Visual arts warm things up for First Night

There’s magic and promise in the air in the days between Christmas and New Year’s.

From Friday through New Year’s Day, Art Fusion – a sparkling new addition to the First Night Spokane celebration – will bring the inspirations of local artists and artisans to the heart of downtown.

Sculpture, paintings and mixed media works will be installed in storefront windows, and live artist demonstrations will take place around the entrance to River Park Square.

“This was our dream child this year,” said Mina Gokee, First Night board president.

Thanks to the board, a huge volunteer committee and leaders in the arts community, including Karen Mobley, Sue Bradley and Louise Kodis, the visual arts plays a significant role in this year’s celebration.

While a $12 button is required for admission to First Night events on New Year’s Eve, Art Fusion is free.

The theme for this year’s inaugural event is “Somewhere in Time.” As you look at the window displays, try to think of the imagination of the artist as he or she captures a moment in time.

The moment is now for installation artist Bradd Skubinna, who is Art Fusion’s featured artist. Skubinna’s installation will be in progress all week behind the windows of The Crescent Court building, 707 W. Main St.

Skubinna, an art instructor at Spokane Falls Community College, will be hanging alternating sheets of pierced blue plastic tarps and metallic strands of recycled Christmas garland.

“It’s about using the windows, attracting the eye and drawing people to a store,” said Skubinna, “abstracting that idea of Christmas windows, getting rid of the commercial aspect – (because) there’s nothing there for sale. It’s just bringing the decorative aspect of window dressing and taking away that idea of objects for sale.”

The other window displays will be completely installed by Friday.

David Saling, a Spokane artist who has created two public sculptures locally (at Joe Albi Stadium and at the Fire Maintenance Facility and Training Field House), has named his window series “A Step in Time.”

His window installation at Macy’s, 214 N. Wall St., features life-size, mannequin-like stand-ups – figures cut from plywood and painted realistically – which Saling says are similar to two-dimensional paper dolls of years past and “steeped in the tradition and history of fashion.”

“ ‘A Step in Time’ plays with our ideas about what clothing means and who should wear it,” he wrote.

Around the corner in the Macy’s window on Howard Street is Ruben Trejo’s installation, “Time and Time Again.” Trejo feels that the mixed-media sculpture transcends time and space by bringing an animal from another culture, with Mexican folkloric references, into downtown Spokane.

“A Jaguar in Spokane” is made from brightly painted wood posts, placing the figure in a crouching position that is symbolic of a man, perhaps an Aztec, in costume. The face, or mask, is composed of hand-tooled inlaid wood pieces, and a Texas longhorn extends from the back of the head.

“My inheritance of Mexican and American cultures has been a vital source for my artwork,” writes Trejo, a retired Eastern Washington University arts instructor.

Potter Margaret Gregg’s window installation at Jigsaw, 601 W. Main Ave., is titled “Good Times.” A stack of large ceramic beads, which have been thrown on a wheel, are laced on a pole, creating a tall candlestick.

Gregg calls it “a decorative, funky kind of sculpture.”

A vivid, 4-by-5-foot painting called “Time in a Bottle” by Dara Harvey is on display in the Digitron Building window at 120 N. Wall St.

The collaged painting contains the words “tick tock” and has a wind-up clock in the background and a “bottle creature,” symbolizing how “time can be both cruel and good to us,” said Harvey. It also speaks of “how we dream and follow those dreams,” she said.

Dan McCann has a large exhibit in the front gallery of the downtown library, 906 W. Main Ave., a small portion of which can be seen from the windows.

McCann’s mixed-media works utilize found objects and boxes, creating stories and mystery.

“The box represents control – a limited space that I work with,” he said, “I have to be real careful with utilizing that space. Use it wisely, and to its potential.”

Wendy Zupan Bailey’s window at Global Credit Union, 726 W. Riverside Ave., has a large mixed media jester with a sculpted face, brilliant colored fabrics, an old timepiece and iridescent feathers to represent the flight of time.

Jennifer Zurlini can be reached at jenniferz@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5479.

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