Northwest News

Jay Inslee displays a fondness for bears in Tacoma art show

Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President George W. Bush, Gov. Jay Inslee.

All three politicians took up painting during or after their careers. Only one currently has an art show in Tacoma.

Inslee has paired up with former House speaker and Tacoma mayor Brian Ebersole for “Nonp(art)isan” at MU Gallery in downtown Tacoma.

The show opened Friday and runs through Nov. 3.

Inslee and Ebersole each have about 15 artworks in the show. None of the work is for sale.

Inslee’s work ranges in style and age. Perhaps the most recent was painted on the eve of the June 27 Democratic presidential debate in Miami.

“The governor painted this picture looking out of his hotel window,” Ebersole said Thursday of the classic Miami scene of water, palm trees and high rises. “Rather than cramming over his notes — what he’s going to say the next day — he chose to paint.”

It’s unknown if this is Inslee’s first art show. Inslee was traveling Friday and unavailable for an interview, his staff said.

“He uses painting, he said, to relax himself, center himself, to take himself out of politics and quiet his mind and his heart,” Ebersole said.

Ebersole’s paintings are mostly portraits and landscapes in an impressionistic style.

MU Gallery is part of Minka, an art and vintage goods store owned by Lisa Kinoshita. Ebersole is the gallery director, and Kinoshita served as the curator for “Nonp(art)isan.”

There’s no overt political theme to the work in the show. Inslee’s paintings were plucked from the walls of the Governor’s Mansion by Kinoshita.

Inslee’s artistic sideline is no secret. During his presidential run, Inslee’s Twitter account often featured #jaydoodles — examples of his work.

Like a chainsaw carver, Inslee makes bears a recurring theme: Polar bears, brown bears, a bear serving as governor.

One of the paintings in the MU show is a polar bear painted onto a collage of torn-up New York Times pages.

“It fits into his concern about the loss of polar bears because of global warming,” Ebersole said.

Inslee seems to have been influenced in part by Andy Warhol. One of Inslee’s pieces has the famed pop artist’s repetitive imagery style. Like a sheet of psychedelic postage stamps, the images of Inslee’s hiking buddy change colors in each frame.

One of the more striking pieces is a large painting of Inslee’s daughter-in-law dancing at her wedding. The figure stands out against its unpainted craft paper canvas.

Other images include skiers, Mount Rainier, Santa Claus, an Eastern Washington canyon and a wood box painted with a octopus in a native Northwest style.

Inslee and Ebersole have known each other since 1987 when Inslee was a freshman legislator and Ebersole was House speaker.

“But, I had no idea he had an interest in painting until about a year ago,” Ebersole said. “He’s obviously pleased with his paintings, and he’s pretty doggone good.”


Where: MU Gallery inside Minka, 821 Pacific Ave., Tacoma

When: Noon-5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday and by appointment

Admission: Free

Information: 253-961-5220,

Craig Sailor has worked for The News Tribune for 20 years as a reporter, editor and photographer. He previously worked at The Olympian and at other newspapers in Nevada and California.