Two Artscapes Installations Open Windows on the Psyche

“Ghosts/Dreams” by Sarah Beth Smith

By Lisa Kinoshita

“Your visions will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
C.G. Jung

Dreams and fairytales are sometimes described as two sides of the same coin: dreams as the secret, unconscious process by which an individual deals with suppressed psychic content; fairytales as the depersonalized form of the dream that is owned and shared by a culture’s collective unconscious.

Two current exhibitions at the Woolworth Windows contrast these fascinating ideas: “Ghosts/Dreams” by Sarah Beth Smith reveals the artist’s private feelings of isolation and anxiety within an austere photographic environment; “Six Swans” by Tory Franklin illustrates a 19th-century German fairytale by the Brothers Grimm through rich decorative imagery.

Smith’s windows on the psyche. Spaceworks photo

“Ghosts/Dreams” is Smith’s first public art installation incorporating photography. The work occupies two windows at 11th & Broadway; each focuses on a large, ghostly image of a woman alone in nature. In one she is in flight from something we cannot see; in the other she gazes from a cliff out to sea. For each photograph Smith has built a spare, naturalistic background in the form of rocks or branches; fragments that form a bridge from psychological imagery to the physical world.

“The first few images in the series proved to be the most difficult to produce because they dealt with some very personal and negative emotions that I’d dealt with most of my life but have never wanted to explore artistically,” she says. “In the images, subjects engage with a sometimes nightmarish and often oppressive environment, heightening the intensity of their emotion….I had to put myself into each story and reconnect with the origins of the emotion it represented in order to tell it. It felt scary. But it has been incredibly cathartic to create these images, and to be able to process those feelings in a healthy way.”

In addition to photography this multi-faceted artist paints, and she is a milliner and costumer, as well. Recently, she provided wardrobe and makeup for a short comedy called “The Tag”.

“I’m also getting ready to take a detour to live in the desert for a bit,” she says. “I know the change of environment will be a good creative shock and stimulate some new work. Ideas are brewing as we speak.”

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Tory Franklin illustrates a chapter of German folklore in her exhuberant installation, “Six Swans”, in the Woolworth Windows at the corner of 11th & Broadway. Though the Brothers Grimm story originated in the 19th century, Franklin turned to the latest digital technology to present her retelling.

“Six Swans” is a classic fairytale whose main characters include a widowed king, an evil stepmother, a witch, six brothers who are cursed to become swans for all except 15 minutes of each day, and their beautiful younger sister – the heroine of the story – who in six years must weave a shirt out of starflowers for each in order to break the spell, meanwhile never laughing or saying a word. Franklin tells the story in abbreviated form through laser-cut vinyl text, and 2-dimensional vinyl and screen-printed plywood forms (puppets) suspended or set on astroturf at different depths within the window. With vibrant colors and ornately drawn folkoric figures that the artist says are “heavily influenced by book design from the golden age of illustration”, this site-specific work seems to dance with energy and charm.

A scene from "The Firebird" by Tory Franklin. Photo courtesy of the artist
A scene from “The Firebird” by Tory Franklin. Photo courtesy of the artist

“Six Swans” is one of a body of installations Franklin is creating based on Victorian-era fairytales and children’s toy theaters. She is drawn to window projects, she says, because of their easy accessibility to the public, and because they offer “a ready-made stage set to work within.” Each original puppet takes up to two months to create from initial painting to scanning to printing, but these characters may be reprinted to appear elsewhere in other projects, she says. Past narrative installations have included “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “The Firebird” and “The Little Mermaid”; current projects include “Peter and the Wolf” and “Little Red Riding Hood”.

The conclusion of “Six Swans” are installed at two locations in Seattle; in the Greenwood neighborhood, and at the University of Washington medical gardens as part of Mad Art’s “Mad Campus” project.

Franklin, who is drawing studio supervisor at Cornish College of the Arts, in Seattle, has ambitions for her storytelling project. “Imagine a giant anthology of world tales illustrated by the same artist, with pages placed all over the region…That’s what I’m focusing on fabricating for the next few years.”

“Ghosts/Dreams” by Sarah Beth Smith, and “Six Swans” by Tory Franklin, through Dec. 10, 2014, at the Woolworth Windows, 11th & Broadway.