Cherry veneer, cloth and wood form “Finwhale Frigate,” a work in the Northwind Arts Center’s “Whales, Ships, and Sky” show. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

Cherry veneer, cloth and wood form “Finwhale Frigate,” a work in the Northwind Arts Center’s “Whales, Ships, and Sky” show. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

‘Whales, Ships, and Sky’ — Port Townsend art show blends forms

PORT TOWNSEND — Their visions align.

Kristian Brevik, a Port Townsend native son, and William Wessinger, a Portland, Ore., boatbuilder and racer, make art to strengthen this community we share with other creatures.

Their land and marine animals — sculpted orcas, humpback whales, barn swallows, chum salmon, a red-tailed hawk — have all arrived here on the waterfront.

The indoor contingent awaits visitors to the Northwind Arts Center, 701 Water St., in the new “Whales, Ships, and Sky” show, part of Port Townsend’s monthly gallery walk with an opening reception from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday. On Sunday, Brevik and Wessinger will give a talk about their art at 7 p.m.

Admission is free to all of this, and “Whales, Ships and Sky” stays up through Sept. 29 at Northwind, which is open to the public from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. every day but Tuesday.

Kristian Brevik, right, and William Wessinger installed whales, salmon and birds made of wood, cloth and light at Port Townsend’s Northwind Arts Center this week. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

Kristian Brevik, right, and William Wessinger installed whales, salmon and birds made of wood, cloth and light at Port Townsend’s Northwind Arts Center this week. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

Outdoors, after dark today and Saturday during the Wooden Boat Festival, Brevik’s distinctive lanterns — sculpted whales lighted from within — will be arranged at the east end of Water Street by the Northwest Maritime Center.

“It’ll be sort of an archway,” Brevik said, “so you can walk through, with [the whales] suspended above and around you.”

He uses LED bulbs to illuminate these sculptures, whose skins are translucent, modified papier-maché cloth. The glow is meant not only to reveal their skeletons, he said; but also to draw people in.

Brevik’s desire, he writes in his artist statement, is to inspire a sense of connection with “the nonhuman kin with whom we share the world.”

Wessinger has similar hopes.

“We live so much of our lives separated from nature,” he said.

With his art, Wessinger wants to give us a sense of belonging, of connection to the family of living things.

With their lithe bodies, his whales look like they would be right at home in the Salish Sea.

Wessinger, who raced his boat in the 2018 Seventy48 from Tacoma to Port Townsend, is a versatile woodworker. He shapes his curvaceous mammals and raptors out of Oregon white oak, reclaimed fir, black walnut and bigleaf maple. Neither glue nor metal can be found anywhere; each piece is the fruit of 40 to 70 hours of handiwork.

For both men, the Wooden Boat Festival is a time for joining art, craft and science together.

Wessinger has participated in the giant event for a decade now; he hand-builds kayaks and other boats in addition to sculpting wooden turkey vultures and marine mammals.

Brevik is the son of the late Jay Brevik, a deep-sea fisherman, boatbuilder and an early leader of what is now the Port Townsend Marine Trades Association.

Artist Kristian Brevik places a light inside “Starship,” one of his sculptures in the “Whales, Ships, and Sky” exhibition at Port Townsend’s Northwind Arts Center. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

Artist Kristian Brevik places a light inside “Starship,” one of his sculptures in the “Whales, Ships, and Sky” exhibition at Port Townsend’s Northwind Arts Center. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/for Peninsula Daily News)

The younger Brevik graduated Port Townsend High School in 2006, worked on farms across the Chimacum Valley and studied with local artists Maureen Piper and Lorna Smith. He earned a degree in natural sciences and interdisciplinary arts at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, while building his portfolio as an artist. Now he’s at work on a doctorate at the University of Vermont, exploring the interconnectedness of life: according to the Science page on KristianBrevik.com, his path is to “find a way to make a better world for our kin of all species.”

Alongside his cetacean lanterns and Wessinger’s sculptures, Brevik is displaying “Starship” and “Finwhale Frigate.” With their grooved bellies and wide sails, they’re seagoing hybrid organisms, full of grace. Using lapstrake, a traditional shipbuilding method, Brevik overlapped scores of thin-sliced planks to form “Starship’s” body. Inside, he places a light to make the vessel glow from within. On each of the 12 sails, he embroidered the night sky on one side and appliquéd sun, clouds and blue sky on the other. The building of “Starship” took about as long as a journey by ship across the Atlantic Ocean.

Kristian’s mother, JES Schumacher, finds her son’s work thrilling. In making this art, she added, he honors his father’s memory.

“Jay would be so very proud of Kristian’s many accomplishments, which so align with Jay’s interests and beliefs, ” she said.

Yet their son has “his own personal style and skills,” she said, “and weaving of art and science.”

________

Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.

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