Art show to feature Federal Way seniors’ memories, travel

Evelyn Gibb can’t see most of her watercolor paintings.

Evelyn Gibb can’t see most of her watercolor paintings.

But the legally blind artist has memorized each color, brushstroke and image as she created each painting from her own family photos.

When she found out she was going blind years ago, she gathered many of her photos and “painted a whole lot of stuff,” said Gibb, 90.

She holds up one of her favorite paintings that depicts a girl holding her father’s hand as they stand on shore and look out over a large white and blue wave. She painted the image from a photo she took of her daughter Melissa — now in her 50s — and her late husband at an Oregon beach.

This painting is one of the many pieces of artwork that will be on display during the Brookdale Foundation House’s second annual art show from Jan. 23 through Jan. 25. The free show that is open to the public will include artwork in various mediums from approximately 20 Foundation House residents, their families and staff.

Gibb, a retired Stanford University counselor, took up watercolor painting after her friend and fellow resident at Foundation House, Arthur Solomon, inspired her.

“It looked like fun — I was hooked,” she said.

She once painted a picture of Solomon when he was fishing, though he was a tough critic.

“She didn’t bend the rod,” laughed Solomon, age 96, a retired communications professor from Western Washington University.

Gibb also enjoys writing and in 2000 she published her first book titled “Two Wheels North.” In her book, she drew on her father’s recollections of his adventure riding a bike from Santa Rosa, California, bound for the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle in 1909. The Seattle Times reproduced excerpts from her book during the exhibition’s centennial in 2009.

Though Gibb hasn’t painted anything in a while, she said her blindness will not keep her from doing more.

“It’s so exciting to put paint on page. I’m not going to be able to stay away from it,” she said.

Solomon painted in watercolor for about 10 years “until my muse fled” and he moved to Foundation House, he said.

His artwork includes paintings of images in the National Geographic that inspired him, including a Vietnamese landscape.

But he will also have a unique piece of artwork on display during the art show — his first attempt at clay sculpture. He holds up the head-sized sculpture of a man’s face painted in gold.

“It looks like me too, they say. The nose is a little large,” Solomon said, noting he was inspired to produce the face when he looked in the mirror.

Fran Violes, 84, will also have some of her watercolor paintings on display during the art show, as she did last year. Violes picked up painting when she retired five years ago after some friends suggested it.

“Sometimes it’s abstract; it depends on the day,” Violes said of her artwork. “I start putting paint on paper and it just sort of evolves. Once in a while, I have a subject in mind.”

She is also trying to combine writing with her paintings. She has many old black and white family photos that her dad took and she’s currently working on a poem about them.

Since she moved to Foundation House, she hasn’t had much time to paint.

“Everything keeps me very busy, but I am going to,” she said.

Foundation House resident Joyce Elijah, 88, will display some of her favorite photos she took of places that she and her late husband visited around the world.

One photo she took in the Serengeti in Africa shows three ostriches with their heads raised looking at a rainbow.

“I love photography. It’s a wonderful expression of what you see. I carried a big bag around with me with all of my lenses,” Elijah recalled of her travels, which spanned most of Europe, the Far East, Middle East, Egypt, New Zealand and Africa.

Elijah, a retired marriage and family therapist, said her husband was a teacher and had the summers off, when they would travel.

“I never did get to see the frescoes in the Paris Opera House, they were closed during the summer,” she laughed.

One of her favorite photos that she misplaced and hopes to find one day is a photo of Mount St. Helens she took a few months after it erupted in 1980.

“In the foreground there are dead tree trunks but there are [pink] flowers growing through,” she recalled.

Tina Callanan, the resident programs director at Foundation House, said the art show is a way to honor their resident artists, whether they produced artwork in the past or are current artists.

In addition to paintings, the art show will feature wood sculptures, stain glass, various textiles and poetry. She noted one resident from England will feature a poem she wrote about surviving a bombing in London.

“That’s the best part, is getting the stories behind [the artwork] because everyone has a story to tell,” Callanan said.

More information

Brookdale Foundation House will host an art show reception at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 23, when residents from three Brookdale communities — Foundation House, Steel Lake and Federal Way — will share their artwork. The reception will feature music, wine and appetizers.

The art show will run from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 24 and Sunday, Jan. 25.

Brookdale Foundation House is located at 32290 First Ave. S., Federal Way.

For more information about the second annual art show, contact Foundation House at 253-838-8823.


Brooklake Foundation House residents, left to right, Evelyn Gibb, Arthur Solomon, Fran Violes and Joyce Elijah will display their artwork, along with many other residents, during a free art show from Jan. 23-25. CARRIE RODRIGUEZ, the Mirror