By Russell Chandler

Local artist and poet Janet Laurel showcases unreleased work at Skagit Cellars tasting room in Gilkey Square through September. “Red Goddesses” is a curated collection, representing decades of her prolific and unseen work. Galleries in Seattle were originally hesitant to hang the work and subsequently Laurel started her own gallery when she bought a church from the steel workers union in West Seattle. Always moving on to another series, this artwork was archived for a later time. 
A lifetime of expressiveness was digested, dissected and assembled by textile artist Angelee Lloyd Richmond in a two week period. In the end, it was the unshown work that resonated. Richmond grew up on the floors of the union hall. Years later it would be Laurel’s gallery. Her mother was the first woman steel workers union steward and through serendipity Richmond unrolled years of artwork. 
“I was drawn to Janet’s work because it represents the work of an untamed spirit. Janet is a pure, raw and disciplined soul who is able to pour her true self into her work,” Richmond recalled. “Janet stands tall in a long line of women who dared to be angry, sexual, talented and challenge a world that does it’s best to diminish feminist energy.” 
Laurel, a Pacific Northwest native, was an influential force for decades in the Seattle art scene. Her work is in many Seattle area collections as well as nationally and internationally. Trained in traditional Japanese Sumi painting and calligraphy, her innovative style fuses Eastern and Western culture, the natural world, passion, sensuality and vivid imagery. Her collection is expressive with poetry, calligraphy and images all integrated into the work. 
A professional artist her entire life, she supported herself and family. “I never was princess and sometimes you need to kiss a few frogs,” she says after discussing a painting with a young woman. 
Entering the winery is an overwhelming sensory experience. Across the windows are strung clothesline and art hangs by clothes pins. There is a sense of the forbidden and, curiosity and mystery. “I wanted to give the show and the unframed pieces a woman’s touch” explains Laurel as she flips through the pages of the guestbook.
Many of the pieces are unframed nudes done in minimalist traditional ink on rice paper. Raw, honest and brilliant best describe this. 
Russell Chandler, Skagit Cellars winery marketing manager, organized the exhibit. His summary: “This show is out of a deep respect for Janet. Though some of the pieces might be shocking to some, it’s a testament to her ability to shake up the art world. I come from music and photography. The 1980s with Punk and New Wave broke down barriers bigger than the Berlin Wall. While the winery is not a traditional gallery, we are a strong supporter of the arts. We organize the summer concert series for La Conner Live! and have weekly live solo musicians. There’s a French term, Salon. That’s where we are evolving as a winery. There is a mix of art, wine and community that totally reflect the essence of the town of La Conner.” 
The show runs through September, Thursday-Monday 12-6 p.m.. Check it out. Sometimes we need to add a little gasoline to the fire.


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