Brothers celebrate life through art: Owners of the Arthead Gallery extend love of life, art to others

Over the course of its 27 years, the Arthead Gallery - run by two brothers in the Meridian neighborhood - has provided a showcase for emerging and established artists.

Realist Northwest art is currently being highlighted at the gallery in the Painters of Puget Sound exhibition through Friday, Jan. 21.

"We're showing more representational art than we ever have before," said William Wikstrom, owner and operator of the Arthead Gallery.

Many of the painters featured in the exhibition are members of the 76-year-old Puget Sound Group of Northwest Painters. William has been a member of the group for 24 years, and his brother, Brom, curator of the Arthead Gallery, has been a member for 27 years. Paintings by their father, Robert, are also on display.

'A family of art'

The brothers' artistic parents were naturally quite supportive in their decision to become artists.

"It was a family of art," William said about growing up. "I got a lot of strength from that."

William, 52, has supported many up-and-coming artists, but most in the current exhibit are professional, older and retired. "I like representing more professional artists," he said.

In addition to running the gallery, William often visits hospitals, Boys & Girls Clubs and juvenile detention centers, where he makes portraits for disabled children.

"So few people know how to render any more. It's like a magician's trick," he said. "I always come away stronger and invigorated about art after I do it."

Recently, William has been focused on videography as an art medium. He runs a public-access television show on Channel 77 called "Mixed Messages." It airs on Sundays at 8:30 p.m.

"Public access is like an electronic art gallery," he said.

Art is particularly important during a time of tragedy, William mentioned, adding that he feels that art is meant to provide a moment of rehabilitation for the stresses people have.

"Art has a therapeutic value and makes you stop worrying about your problems and the world's problems if for just a moment," he said.

Taking advantage of opportunities

Before Brom suffered a spinal-cord injury in New Orleans about 30 years ago, he had been attending Seattle Central Community College to study commercial art, an industry that his father made a living in.

"My father was probably my biggest inspiration," Brom said. "I certainly appreciated his work ethic."

After the accident, Brom was determined to establish a career in fine art. Brom, 51, is currently a member of the International Association of Mouth & Foot Painting Artists. Fellow mouth-painter and friend Felix Espinosa will have a joint show with him at the Arthead Gallery in July.

Brom's art has been exhibited all over the world, from Switzerland to Sydney, Australia. He even took a trip to Machu Picchu in Peru, where he was carried by a crew of four men to places that wheelchairs do not normally go.

In 1976, artist Jacob Lawrence, a professor at the University of Washington at the time, heard about Brom's accident and visited him in the University of Washington Medical Center to give him some encouragement.

In 1979, Brom went to an art festival in Washington, D.C., where he met a variety of established artists, including Andy Warhol. "It was a thrill to get a chance to meet him," Brom said. "He scrutinized my stuff."

Later, in 1994, Brom met the emperor and empress of Japan.

"It's just a matter of taking advantage of the opportunities as they come along," he said.

Currently, Brom has been working on a series of temples and market scenes for an upcoming exhibition in Shanghai, China. He is one out of about 100 foot-and-mouth artists from around the world who will participate in the event.

Brom said he is still on a high from an exhibition in Taiwan that he just finished in November, but he remains loyal to his Seattle roots. Brom lives next door to his studio in Magnolia.

Brom spends the majority of his time painting. He hopes to use more oils and acrylics in his artwork this year. Lately, he has been working in watercolors.

Brom also volunteers at the University of Washington Medical Center, where he speaks with patients.

More gallery time

William, who lives in a studio in the back of the gallery, admits that he is investing more time in the gallery now than ever. He has been remodeling the space since last September.

William recently repainted the purple studio white, giving the room more light.

"We both agree on the direction of the gallery," William said about running the gallery with his brother.

The next exhibition, The Art of the Print, is a collection of graphic art spanning several centuries; it will run Jan. 28 through March 1.

Jessica Davis' column runs weekly; e-mail her at[[In-content Ad]]