Weekly Volcano Blogs: Walkie Talkie Blog

April 29, 2014 at 10:00am

Crazy Story Alert: Chuck Close and William Morris art for sale in Tacoma

An original Chuck Close door is up for auction at Sanford and Son Antiques May 3.

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What do the follow things have in common: painter Chuck Close, glass artist William Morris, architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Tacoma's Antique Row, a Russian rescue mission, a flying pig, filmmaking and the Seattle Seahawks?

They are the intertwined subjects (yes, really) connected to local, national and international Camano Island artist Jack Gunter's wild ride of art, auctions, action, adventure, filmmaking and international intrigue.

It all began in 1989 with SeaTac airport. (Important note: you think the random subjects were going to end in the opening paragraph? Well, think again and buckle up folks, we are just getting started)!

OK, so SeaTac needed another runway to expand its operations, and Stanwood, Wash., was one of the targeted options. Gunter "reacted" to that news by creating 17 paintings depicting airplanes crashing into the town's most beloved and iconic features. The paintings were a hit (and the runway headed south).

Now, enter the Russians.

Later that year, a group of folks from Siberia touched down in the Pacific Northwest to promote economic understanding and support on a friendship mission. The group's leader, Valeryan Ivanchenko, met Gunter and liked his work. That led to an invitation to take his aforementioned paintings to the then-Soviet Union for exhibitions. Three museums featured the art. The exhibition was well received and a smash success.

The following year, Gunter flew overseas to retrieve his art and take it home; but alas, his plans turned into one giant debacle (paperwork problems, customs issues, bureaucratic screw-ups) and $80,000 worth of art remained behind in the basement of a Siberian museum.

Gunter vowed to return to reclaim his paintings.

Fast forward to 24 years later and Facebook (oh, yeah, that's right; Facebook).

Ivanchenko and Gunter regained contact through social media and Gunter learned that his paintings were alive and well. So, what was Gunter's next move?

Well, to put together a rescue team of course! So, you're probably thinking Navy Seals or secret spies, yes? Well, think again.

"I gathered two filmmakers for the rescue team," said Gunter. "We picked up about $8,000 in camera equipment, the best small and high tech stuff we could get, because we had to film surreptitiously."

And these weren't just any filmmakers either. Jesse Collver, a filmmaker and actor who happens to work on this little show called CSI:NY and Ken Rowe, an award-winning filmmaker and film professor. So, armed with his crack team, they headed to Siberia to a large town near the Mongolian border armed with their film gear and six Marshawn Lynch Seahawks game jerseys (uh huh, really).

"We had big media coverage in Russia," smiles Gunter. "We were there for 11 days filming the rescue attempt and our quest to find the paintings."

One of Gunter's talk show appearances went 12th Man when a show staffer donned a Seahawks jersey, jumped in front of the camera and chanted "Go Hawks!" to one million Russian viewers. The jersey also made its appearance in a yurt in Mongolia during a special blessing ceremony to find the paintings. The woman who conducted the ceremony donned a jersey, too and chanted the infamous slogan too.

The film, Siberian Rescue: The Documentary Film, is currently being put together. The narrator is one of Gunter's iconic and animated flying pigs; the pig will be voiced by none other than Andrei Codrescu, of NPR, All Things Considered fame.

See, what did I tell you? Beautiful randomness seems to follow Gunter wherever this journey takes him.

So what the hell does this film have to do with Chuck Close, William Morris and Frank Lloyd Wright?

Well, Gunter has recently gotten his hands on some really cool stuff along with some of his own collection that is going to auction at 10 a.m. May 3 at Sanford and Son Antiques in downtown Tacoma's Antique Row, and online to help fund the movie. The artist also has a Go Fund Me page for the film project as well.

>>> William Morris, "Ryton," blown and sculptured glass, 4" x 3" x 4", 1996, up for auction at Sanford and Son Antiques May 3.

Just some of the many featured items include a Chuck Close mural discovered in a Lake Stevens home, a William Morris original creation (from one of Gunter's "Honey, I Shrunk the Art" past events) and a Frank Lloyd Wright bed from his private collection that he "...chased for years and 10,000 miles." All three have larger than life stories of course, and continues Gunter's brush with the random. Here's just one of the stories.

"This lady stopped by my gallery and told me she bought a house that Close owned in Lake Stevens," says Gunter. "He painted inside the house. So, the lady said they found these doors. I told her to put the doors all together like a puzzle, just for fun."

"The result was 88 by 60 mural; it's a complete image. And this is "real" art, not doodling. She asked me to help me sell it, so I am representing the family. I am so thrilled that it all came together."

"This is pretty high altitude for Antique Row, don't you think?"

Uh, yeah.

To learn more about the upcoming May 3 auction at Sanford and Son Antiques, visit its Facebook page and the online auction site. Siberian Rescue: The Documentary Film has a Go Fund Me page.

Filed under: Arts, Tacoma,
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