Artist/writer Storme Webber tells an intimate story of marginalized Seattle in Frye exhibition.
Many locals know the underground history of Seattle’s Pioneer Square. After all, there’s a popular tour that literally takes people under the streets, telling stories of foolhardy gold rushers, boisterous lumbermen and seedy characters on Skid Row.
Less often told are the stories of how certain places — saloons, bars, diners — provided safe havens for marginalized people: Native Americans, gay folks and the city’s working class.
For Storme Webber, a Seattle-based interdisciplinary artist and poet, these histories are personal, familial and sources of strength and pride. Members of her family found refuge and community in establishments located near the corner of South Washington Street and Second Avenue South: the Doubleheader, the Busy Bee Café, and the Casino, one of the oldest gay bars on the West Coast.
‘Storme Webber | Casino: A Palimpsest’
11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursdays, through Oct 29. Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave., Seattle; free (206-622-9250 or www.fryemuseum.org).
For her powerful exhibition at the Frye Art Museum, Webber invites us to consider how the history of the Casino intersects with her family’s history, and, more broadly, with this region’s Native heritage.
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On one hand, it is a spare exhibition of family photographs, archival documents and her own poetry. On the other, it engages in complicated ideas about which histories are told and whose voices are involved in the telling.
As a Two-Spirit (an individual embodying both genders), Aleut/black/Choctaw cultural producer, Webber is committed to witnessing and voicing marginalized histories. For her first solo museum show, she wanted to “indigenize the gallery.”
We are greeted by a mural-sized 1891 photograph of native boats at a now long-gone Seattle dock and a 2017 audio recording in the Lushootseed language of several Salish tribes. We hear the story of Kaúxuma Núpika, a 19th-century Kootenai Salish medicine person and prophet who was also Two-Spirit.
Moving to the “family” gallery, we’re greeted by an “altar,” a gift-laden kayak surrounded by greenery, an homage to the journey from Alaska undertaken by Webber’s grandmother and great-aunt when they were little girls in 1929.
Elsewhere, a large grouping of…