Ship of Fools

Popular exhibit is back on board


When the Weekly last wrote about the “Ship of Fools” exhibit, Wade and Tonie Marlow still owned Bellingham’s Blue Horse Gallery, and the annual show was still a way for area artists to highlight work relating to free speech, political satire and social commentary.

A couple of things have changed since then. The Marlows sold the Blue Horse a couple years ago, and the exhibit went on what could have been a permanent hiatus. However, when “Ship of Fools” comes back to life on April Fools’ Day at the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center, at least one thing will remain the same: the art on display will be much more than a collection of interesting things to look at—it will also be a catalyst for creating meaningful dialogue.

Janet Marino, the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center’s executive director, says she decided to bring the exhibit back to the viewing public after artists that had shown in prior “Ship of Fools” shows suggested the center was the perfect place for a revival.

“George Jartos, in particular, was hopeful that we could bring it back and host it at our new location on Bay Street, right across from its old home,” Marino says. “We’re in such a great location for Art Walk and exhibiting, and art is such a powerful vehicle for change, it seemed like a perfect fit for us.”

After talking to the Marlows—in particular, Wade, who’d started the exhibit soon after the inception of the Iraq War as a way to deal with his own disgust over the course of events that led George W. Bush to commit the United States to what he saw as a senseless war—and finding that they were still on board, Marino says the decision to bring the exhibit back was an easy one.

So far, she says, submissions that have come in include sculptural pieces, paintings, cartoonists, objet trouve, and more. Additionally, there’s still space for poets to read original pieces relating to the edgy topics at hand (contact the center if you’re interested). Music by Boris Budd and friends will also be part of the opening-night festivities. (If you can’t make the Monday-night soiree, a second reception will happen April 5 during the downtown Bellingham Art Walk.)

When asked why she thinks an exhibit such as “Ship of Fools” is important, Marino points to the fact that many of the pieces submitted are by established artists who’ve had a difficult time finding places to show these particular works of art.

“We are providing a space for more controversial work, or work that pushes everyone’s boundaries,” she says.

And, although it’s been a little over 10 years since the Iraq War caused Wade Marlow to vent his frustration with his country via a community art show, the reasons behind beginning the exhibit still haven’t disappeared—and, unfortunately, the war hasn’t, either.

Whether you were a fan of “Ship of Fools” in the years the Marlows brought it to life at the Blue Horse Gallery or are looking forward to being introduced to art that’s not necessarily designed to beautify your living room, rest assured that there will be a variety of interesting things to look at—and talk about.

“People should come if they enjoy being challenged,” Marino says. “People should come to see great art produced by local artists, and to be introduced to the work of the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center.”

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