color is bold and has many applications in texture, line, and script. And I use color to create whimsical and playful color palettes.”

The gallery includes a literal recreation of late Clara Anderson’s old living room, which makes the exhibition experimental, Corona said. It will also display archived columns from 1968 and 1980 about Anderson from The Seattle Times and The Bellingham Herald. Syre’s team has been working on “Origins and Evolutions” for one year. They developed the exhibition by contacting museums, finding documents and engaging in historical research.

“It was like investigative journalism,” Corona said. “[We would] ask family members, the local museum of history and [discovered] a lot of through word of mouth.”

Healy loved watching her father paint — however, she said she doesn’t think that her surroundings growing up influenced her work as a painter.

“I wouldn’t say [that my career] is a continuation of his legacy, but I do love that we are forever connected through both being artists,” Healy said.

On the other hand, the New York painter Sara Genn said she grew up in an artistic family that heavily influenced her current career. Genn said she thinks all families are a tight organization within their own culture.

“My father’s work and my work worship at the same altar of values — our styles diverge, but are also connected on a cosmic level,” Genn said.

Genn believes she is continuing her father’s love affair with painting. “Anyone in a dynastic occupation is probably, in some way, continuing the quest of the parent, ” she said.

Western art professor Garth Amundson said several contemporary artists use family dynamics as a point of departure for their visual art. 

“Family can serve as a rich part of an artist’s palette,” he said.

Amundson has a student who is learning her lineage and genealogy through appropriated images from her family’s archives, which is “just one example of how art can be used as a vehicle for exploring family dynamics,” he said. 

As in any other career, art can be handed down from one generation to the next, Amundson said. He said he believes curiosity and one’s sense of craft can be passed down through family. A definitive example, said Amundson, is Pablo Picasso and his daughter Paloma, who have both left a large footprint on modern art.

Anderson and her grandson, Syre, both began painting at the age of 72, after they had raised their families and finished their careers, Corona said. Prior to Syre’s commencement of painting at 72, he worked in land and real estate development, where he originally exercised his artistic capabilities through the drawing and sculpting of land and housing. 

On the other hand, Healy began her artistic career at 19 when she attended Scripps College and studied typography, which transformed into mixed media.

Throughout their lives, Healy and her father Syre both have worked in different mediums of art expression. “It’s not just looking at a work of art,” Corona said. “Creative people cultivated their creativity in their very own way.” Gallery Syre’s exhibition will be an in-person event with mandatory masks and social distancing, Corona said. It will be open between Tuesdays and Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. until May 22.

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