EDMONDS — The new Cascadia Art Museum — focused on Northwest regional art from the late 1890s through the 1960s or so — has been operating for just eight months now and tonight, May 13, will open its third major exhibition.
If you missed the Northwest watercolor exhibit in the fall and the recent show about Cornish College of the Arts, take heart. The exhibit opening today is fabulous.
Cascadia Art Museum founder Lindsey Echelbarger has a gem in museum exhibition curator David F. Martin. An author and independent art historian, Martin has made it his mission to bring to life the work done by many regional artists from the first half of the past century. Some were nearly forgotten.
Such was the case of the artist John Matsudaira, considered one of the finest Seattle artists of his time.
Born in Seattle, Matsudaira, like many of the Nisei generation (the children of Japanese immigrants), received some of his education in Japan. Matsudaira returned to Seattle during the Great Depression to attend O’Dea High, and then followed his family to the Minidoka internment camp at the start of the U.S. involvement in World War II.
There he enlisted in the Army and was sent to fight in Europe with the highly decorated 442nd infantry regiment. Wounded in his foxhole in Italy, Matsudaira nearly died. He returned to Seattle to enroll in the Burnley School of Art (now the Art Institute of Seattle). He quickly earned an important regional reputation for his painting, and was associated with the likes of Paul Horiuchi, George Tsutakawa and Kenjiro Nomura. He was represented for a time by the progressive Zoe Dusanne Gallery and was invited to show his work at the Seattle Art Museum. He was a shy man reluctant to market himself and after the 1970s began to fade into the background.
The exhibit, “Against The Moon: The Art of John Matsudaira,” is a retrospective, with paintings, prints and watercolors representative of his figurative and later abstract styles, primarily from the 1940s through the 1970s.
“Though virtually forgotten today, Matsudaira was much appreciated during his lifetime by fellow artists,” Martin said. “And Cascadia is pleased to assist in introducing his work to a new generation.”
Matsudaira worked at Boeing for 32 years and raised a family, so his art work was done in his “spare time” and began to focus on Seattle at night, thus the title of the show.
Look for his paintings of the Port of Seattle at night, of snow illuminated by the moon and the large abstract that hung at the Seattle Center during the Century 21 Exposition in 1962.
Also important is Matsudaira’s painting of himself in the foxhole where he was wounded.
He died in 2007 at the age of 84.
Cascadia’s other summer show is “Northwest Photography at Mid-Century.”
The Puget Sound region has long been home to artistic photographers who achieved national and international success. This exhibition will reintroduce the public to photos by those who worked during the midcentury period of 1940 to 1970.
The photographers include Everett’s Yoshio Noma (1914-2005); Marjorie Duryee (1913-1992), also from Everett; twin sisters Dorothy Smith (1905-1982) and Charlotte Smith (1905-1999); Chao-Chen Yang (1909-1969); and Seattle policeman Austin W. Seth (1915-2006).
“The Marjorie Duryee and Yoshio Noma photos are amazing,” said Echelbarger, the museum founder, who added that he is pleased about the Everett connection. “These are great photographers who deserve to be better known. Cascadia is leading the way to a more holistic view of our great Northwest art.”
Martin, the curator, previously published “Shadows of a Fleeting World: Pictorial Photography and the Seattle Camera Club.” With this exhibit he ventures into the next generation of Northwest photographers.
Noma and Duryee, both born in Everett, made names for themselves here and abroad.
Noma was associated initially with George Tsutakawa. Noma was also interned at Minidoka during World War 11. His photos later won local and international awards. His work has been shown at the Smithsonian Institute and his photos are among the permanent collection at the Seattle Art Museum.
Duryee grew up in Everett, graduated from Everett High with Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson, earned an English degree from the University of Washington, taught English at Arlington High School for a couple years and then headed to Europe.
She was a photographer for the Red Cross during World War II. In the 1952, she took a freighter trip through the Panama Canal to Madrid. The Everett Herald published a feature on her trip on Nov. 27, 1952, as an introduction to a travel series of 72 articles that Duryee wrote and provided photos for the Herald.
One of the most interesting photographers in the exhibit is Austin Seth, who was a Seattle police officer.
“Seth’s black and white photos are amazing,” Martin said. “He photographed homeless people on his beat in Pioneer Square, and then he would give them a little money.”
In his obituary in 2006, his family noted his work as a crime scene photographer and other work for the city, but did not mention his artistic photographs.
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; email@example.com.
If you go
“Northwest Photography at Mid-Century” and “Against The Moon: The Art of John Matsudaira” are exhibited through Aug. 23 at the Cascadia Art Museum, 190 Sunset Ave., Edmonds. Admission is $10, with discounts for students and seniors. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. More at cascadiaartmuseum.org.