SEATTLE, WA.- The Frye Art Museum
is presenting Casino: A Palimpsest, the first museum solo exhibition of Seattle-based performance artist and poet Storme Webber. Through family photographs, archival records, and poetry, Webber unearths a personal history of one of the oldest gay bars on the West Coast, the Casino. As with a palimpsest, on which writing that has been erased remains visible under new script, the historical documents in this exhibition reveal some of the many histories that lie beneath Seattles streets.
Casino: A Palimpsest is a love song to the Ancestors, a praise song for their survival and their ferocious loving resistance to erasure, says Webber. It is social history told through the lens of the stories of my own multicultural and often queer family.
It is a conversation with Seattle, Duwamish territory, where my mother and I were born. It is contemplation of the land itself and its history of theft and commerce. Its an Indigenous tale. Its a story of the Black Migration. Its an untold narrative of pre-Stonewall queer community. It honors the Mothers who above all, made a way out of no way. Its a song of workers and hustlers and multiracial poor folks. At this moment of exposed oppression by state and society, it stands in witness to ways in which our Ancestors survival informs and inspires our own.
It is a song of the stone that the builder refused.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, saloons, bars, and diners in Seattles Skid Row (present-day Pioneer Square) provided a haven for poor folks, lesbian mothers, urban and displaced Natives, gay servicemen, working girls, hustlers, achnucek (two spirits), butches, femmes, drag queens, and the citys working class long before the creation of safe spaces for LGBTQ peoples. Establishments such as the Double Header, the Busy Bee Café, and the Casinoall located near the corner of South Washington Street and Second Avenue Southprovided refuge for many, including Webbers own family.
Webber is descended from Sugpiaq (Alutiiq) women with origins in Seldovia, Alaska, and from Black and Choctaw women from the deep south of Texas and Louisiana. They personify the perseverance displayed by Black and Indigenous peoples in all eras of history. In a city where history is vanishing daily, Webbers work stands as a corrective witness, seeking to restore narratives that have been lost in the evolving myth of Seattle.
This exhibition links the past to the present, in its representation of the struggles for basic human rights undertaken by Native, Black, and LGBTQ communities, says exhibition curator Miranda Belarde-Lewis. Its especially important to acknowledge that, even in the progressive city of Seattle, there is a long history of backlash against vulnerable peoples who are just trying to live. The use of the artists own deeply personal family photographs is a powerful way to tell these bigger stories, and we hope the exhibition will invite everyone to consider the unknown stories behind their own family artifacts.
In addition to the objects and documents on view, a series of dynamic programs, including performances, readings, and workshops occurring throughout the duration of the exhibition will incorporate the performative and collaborative aspects of Webbers practice.
Storme Webber (American, b. 1959), a writer, interdisciplinary artist, educator, and curator, was born and raised in Seattle where she attended Lakeside School. She holds an MFA in interdisciplinary arts from Goddard College, Plainfield, Vermont. She has performed and toured her work internationally, and consistently foregrounds the work of other marginalized artists, most recently founding Voices Rising: LGBTQ of Color Arts & Culture in Seattle. Her poetry collections include Diaspora and Blues Divine. She has been featured in numerous anthologies, including Black Women and Writing: The Migration of Subject, International Queer Indigenous Voices, and The Popular Front of Contemporary Poetry, and in the documentaries Venus Boyz, Whats Right with Gays These Days, and Living Two Spirit.
Webber received the 2015 James W. Ray Venture Project Award, which is funded by the Raynier Institute & Foundation through the Frye Art Museum | Artist Trust Consortium. The award supports and advances the creative work of outstanding artists living and working in Washington State and culminates in an exhibition at the Frye Art Museum.
Miranda Belarde-Lewis (Zuni/Tlingit) is a mother, curator, artist, and author. She works to highlight and celebrate Native artists, their processes, and the exquisite pieces they create. She has taught at Northwest Indian College, Bellingham, Washington, and the University of Washington. Belarde-Lewis holds an MA in museology and a PhD in information science from the University of Washington. She has had the pleasure of guest curating exhibitions at the Bill Reid Gallery in Vancouver, the Frye Art Museum, and the Museum of Glass in Tacoma.