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Spokane

Artist creates visual inventory of Spokane’s urban landmarks

Sat., Oct. 25, 2014

The living-room wall in Chris Bovey’s home is draped with Spokane iconography.

Dick’s Hamburgers. The Milk Bottle. Trade Winds Motel.

Each image is screen-printed on cardstock paper, filtered through Bovey’s memory and artistic vision.

Bowl and Pitcher. Peaceful Valley. Finch Arboretum.

“I want to do a Hillyard one,” Bovey said. “I grew up looking at all these places, and a lot of them are just disappearing. But if the Trade Winds can live on in some form, in a poster, it’s kind of cool.”

Bovey’s prints are becoming a visual inventory of Spokane’s identity – its neighborhoods, its businesses, its landmarks. In the nearly two years since he began making them, the series has come to feel like a curated vision of the city’s important and interesting places.

The Shack. White Elephant. The Milk Bottle.

Big Foot Tavern. The Garland Theater.

Expo ’74. Naturally.

Bovey has created 34 prints in limited runs, and he’s sold between 500 and 600 of them for $20 each. He’s also produced a calendar. Each print run is numbered and signed, so they’re special – but they’re also accessible and affordable.

“The average Joe who knows nothing about art can buy this and hang it up in their house and always have a piece of Spokane,” he said. “It becomes a part of their life as well.”

Bovey sells the prints mostly through Atticus, the downtown coffee, gift and book shop. Owner Andy Dinnison says they’ve been a big hit.

“They sell fantastic,” Dinnison said. “I think it’s a really good thing for Spokane. It’s cool to see everything from the Garland Theater to Monroe Street Bridge to some of the sillier ones, like Ms. Kitty’s, immortalized in poster form.”

Bovey was born in Australia and moved to Spokane with his family at age 9. He graduated from Lewis and Clark High School, attended Spokane Falls Community College and worked for a time in tech support on the West Side, before returning to Spokane. He began working as a graphic designer. Eight years ago, he started working for The Inlander, where he is now art director.

His work there also has included some creative and bizarre tangents – like “Lunches and Punches,” a Web series from 2010 that is still on YouTube in which he and a fellow Inlander staffer creatively destroyed various local lunches. They tossed a Swinging Doors baked potato off a bridge. They blasted a bowl of the Elk’s gumbo with a shotgun. They tried to blow up a Neato Burrito burrito. The videos are silly and fun, and – like the posters – very much tied into Spokane identity.

The posters, though, are unconnected to his day job. They are a “total passion project,” Bovey said. “This is something I just love doing.”

Bovey makes his prints in the laundry room of his Medical Lake home, where it looks like “a Jackson Pollock exploded,” he said. He uses photographs as a starting point for his creations, but often stylizes the image as well – his Dick’s poster, for example, shows the restaurant building in fairly straightforward detail, but the word “Dick’s” is designed in a glitzy, almost-Vegas array of large letters.

“I thought that felt very ’50s,” he said. Of his style generally, he said, “I love the old tourism postcards. You know, ‘Visit beautiful Hawaii’ – stuff like that.”

Bovey made the first of his local prints in January 2013: Mount Spokane. At the time, he had in mind something that local tourism promoters might use, but that didn’t pan out. When he showed the poster to Dinnison, though, there was an immediate interest. Bovey did Grand Coulee Dam next, and then Finch Arboretum, and then Dick’s …

As he made more of them, he began to draw from his own life – places he remembers from his childhood, places he worked, places he ate. Most recently, he made a print of Dan’s Barber Shop, the North Monroe tonsorial landmark.

“I go to Ming Wah all the time,” he said.

His wife, Liz, interjected, “That was one of our first dates.”

“And I worked at the Garland (Theater) for a time,” he said. “I used to get my hair cut at Dan’s. It would be hard for me to do a poster that didn’t have some meaning for me.”

He’s done several businesses and former businesses, but they don’t commission him.

“I decided to just make the posters and take it to them afterwards … and ask if they’re OK with it,” he said. “I haven’t had any business say, ‘Hey, we hate it.’ Usually they’re enamored with it.”

He’s not sure how long he will keep doing the posters – until it stops being fun, he said. For now, he’s got a long list of places to add to his series: Jack and Dan’s, the General Store, Peking North, the Satellite …

“Maybe one day I’ll cover all my walls with them,” he said.

Shawn Vestal can be reached at (509) 459-5431 or shawnv@ spokesman.com. Follow him on Twitter at @vestal13.


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