by Amanda Ong
South Jackson Street’s King Street Station is an iconic landmark in Seattle’s history as a point of entry for Chinese immigrants and black migrants in the early 1900s. A bustling transit hub today, the station is also a bustling arts space and gallery hosted by the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture and affectionately referred to by staff as “KiSS”. The moniker rings true as a warm invitation to his public art space and to show some love to underrepresented artists.
“The gallery is actually an incubator, and that’s where you’re going to see many of our unserved and underserved or emerging artists exhibiting,” said Royal Alley-Barnes, acting director of arts at the Seattle Office. of Arts & Culture, says the emerald. “It’s like a hub, it’s like gathering information, networking, and building community… [and it] is actually accessible to the public.
The KiSS gallery is currently hosting an exhibition by artist Carol Rashawnna Williams, “The 1 Million – Multiple Species Eradication”. The exhibition not only deals with the mass extinction of animals, but also explores the subject’s interconnection with systemic racism. The exhibit features paintings of animals on the Extinction List, with contributions from artists Amaranta Ibarra-Sandys, Paula Oliver, Noa Piper, Sydney Pertl, Kelly and Hope Bain, and Rosalind Davis Guterson. According to Williams, the idea is to explore the connection between the mass extinction of animals and systemic racism.
“I really wanted to highlight the fact that the challenges we face right now with animal extinction and eradication are the same mindset, the same thinking, the same paradigm and the same system in which we operate. around race relations and social justice,” Williams told the emerald. “Especially when we’re talking about African Americans and specifically Indigenous people.”
Williams uses a unique monoprint technique of acrylic paints on torn, hand-dyed fabrics. Due to the variation in the fabric, the installation appears to change throughout the day as the light changes. Many paintings depict more than a single endangered species. For example, a painting of two snakes depicts over 100 species of snakes.
Alley-Barnes Says Exhibits Like “The 1 Million” are exactly why the KiSS Gallery was established in 2016. The Office of Arts and Culture decided to create an arts space run by a curatorial group of community advisors rather than a traditional gallery system to enable unfettered iteration and access to BIPOC artists. produce and present their work.
“There’s no better curator than artists, so this gallery doesn’t have a formal curator structure,” Alley-Barnes said. “This exhibition begins to symbolize what KiSS does as a gallery. …It’s the kind of exhibit that not only engages you visually, but really gets you thinking about where you want to be in all of this discovery that [Carol is] share.”
Wlliams’ work on “The 1 Million” began nearly three years ago, when she read an article about the one million animals currently at risk of extinction in National Geographic. As a self-proclaimed “army kid,” Williams grew up in several places around the world, but always close to forests and wildlife. As a result, she grew up with a deep love for the environment. The article depressed her for weeks and she began to reflect on the impact of nature on her own life.
As she considered this and her own racial identity, the idea for “The 1 Million” began to take shape. She was accepted to create the project for the KiSS gallery, but it was postponed for a year after the pandemic began.
When George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were killed by police in 2020, conversations about race erupted in mainstream culture and on the streets. Williams was living in downtown Seattle at the time, watching protests and homeless encampment sweeps unfold on the same streets where rising rents drove out many longtime residents.
“That particular exhibit really marked a point in my career where I focused specifically on resource extraction,” Williams said. “To show how resource extraction is deeply rooted and tied to African-American identity in terms of European paradigms.”
As such, “The 1 Million” draws parallels between capitalism’s systemic abuses, consumption and exploitation of resources, which have led to the eradication of millions of animal species. and many black Americans.
“[Williams’ exhibit] makes you think about vulnerability [animal] species are… [and] how vulnerable the human species is,” Alley-Barnes said. “[Especially when] we have an underlay of ingrained racism.
The exhibition was created over a two-year period, with several of the contributing artists living in relative physical isolation but forming intimate conversations through this piece. The experience testifies to the intentions of the KiSS gallery as an incubator of non-traditional art.
Williams notes that as individuals it often seems impossible to stop climate change, mass extinction and racial violence, but she hopes the exhibit will encourage people to make connections between the two and see our responsibility to both.
A black KiSS security guard spoke to Williams about the job that affected him.
“For me, that’s the change,” Williams said. “[She] now has a deeper understanding not only that now someone sees her, because I see her experience. But now she has a better understanding of the environmental impact that occurs. …And now she’s committed to doing something different around environmental change. And for me… that’s the goal.
“The 1 Million – Multi-Species Eradication” is open at King Street station until April 7. ARTS at King Street Station is located at 303 S. Jackson St. and is free and open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Amanda Ong (she) is a Chinese-American writer from California. She is currently a master’s candidate in the University of Washington’s Museology program and graduated from Columbia University in 2020 with degrees in Creative Writing and Ethnic and Racial Studies.
📸 Featured Image: Detail from ‘The 1 Million – Multiple Species Eradication’ by Carol Rashawnna Williams, featuring Amaranta Ibarra-Sandys, Noa Piper, Paula Oliver, Sydney Pertl, Kelly and Hope Bain and Rosalind Davis Guterson. Fabric, acrylic, safety pins, 2019–2022. (Photo: Chloe Collyer)
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