Gig Harbor artist has solo exhibition at Tacoma gallery grand opening

Written by Susan Schell, for The Gateway and News Tribune. 8/18/10
William Quinn has a history of being a one-man show. The Gig Harbor artist has had the honor of being the sole exhibitor at art galleries around the Midwest and Europe for 40 years, and he will again hold center stage at the Mavi Contemporary Art Gallery in Tacoma.

His show, “European Odyssey” will be on display from Aug. 18 through Sept. 12. An opening reception will take place on Aug. 19.

Quinn, a painter and sculptor, was on the crest of the wave of American abstract expressionism, a post-World War II art movement. “It was the dominant force (of art) in the 1950s,” he said. “The 1960s were about social revolution. There was the Vietnam War and the women’s movement. There was an emergence of women in art.”

Quinn believes pop art was the most devastating newcomer on the art scene. The difference between what was good and bad was lost during that era, he said.

“The aesthetics of art shifted,” he said. “It upset the values and the meaning of art. There was conceptual art and graffiti art — a parody on art as we knew it.” As time passed, there were fewer competitive art exhibitions where artists could make a living, Quinn said.

“They dried up because there were no standard values,” he said. “It was like the demise of the symphony orchestra. No one composes symphonies any more.”

Quinn made the comparison of when the Berlin wall came down — there were people who were not mentally prepared for such a drastic change in lifestyle — and everything became a big “free-for-all.”

Quinn is a true career artist. He received a master’s degree in painting and drawing from the University of Illinois on the GI bill. He ended up teaching art for 33 years at Washington University in St. Louis, where he met his Belgian-born wife, Janine, who worked in the art history department on campus.

“Art is all I’ve ever done,” he said. “My wife thinks I’m hopeless.”

While teaching at the university, the Quinns took summers off in Europe to paint, and they eventually moved there. William exhibited his work in France, Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. He is listed in the “Who’s Who in American Art.”

While they stayed in Vance, a small town in the south of France, they met a fellow American artist by the name of Mavi (pronounced muh-VEE) Macfarlane. Mavi had sold her business in the Pacific Northwest, the Bainbridge Coffee Company, and moved to France to paint.

Years later, when the Americans found themselves back in Washington, Mavi, now a realtor for Key Peninsula Real Estate, sold the Quinns their home in Gig Harbor. So when Mavi realized her dream of opening her own art gallery, Quinn was a natural for the grand-opening exhibit.

“He’s a wonderful guy to have at our grand opening,” Mavi said. “His work is at museum level.”

The artist opened the Mavi Contemporary Art Gallery in the Merlino Art Center in June with her daughter, Elizabeth Ashe. Formerly known as the Two Vaults Gallery, the pair shut the doors for renovation.

“It was a complete full remodel, down to the plaster,” Mavi said. “It’s a really old building. But we heard the gallery was closing, and we didn’t want to see it close.”

The Mavi exhibit will be Quinn’s first solo art exhibition in Washington.

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