Yard Waste and Toilet Paper

“I’m fascinated by history,” says Seattle artist Chris Crites, but not its heroes or noble events. Instead, in our Washington state archives, he explains, “I’m one of the few odd people who goes in there looking for old mug shots. They’re all public domain.” And it’s the 90-odd faces of old felons that stare back at you in his new show “Yard Waste and Toilet Paper”—brown paper bags and cardboard rolls being the humble materials on which he repaints the perps’ somewhat stunned faces. They’re not convicted criminals yet, but in the attached records and booking slips (which he sometimes also recreates), “I get to read and discover what they’ve been charged with… the horrific and the completely mundane.” Thus one glum woman is being booked for the unlikely crime of arson; another guy is charged with killing his livestock before a bank auction. (In today’s economy, Crites notes, this is like trashing your house after you stop making mortgage payments.) Most of his subjects are culled from the ’40s and ’50s, most from the Northwest, a period when men wore hats and ties, when women wore skirts, even if they were about to enter jail. These hop heads, shoplifters and adulterers cling to their dignity as the flashbulb pops. BRIAN MILLER

Saturdays, 12-5 p.m. Starts: Oct. 9. Continues through Oct. 30, 2010

 
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