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An Interview with Seattle’s Newest Gallerist, Tariqa Waters

If you haven’t heard, Seattle has a new and powerful woman in the arts. Tariqa Waters has been here a year and a half  but she’s recently created a ripple, swiftly turning into a wave. I first heard about her new gallery Martyr Sauce a little over a month ago in the Stranger.  Excited by what I read, I looked her up immediately to see if I could get to know her.

I discovered that Waters is a whip-smart, deeply insightful, positive force. She’s a talented painter and though it’s only two months in, shows promising work at her “renegade gallery” in Pioneer Square’s TK Building.

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After hearing what she had to say last week at the Hedreen Gallery’s Seattle Women’s Convention  (Seattle University’s renowned art gallery, of which Amanda Manitach is the curator), I’ve no doubt that her voice is not only going to be refreshing to Seattle, but integral to its progress.

But the gift that Waters truly gave me was the reminder of what we have here, and how good it is. Her perspective is a great addition to our community. I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I have!

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Tell us where you’re from/your history prior to moving here? 

I grew up in the Northeast, DC area. Not to be confused with NE DC although 11th and U St were my old stomping grounds, pre-gentrification. I’ve bounced all over the US and lived in Sicily for nearly 4 years before settling down in Atlanta.

How did you choose Seattle over a bigger city such as LA, NYC or SF? 

With the exception of SF it’s kind of a case of ‘been there done that’. I grew up in the North East. My husband lived in NYC for over 10 years before moving down to Atlanta. And unless we were millionaires, NYC with young kids is just too much of a grind. Neither one of us had ANY desire to move to LA…not our cup of tea. We were strongly considering Portland, but it wasn’t enough of a city for us. We fell in love with Seattle immediately and still love it.

What excites you about the art scene here? 

What excites me about Seattle is that I don’t see an “art scene”. The city deeply supports and has such a large appreciation for the arts. When we made the decision to move here, I was determined to submerge myself and participate with what Seattle had to offer; not necessarily to locate a ‘scene’. It goes beyond individual artists and galleries. I needed city art/music programs in my children’s schools, studio spaces where they can explore and grow, a place where they are encouraged to express their individuality. Seattle provides that. My son is a junior percussionist at Washington Middle and will continue to study in Garfield HS prestigious music department and my daughter dances with Pacific NW Ballet; both programs made available through their school. With two working artists as parents, it’s important that our children can look at the arts as a resource as opposed to merely something that happens around them or another event to attend. Hell, along with the missions and the soup kitchens, there are three art galleries on the same street as my kid’s bus stop. I came here knowing that Seattle and art go hand in hand and I just have to wedge myself into it.

What do you want to see happen in the art scene here? 

See answer above. I dealt enough with that scene shit in Atlanta. I don’t see a scene here and don’t want to. NO, NO can’t make me! 😉

Tell us a little bit about the art you make.

I have a sick sense of humor. I think humor can exist even under the most horrific circumstances. Having dark things happen to you as a child can give you that perspective, especially when you have a light heart. I paint. I paint very large-scale pieces primarily in oils. I love playing around with race, religion and other provocative social and economic issues. I am working on my comedic timing though. I feel that the humor is often times overlooked in my work and I come off more didactic and serious than I am. My work is certainly a bit reactionary, but it has to be. Perhaps my point of view would be more effectively realized if I were a graffiti artist, but I’d constantly end up in jail due to the fact that I like to take my own sweet time with a painting.

Tell us a little bit about your gallery. How did you come upon the name “Martyr Sauce?”

Martyr Sauce is a renegade gallery. From day one my intention with that space was to open it up for artist in the community to show their work but how do you turn a stairway into a gallery? It quickly became, fuck it, you just do it! Turn an unconventional space into a resource for others. Soon the space became a piece of art in and of it’s self. Because this was my first commercial property, immediately I wanted to play with marketing and branding. The name Martyr Sauce actually came from my then 7 year old daughter blurting out and alternative to tartar sauce, an expression my son would usually say in frustration. My husband and I held on to it and would use it in anecdotal conversations at dinner parties… “Can you believe this came out of our daughter’s mouth!? Martyr Sauce!” So, to make a long story longer, that’s how the name came about…out of the mouths of babes. My husband and I had a lot of fun with the concept of un-branding a brand; Turning Martyr Sauce into “nothing”. Empty bottles and branding only for branding’s sake. It gets folks curious and has them involved in turning that nothing into something. They redefine it for themselves…what’s in their Martyr Sauce?

It’s a fun little space. It’s a gallery on my front stoop! Coming from the northeast that’s how I like to see it. It’s in a great location, my favorite part of Seattle, historic Pioneer Square. Right in the heart of 1st Thursday/Art walk. I can’t wait for the warmer months when I can keep the door propped open for a more authentic front stoop feel.

Which art forms/styles/genres excite you the most? 

I can’t say I really have one that excites me over another. I know that’s a lame answer but my family makes it impossible to choose. As long as I’m moved then I’m excited no matter what genre it is.

Which artists in Seattle are you looking at, right now? 

Right now? Right now I’m looking at all of them. I’m still new so it’s been fun checking out what artists have to a say around here. Although one in particular I’m excited about is Laurel R Dodge. Currently I’m gearing up for her exhibit Feb.6th -Mar.5th at Martyr Sauce. Don’t want to tell too much… want folks to come and check it out for themselves.

What’s up your sleeve for 2014? 

Oh, a bunch of tomfoolery and shenanigans.



Tariqa Waters, Old Hickory, 2013 oil on masonite 84 x 54 inches

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  1. […]  Up a few stairs some crazy assemblage sculptures were being crafted with artist and gallerist Tariqa Waters who drew inspiration from the sculptures of Joan Miró, whose art (from his later years) fills the […]

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