1. Best Show of the Year: Charles Krafft's "Ring of Spone"
While transvestite potter Grayson Perry just won the Booker Prize for his vases covered with "shocking" images of sex and child abuse, the world's real ceramics genius is toiling away right here in Mayberry: Krafft this year took his cranky tchotchke style to new heights with his commemorative human bone china, made from the bones of the deceased and exhibited in a columbarium last June. Some kind of joke? Well, yeaha great cosmic joke about mortality, reincarnation, and ritual, revealing more layers of meaning the longer it lingered in the mind. I only worry that the guy has become too attached to his identity as a cantankerous outsider to claim his due in the bright center of the world's attention.
2. Most Grievously Overlooked Show: "Internment" at Secluded Alley Works
Tim Foss transformed the front room of SAW into his own version of a Japanese Buddhist garden, complete with stones arranged on the floor and ceramic lotuses. Foss approached his subjectthe internment of Japanese American citizens during WWIIobliquely, with images of isolation and longing rendered on plates and scrolls (a child on the side of a road catching raindrops in his mouth, for instance). It was a moving, clich魦ree tribute to the grace and resilience of Japanese culture that I would guess no more than a few dozen people ever saw. Maybe the Panama Hotel, our de facto museum of the history of Japanese people in Seattle, would like to remount it in that lovely side room of theirs? Just a thought.
3. Hardest Working Duo in Art Business: Thread for Art
They must take a lot of vitamins. In their almost terrifying devotion to the promotion of Seattle artists, the art advocacy group Threadcomprised of former Henry curator Rhonda Lane Howard and graphic designer Rebecca Richardsthis year produced a book on Robert Yoder (as in they wrote, edited, designed, laid out, and published it themselves), curated and produced a runway show at Bumbershoot involving a couple dozen local artists, and put out a second book to document the show. All this whileyesholding down full-time jobs so they can, you know, eat and pay rent and stuff. Somebody get these women an intern!
4. Artist Most Obscured by Collaboration: Elizabeth Jameson
Those were her stunning, otherworldly costumes and sets getting drowned out by the arty babble of Testpattern's performance/installation "Partsong" in August. She also had a difficult piece that disrupted the otherwise crowd-pleasing carnival atmosphere of Thread's "Fashion Is Art" at Bumbershoota crazy-looking welded dress frame that required three people to wear it. None of it quite had the bang the artist delivers when you're in a room alone with her fearsome, comical inventionshere's hoping she'll regain that room of her own in '04.
5. Artwork That Has Most Puzzlingly Failed to Create a Cult: James Turrell's Skyspace
When the Skyspace opened in Julyand remember, it's that permanent, freestanding pavilion attached to the Henry and designed to open up new sightlines on the skythere was a staff member stationed at the door to manage the anticipated crowds and limit the number of people inside at once. Huge crowds have sadly turned out not to be a problem, as far as I can tell, despite the chamber's intense powers of consciousness-expanding and universe-communing. Every time I have goneand I go all the time, as a kind of substitute for churchI've never shared the place with more than three other souls. I guess we should be patient though: Even Christianity needed a few centuries to build up a proper head of steam.
6. Most Dearly Departed: BellevueArt Museum
Let's see . . . Esther Claypool Gallery, which anchored the other, more hard- partying galleries of 617 Western with a bit of professionalism and class, closed back in January. Talented illustrator (and 617 regular herself) Kipling West, who in recent years has appeared in about half of all group shows and curated the other half, suddenly announced she was moving to the moon or Ontario or someplace. But BAM, I think I will miss you most of all. People said unkind things about youheck, I might have even said some myselfbut I identified with your struggling misfit status. You had your adolescent identity crisis, sure, and you probably felt like you would never be as cool as your older cousin across the water, the Henry, no matter how much inscrutable art you crammed into your odd-shaped halls and stairwaysso maybe it's just as well that when you come back in '04 it will be in some totally new form (apparently as a center for craft and design). But I will miss that awkwardly groping sense that you were, with each new show, slowly becoming something. Now we will never know what.