Still Lives Exhibit at WA Care Center
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Still Lives Exhibit at WA Care Center


A unique collaboration between a visual artist and a nursing home has resulted in a provocative series of video portraitures about aging, time, image, memory, and relationships. Media artist Susie J Lee began the Still Lives project in April with residents of Washington Care Center (WCC), a nursing and long-term care facility in Southeast Seattle, to explore questions about what we hold onto and what we let go over the passage of time. A public reception will be held on Monday, August 9 from 2 – 4pm in the lobby of Washington Care Center, 2821 S Walden St.

For over three months, Lee and Lakeside High School student volunteer Elizabeth Grubb, visited Washington Care Center residents on a weekly basis, conversing, listening to stories, playing music, and helping out. One resident quietly sang gospel tunes, another played and sang Eric Clapton on electric guitar, while a third spoke of her life caught in the Armenian conflict. Lee sought to ground each person's portrait in their personality with a particular focus on where they are now and how they view their past.

At the end of June, cinematographer and photography director RK Adams was brought in to film each resident in a video shoot with backdrops, lighting, color, and props. Filmed using a Canon EOS 7D, these works are presented in full HD video on three television screens mounted vertically side by side. Each monitor is custom fit with a linen mat and black frame to balance the illusion of still and moving portraits.

Lee used Goya's Black Paintings as a model for each portrait. Goya was in his 70s when he painted this series directly on the walls of his home. Lee felt that Goya's interpretation of age, time and myth were conveyed in private, personal portraits, and these images resonated and inspired this body of work. The Still Lives video portraits are composed of moments that are inherently still, such as waiting, watching, and daydreaming. The work is not slowed down or frozen, but rather, is realized as an unfolding of actual time.

Washington Care Center welcomed the project as a way to involve residents in special projects that directly relate to the lives of the residents. Lee worked with Lora Ray, WCC Activities Director, to get acquainted with each resident and schedule the interviews.

WCC Director Helen Sikov said, "In the process of creating these amazing works of art, our staff and residents became fully engaged in something more meaningful then we could have initially imagined."

Still Lives is sponsored by 4 Culture's Site Specific Program and SEEDArts. 4Culture Site Specific Program is a project of 4Culture, King County's Cultural Services Agency in Washington State. The Site Specific Program presents new art in new ways throughout King County communities in partnership with local arts agencies such as SEEDArts. SEEDArts is a program of local community development organization SouthEast Effective Development (SEED). The project sponsors embraced this project as a way to bring art into a non-traditional arts venue and to expose sometimes unnoticed segments of our community.

About Washington Care Center:

Washington Care Center is a 165 bed skilled rehabilitation and nursing facility, located in Southeast Seattle. WCC serves people throughout the Pacific NW region, including California, Oregon, and Alaska, for transitional and sub-acute care. Their long term residents more closely reflect the diversity of the Rainier Valley community, creating a rich and lively culture. As a non-profit since 2006, the facility has benefited from the association with their new parent company SEED, who invested in a multi-million dollar new Transitional Care Wing and renovation of the previous building and property, establishing a modern model for Washington Care Center.

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