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Three-person show challenges viewers at Frye Art Museum

exhibit at Frye Art Museum, Seattle

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The Frye has for some time been mounting bold exhibitions and this latest--Your Feast Has Ended--is no exception, featuring the work of Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes (Seattle), Nicholas Galanin (Sitka) and Nep Sidhu (London). While connecting to myth and traditions, all three artists put a contemporary spin on such connections, including political commentary on current society.

Some works speak directly to specific events such as Galanin's two pieces referencing the killing of John T. Williams, a Native American carver who was shot dead by a Seattle police officer when he failed to heed the officer's command to drop the carving knife he was carrying (Williams was deaf). One of the pieces includes the audio from the officer's dashboard camera.

Alley-Barnes' mixed media work entitled "Wait! Wait! Don't Shoot (An Incantation for Jazz and Trayvon)" recalls the shooting of Trayvon Martin and in general the assault on young black men in the U.S. Another Alley-Barnes piece features the taxidermied head and shoulders of a gorilla with boxing gloves strung around its neck. The list of materials for the work includes "human mal-intent."

One of the most powerful pieces also recalls taxidermy. The front half of Galanin's painfully life-like wolf rises up in three dimensions while its back half is merely a wolf pelt spread like a trophy rug. To Galanin, this symbolizes indigenous cultures like his own, the Tlingit, not being allowed "creative sovereign growth."

Animal motifs show up again in Alley-Barnes' Pelt series where found objects such as running shoes, athletes' letter jackets and cloth heads of team animal mascots are arranged in iconic figures as part of exploring Western society's "penchant for trophy."

Nep Sidhu takes on sports mythology in "Paradise Sportif" which offers "garments for the protection and enhancement of modern-day ceremony through ancient channels with a feeling for the now." The garments are vests, shirts, and kurtahs of a variety of materials sewn with power symbols, including "Pre-Salary Cap Basketball Jersey" where gold rope trims the collar and sleeves like royalty.

Each artist works in a wide variety of formats. Sidhu, for example, complements his garments with an even more political collection of American flags concocted of chunky painted metals, each a "sculptural translation" of a poem by Gil Scott-Heron, bearing long titles such as "Ripped Off like Donated Moments from the Past, the Blues Grew Up, and the Country Did Not, Ripped Off like the Indians."

Alley-Barnes presents sculptures using "refuse alchemy"--"literally hand-formed and bound waste." His sculpted white heads bear steel wool hair, one with a necklace of keys.

Galanin has included videos in which a rubbery limbed man dances to a Tlingit entrance song and a man in a raven mask and costume does a traditional dance to music by electronica.

The exhibition continues until September 14, 2014. Admission to the Frye is always free. For information on hours and directions, http://fryemuseum.org/