EAST WENATCHEE — It’s safe to say this one is unlike any other exhibit opening you’ve been to in the valley.
“Forms: Invasion of the Naked Humans,” opening Saturday at RadarStation Gallery, is just what it sounds like — an exhibit where the subject of paintings, drawings and photographs is the nude human form. Where real, live nude women will stand around in a small home gallery to be gawked at, or thoughtfully considered, or looked away from quickly, self-consciously. And where then, after experiencing the show, the good and clothed people of the Wenatchee Valley will exit back out into the world and talk about what they just saw. What the heck WAS that? What do we think about it? And that’s the whole point, says RadarStation Gallery owner and artist Ron Evans.
“I’m not even so much interested in the art aspect of this as I am in the conversation that may come from it,” Evans said. “Walking in here and seeing naked people — Are you going to look them in the eye? Are you going to feel free to check out their bodies? They are there to be looked at, but if they’re right there looking at you, I don’t know how I’m going to feel about that. … Mostly I hope people come here and have interesting conversations about something we all have in common.”
The idea for the show came to Evans during a conversation at a bar with friends. Why do women have to cover up their breasts and men don’t? The more Evans thought about society’s nudity hang-ups, the more he saw the potential for an art show. He added the live nude models to the agenda “to push that conversation.”
“Nudity is a strange thing because we all have it under our clothes and yet we all come at it from different places,” he said. “In Sunday school they taught us that it is biblical to be ashamed about being naked. It says so in the bible. They (Adam and Eve) were naked and free and the forbidden fruit was eaten of and all of a sudden shame entered the world.”
But that idea — that we should feel ashamed of our nakedness and reach for the nearest fig leaf — is in conflict with human nature, Evans said, and it doesn’t exactly fit with all of those pictures he remembers seeing as a kid in National Geographic.
And so Evans put the call out — to his RadarStation regulars and beyond — for artwork submissions around the theme of nudity. In came dozens of nude selfies, artfully arranged nude portraits, sketches, paintings, and one large, wooden, interactive piece made by Kellie and Victor von Beck. (When you spin the wheel, up pops a naked woman from the ocean.)
Evans asked for images of men and women, but nearly every painting and picture he received was of a woman. The three brave souls who signed up to be nude models at the exhibit opening are all women. The artists in the show, however, are mostly men.
“It says something, but I don’t know what it says. And a lot of the women who sent in pictures are mothers,” Evans said. “Seems like moms tend to be a little more bold. And maybe it’s an age thing. I don’t know. I got quite a few submissions from 20-somethings but a lot more of what I’m seeing is from people in their 30s and 40s.”
Evans opened RadarStation Gallery in the first floor of his Grant Road house in April 2015, “the valley’s only pop surrealism gallery,” this newspaper proclaimed that first month. Every month or two since then, the gallery has rolled out new exhibits, usually opening with a reception during the Wenatchee First Fridays Art Walk. Most have been theme shows — Sasquatch, science fiction, circus sideshow and other themes that fit well with Evans’ personal interests, his paranormal podcast, “Tales From the Spacepod,” and the gallery’s overall vibe. There have been some solo shows, too. On a slow reception night, 20 to 40 people show up. Often attendance is over 100.
On June 25, Methow Valley musician and former member of Chumbawamba, Danbert Nobacon, will perform an acoustic show at RadarStation, the first in a summer-long series of musical performances and lectures by authors and artists on a small stage in front of the gallery. That’s Evans’ front yard on Grant Road, surrounded on all other sides by cherry orchards.
“I’ve been surprised by the success of the gallery and now I want to grow more,” Evans said. “I see the potential. Now that I know that there has been this much interest, I’ve adjusted my exceptions. The word is getting out beyond Wenatchee. People come from Canada and Portland. Other galleries, including the Moses Lake gallery, have invited us to come in and do basically a RadarStation day with our art. So there are artist exchanges that are happening. That way our First Friday events aren’t so incestuous and repetitive, we’re getting new blood here and our artists are getting more exposure.”
RadarStation’s stable of artists — regular contributors to the shows, artists who generally share the RadarStation sensibility — include Chad Yenney, Chris Quinn, Shen Leidigh, the von Becks, and one of Wenatchee’s best known painters, Jan Cook Mack.
“I love what Ron is doing with (the gallery),” Cook Mack said. “He is making art accessible to our public. They show work that is published in books and share a genre of works that we are familiar with in toys, cartoons and films. I find the art shows at RadarStation very entertaining.”
Cook Mack has a piece in the “Forms” exhibit, a small sketch of a naked woman that looks nothing like the Jan Cook Mack landscapes that hang above fireplaces all over town.
The reception Saturday is free and includes refreshments. Parking is always tight at the gallery, and may be even tighter for this one, so carpooling is recommended.
“It will be really interesting to see how many people show up for this,” Evans said. “I think it’s either going to be really crowded in here or just crickets, and from what I’m hearing, I’m leaning toward crowded.”
If you go
What: “Forms: Invasion of the Naked Humans”
When: Opening reception 3-9 p.m. Saturday; on display by appointment through July
Where: RadarStation Gallery, 2201 Grant Road, East Wenatchee
Information: RadarStation Magazine & Gallery on Facebook, radarstationart.com