The Frye Art Museum is proud to present Casino: A Palimpsest, the first solo museum exhibition of Seattle-based performance artist and poet Storme Webber. Through family photographs, archival records, and poetry, Webber unearths a personal history of one of the oldest gay bars on the West Coast, the Casino. As with a palimpsest, on which writing that has been erased remains visible under new script, the historical documents in this exhibition reveal some of the many histories that lie beneath Seattle’s streets.
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, saloons, bars, and diners on Seattle’s Skid Row (present-day Pioneer Square) provided a haven for poor folks, lesbian mothers, urban and displaced Natives, gay servicemen, working girls, hustlers, achnucek (two spirits), butches, femmes, drag queens, and the city's working class long before the creation of "safe spaces" for LGBTQ people. Establishments such as the Double Header, the Busy Bee Café, and the Casino—all located near the corner of South Washington Street and Second Avenue South—provided refuge for many, including Webber's own family.
The artist's family lines draw us in, displaying the warmth, strength, and resilience of people who are well accustomed to adapting to change and new environments. Webber is descended from Sugpiaq (Alutiiq) women with origins in Seldovia, Alaska, and from Black and Choctaw women from the Deep South of Texas and Louisiana. They personify the perseverance displayed by Black and Indigenous peoples in all eras. In a city where history is vanishing daily, Webber's work stands as a corrective witness, seeking to restore narratives that have been lost in the evolving myth of Seattle.
In addition to the objects and documents on view, a series of dynamic programs including performances, readings, and workshops occurring throughout the duration of the exhibition will incorporate the performative and collaborative aspects of Webber’s practice.
Storme Webber (American, b. 1959), a writer, interdisciplinary artist, educator, and curator, was born and raised in Seattle where she attended Lakeside School. She holds an MFA in interdisciplinary arts from Goddard College, Plainfield, Vermont. She has performed and toured her work internationally, and consistently foregrounds the work of other marginalized artists, most recently founding Voices Rising: LGBTQ of Color Arts & Culture in Seattle. Her poetry collections include Diaspora and Blues Divine. She has been featured in numerous anthologies, including Black Women and Writing: The Migration of Subject, International Queer Indigenous Voices, and The Popular Front of Contemporary Poetry, and in the documentaries Venus Boyz, What's Right with Gays These Days, and Living Two Spirit.
Webber received the 2015 James W. Ray Venture Project Award, which is funded by the Raynier Institute & Foundation through the Frye Art Museum | Artist Trust Consortium. The award supports and advances the creative work of outstanding artists living and working in Washington State and culminates in an exhibition at the Frye Art Museum.