The recent changes on Bainbridge Island — new retail and residential developments replacing old structures and previously empty lots, an increased population and general cost of living, the downtown Winslow facelift — and the respective benefits and burdens they each entail are a microcosm of the dramatic remaking of the greater Seattle area.
It is for better or worse, depending on who you ask.
If you ask Amy D’Apice it’s both — and it’s beautiful.
The longtime island artist’s new show, “Vanishing Bainbridge,” on display Friday, June 7 through Sunday, June 30 at Bainbridge Arts & Crafts (formerly temporarily known as The Art Project), is a bittersweet look back at our changing local landscape and a response to the inevitability of change.
It is, she said, an homage to the transitory aspect of community, all communities, and a sort of swan song to beloved Bainbridge places giving way to modernity and age: charming cottages, distinctive mailboxes, and other bits of island soul, some still visible and others bygone by a long shot.
“This show, I think, is probably the most personal show that I’ve ever done,” D’Apice said. “[My] last show was all about the global connection between places [and] this is very much about this place, although the idea of loss and change is certainly universal. It’s happening to a lot of places, but because I lived here for so long and raised my kids here, it feels very personal to me.”
The artist moved to Bainbridge in 1986 — “I do remember the funkiness of Bainbridge,” she laughed — and though now spends most of her time in Thailand, she returns to the island at least once a year. The time away, she said, and regular, periodic returns gave her a special perspective on the physical manifestations of Bainbridge Island’s modernizing.
“I sketch all the time, I draw all the time and I love to work out in the world,” she said. “I was down in Fort Ward and there was this beautiful little white cabin, waterfront property [with a] little white cabin — somebody’s dream house, little dollhouse with the weeping willow tree — and up at the top of the driveway was a cluster of mailboxes and a For Sale sign.
“And I saw it and I just thought: This place is doomed! Because it’s on a million dollar piece of land, there’s no way anybody’s going to buy it and live in that house. So I knew that it was doomed, so I went and got my sketch pad and that was the beginning of the project.”
Two years later, not all of the places captured in the 21 mixed-media pieces of “Vanishing Bainbridge” are still around, but the show is decidedly against hand-wringing.
“I thought, ‘I don’t want to be whiny about change,’” D’Apice said. “I don’t like people who are like, ‘Oh, in the good old days…’ and all nostalgic. And also, it makes me feel old if I start to talk like that. I don’t want to go there. So I kept trying to couch it in a positive thing, like a celebration of the irreplaceable buildings.
“It’s not just about tear-downs,” she added. “It’s about irreplaceable structures. And some of them get a rebirth, some of them are still beloved by their families, some are gone, some are for sale and probably gone in the near future, but … it’s really about seeing better.”
Still, a touch of cynicism maybe can’t be avoided.
Though a similar series depicting sites in New Jersey, where she grew up, was received more as she’d hoped, when D’Apice shared some of the early works in the series (a practice she adamantly encourages, including works in-progress) the feedback here was a bit more, well, specific.
“It was this really great conversation [in New Jersey],” she said. “And I did it with a couple of the Bainbridge places and I literally had Realtors posting, ‘Oh, this property is actually worth this amount of money now,’ and ‘Is it still for sale?’ It’s always about the monetary value rather than the feelings around it.”
Still, no hero’s journey is complete without at least a brief dark night of the soul, and, so far as dark nights go, D’Apice’s was pretty cheery.
“Definitely in the middle of the project I felt a little disheartened and I … felt like, ‘Dammit, I do miss the old funky times and I don’t like the newer buildings as much.’ So I was sort of at odds with myself,” she said.
“But then, and this is really I think very cool, I really came full circle. Because, as I was driving around the island looking for new sites, trying to find things, I realized that the island is still just amazingly beautiful. And for every house that I drew there are thousands that are still there that I didn’t get to draw. And I want the show to point out to people that they need to notice these things.”
D’Apice’s work is being shown alongside Kim Simonelli’s sculptures. A special First Friday Artist Reception will be held at BAC from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, June 7. An Artist’s Walkthrough, wherein D’Apice will discuss her work and answer questions, will be held at 12:30 p.m. the very next day.
BAC is located at 151 Winslow Way East, and is open for summer hours (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday to Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday) through Sept. 2.
Visit www.theartproject.org or call 206-842-3132 to learn more.