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Thompson Seattle Influencers X Phen Huang

Art & Design

A Seasoned Seattle Gallerist

Since the 1960s, Foster/White has served as an art landmark in the center of Pioneer Square. The gallery mounts contemporary painting, sculpture, and glass exhibitions in its light, high-ceilinged space. The rafters and industrial central pillars provide an alternate setting to the typical East Coast white cube. Below, gallerist Phen Huang discusses her work with Foster/White.

The gallery opened in 1968. Describe how its program has changed over the past five decades.
As with most anything in Seattle, Foster/White has changed over the years. I came to Foster/White Gallery 15 years ago and we moved the gallery three blocks to a lofted brick and steel building. This gave us the freedom to exhibit more sizable sculptures and paintings in a space with high ceilings. We have had some excellent exhibits over the decades from artists both local and from around the world. Our interests have woven through different media now and again. For a time, many works were made of glass, and we had shows of jewelry and tapestry. The connecting thread is the artists’ amazing technical ability. Our history grows with us: some of our artists have shown with us for decades, some just since the beginning of the month.

What makes the Seattle art scene unique? What should more people know about it?
Seattle is the birthplace of many wonderful American institutions. I’m most proud of First Thursday. Every month for nearly forty years, we have opened our doors to the public late into the evening for the longest running art walk in the nation. Seattle’s progressive visual art scene is expansive and inclusive. In addition to galleries, museums, and the Olympic Sculpture Park, our history with 1% for Art, a program that funded fine art for new development, made a big impact in establishing important public art projects. This gives us the privilege to view marvelous works throughout the city. Even Ballard High School has a lauded collection of paintings and sculpture!

Where in Seattle do you go for inspiration? Where do you go after openings, to celebrate?
There are a couple of views in Seattle that are just spectacular—Mount Rainier south of the city and the Olympics to the west. Sometimes you find yourself waiting at a crosswalk and when you look up…there they are. Anytime I catch a glimpse, it soothes my soul. As for celebrating, we have some wonderful restaurants in the Pioneer Square neighborhood and often find ourselves following the opening receptions at these local treasures: Girin, Casco Antiguo, and Il Terrazzo Carmine. Great places for a cocktail are Damn the Weather and Good Bar.

Describe what’s coming up at the gallery this spring.
Currently, we have on a three-person show of young painters from across the continent called Portraiture. They have created figural images of no one in particular. At issue in each piece is a sense of place as an illegal immigrant, as an orphan, as a human. In the upcoming months we will first enjoy oil paintings of abstracted land masses by Chase Langford, then of serene tree landscapes by Robert Marchessault.