It’s been eight months since we last checked in with Ari Glass, one of the 10 artists included in the 2017 installment of City Arts’ annual Future List. Back then, we called him a “spiritual painter.” Since then, Glass was commissioned to create an installation at the North Tower entrance of Pacific Tower, the massive Art Deco building at the top of Beacon Hill that once housed Amazon’s headquarters and originally opened as a Marine Hospital. The building’s restored lobby features artwork by painter, muralist and Northwest Mystic Kenneth Callahan that focuses on seamen and their lives; now Glass’ new work, supported by the C. Keith Birkenfeld Memorial Trust, will reflect the diverse community of nonprofits and cultures that are present in the Tower today. The piece took Glass four months to complete and, in typical fashion, he’s keeping it under wraps until its unveiling tomorrow.
Pulling up to Glass’ Mt. Baker studio, I’m met with a huge double-exposure mural, pictured below, put together by Glass and collaborator Craig Cundiff. Cundiff typically laces pink and magenta hues in his work while Glass’s signature blue, red and gold set off the background of the piece, crescendoing into a beautiful union.
“I was hipped to the [Pacific Tower] project by Tariqa [Waters], who’s been a dope influence on me and a big help in my journey, especially since having my first show at 2312 Gallery in 2015 with the late J Moore,” Glass says. Waters and Moore also included Glass’ work in their show at Re:definition gallery at the Paramount Theatre last year.
The Pacific Tower project is his biggest yet: two paintings on wood panel, both more than five feet by five feet. Expect much gold in these pieces, as well as the narrative thread that Glass weaves through his work. “I’ve been given creative freedom to make what I wanted with these pieces,” he says. “[The commission advisors] just wanted me to create around these four words: identity, community, history and inclusivity.” In addition to the paintings, Glass designed the room and painted the walls, creating a fully immersive experience.
Now that he’s finished with the Pacific Tower installation, “I’m getting right back into the flow—right back into the groove,” Glass says. He’s been working with youth at the Boys & Girls Club and delving further into ceramics. He planned last month’s Soufend Art Show, a free block party at Rainier and Holly, and Muddy Lotus Arts Festival, an art and wellness gathering that took place at Pritchard Beach in July. He also created another site-specific sculpture there—The People’s Throne, a collaboration between him and Rome Esmaili.
Glass explains that balance is essential in his prolific output. “While working with other dope artists, you get to jump in and learn a lot, but it’s important to refresh yourself by having solitude,” he says. For him, painting is a form of meditation.
Given the success of this year, Glass can only look toward the future with openness and curiosity. His mantra: “I feel like life is one big TBD.”