Georgetown

Gouache and Acrylic Collage on Watercolor Paper; 44 1/2" x 59"; 2008

Georgetown's got it all: planes, trains, automobiles. The ground is toxic and so is the air. It's loud, it's smelly, it's dirty.

"More Noise Please!" wrote Seattle underground poet, Jesse Bernstein, while he was living there.

Part of industrial south Seattle, historically home to immigrant workers, Georgetown is a truck route that lies under the Boeing Field flight path, with a working railroad running through it and I-5 looming above. The city wanted to put a dump there.

The neighborhood is beautiful in that decaying, melancholy, ancient industrial way, with red brick, 19th century factory buildings lining the main drag. Artists love it.

Over the last decade or so, more have moved to the area in search of relatively cheap and funky digs. One building has been artists' live-work spaces for decades. The gargantuan former Rainier Brewery/Tully's HQ now houses an artists' live-work housing co-op. A lovely ballroom, cloistered till recently by its owner, has been turned into studio spaces.

Businesses have sprouted. There's a pizza parlor, a falafel place, a massage and skincare salon, Fantagraphics books, an auto repair place. It's a scrappy, edgy, hip neighborhood, taken over by young artists who now proudly host their own art fair, featuring graffiti, go-carts and power tool races. 

One night a couple of years ago I drove there to check out a place to live and work. The space I visited that night, along with a handful of hipsters, used to be a glass-blowing studio. It was a cave of a building, invisible from the road, hedged in by blackberries on one side with rusted cars out the back and no windows. 

I stepped in to the concrete gloom and stayed a while, trying to figure out how to make it work as both home and studio. Finally I realized that while I might have gone for the adventure in my twenties, it wasn't right for me now.

Instead I took a tiny apartment up the hill from the heart of Fremont, and a spacious studio in an old brick building, north of Georgetown in Pioneer Square - which is where I made this collage. 

Georgetown is the largest and most ambitious of my Squarescapes collages. It's the only one I ever made on that scale, and the last city-themed work I made before turning to my collage paintings. 

I made it specifically for a show at the Kirkland Arts Center that included many of my smaller city collages. I challenged myself to realize a vision I'd had for a while of a collage with blocks of color so big you'd have to stand across the room for them to resolve into a city scene. It was the last piece in a long era of work, and technically demanding.

I don't know that I realized the scale I initially imagined. But I think I came close, and working that large enabled me to make the next step to my large collage paintings.

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Original available. Contact me.

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About Steven Jesse Bernstein

Hear Bernstein read "More Noise Please!"