Ship of Fools

Anger management for artists

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

It won’t be difficult to spot Wade Marlow at the opening reception for “Ship of Fools.” At the April 1 event at the Cooper Lanza Gallery, he’ll be dressed in fools’ regalia.

In past years, Marlow’s costume of choice at the recurring exhibit was of a decidedly military bent, including a dark suit festooned with official-looking medals and an eye-catching hat reminiscent of something Napoleon Bonaparte might have worn.

The politically charged outfit befitted the theme of the April Fools’ Day event, which Marlow and his wife Tonie started hosting at the former Blue Horse Gallery in 2003, soon after the beginning of the Iraq War had them seeing red and looking for a way to help the creative community vent its frustration with what many saw as a senseless war. The exhibit was a means for artists to share work that wasn’t created with a mass market in mind, while also acting as a catalyst for meaningful dialogue and bringing some levity to a dire situation.

Then as now, “Ship of Fools” was a way for visual artists, musicians and poets to share work relating to political satire, free speech and social commentary—something that is sorely needed since a reality television star became the leader of the free world and promptly tried to lay waste to America’s constitution.

“Anger management for artists” has been a running theme of the show, which has only been revived once since the Marlows shuttered the Blue Horse Gallery.  The last time the exhibit came to life, it was in 2013 at the Whatcom Peace & Justice Center, when director Janet Marino listened to artists like the late George Jartos, a longtime contributor to “Ship of Fools” who suggested that it continue. After conferring with the Marlows, the revival was a go.

Although Jartos isn’t around to lambast Donald Trump and his increasingly erratic presidency via paintings and political cartoons, his artistic legacy will live on at a special exhibit and auction of his works taking place shortly after “Ship of Fools” comes to an end.

In the week prior to the Sat., April 15 auction, fans of Jartos can stop by the Fairhaven gallery to put down bids on and peruse seven large acrylic paintings and two sculptures. At 7:30pm on the night of the big event, bidding on the silent auction will close, and nine paintings will be sold prior to that at a live auction.

Although many patrons will no doubt wish Jartos was still around to discuss his art, those who purchase his remaining works can do so with the knowledge that money raised from the sales will go to advancing the conservation of wildlife and habitat in our region with Conservation Northwest, the primary beneficiary in his will.

While Jartos was known for his paintings and cartoons—which were featured on the pages of Cosmopolitan, Penthouse, and in this paper—he was also a nature lover, and had contributed illustrations to the nonprofit’s newsletter in years past.

Because he was also an artist with an activist streak, it’s a good bet that many of the patrons who climb aboard the “Ship of Fools” will also be in attendance when it comes time to pay their respect to Jartos—a man who made an indelible mark on the city he lived in.

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