Friday, November 16, 2018

Raven and the Box of Daylight

Preston Singletary at Museum of Glass
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Nov. 15, 2018

 “Wealth Eagle Rattle” blown glass, hot-sculpture and hand-carved glass, cedar bark, by Preston Singletary, photo courtesy Russell Johnson

Internationally renowned Native American glass artist Preston Singletary returns to Museum of Glass with Raven and the Box of Daylight. The exhibition narrates in glass art the Tlingit story of Raven and his transformation of the world, bringing light from the stars, the moon, and sun.

In addition to stunning artwork, the exhibition includes multi-media immersive storytelling in which the Tlingit story unfolds during the visitor’s experience. 
Like the best of Northwest Indian artists, Singletary’s work blends the traditional art of his tribal ancestors with the innovative methods and aesthetic principles born of contemporary art movements, in his case the Pacific Northwest glass art movement. He studied glass art with Seattle area artists Benjamin Moore and Dante Marioni, and he studied in Europe, where he learned the methods of Lino Tagliapietra and other European masters. His artworks feature themes of transformation, animal Spirits and shamanism with blown glass and sand-carved Tlingit designs.
Raven and the Box of Daylight is the Tlingit story of Raven and his transformation of the world—bringing light to people via the stars, moon, and sun. This story holds great significance for the Tlingit people. The exhibition features a dynamic combination of artwork, storytelling, and encounter, where the Tlingit story unfolds during the visitor’s experience. 
Tlingit objects were traditionally used to show wealth and tell stories by representing elements of the natural world, as well as the histories of individual families. By drawing upon this tradition, Singletary’s art creates a unique theatrical atmosphere in which the pieces follow and enhance the exhibition narrative. Art objects and exhibition text are supported by audio and video elements, including recordings by storytellers, music, recordings of Pacific Northwest coastal sounds, and a backdrop of shadows and projected images
Singletary’s blown-glass animal figures such as “White Raven,” are classical in their simplicity and elegance and include carved designs in the Tlingit tradition. His baskets and other containers combine simple textural contrasts and geometric designs. The human and animal figures on the title piece, “Raven and the Box of Daylight,” cast lead crystal and glass, are like totem figures only shorter and more compact. These works of art and the stories they illustrate should provide for a wonderfully enlightening visit to Museum of Glass.
Raven and the Box of Daylight, Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., through September 2, 2019, $5-$15, free to members, free Third Thursday, Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St. Tacoma, (866) 468-7386

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Familiar Faces & New Voices

Surveying Northwest Art at Tacoma Art Museum
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Nov. 8, 2018
Minidoka No. 5 (442nd)” acrylic on canvas by Roger Shimomura, Tacoma Art Museum, gift of George and Kim Suyama, photo by Richard Nicol
The exhibition Familiar Faces & New Voices: Surveying Northwest Art has been on display since this past spring but has not received the fanfare of blockbuster shows like Art AIDS America or Hide/Seek or 2015’s Georgia O’Keeffe exhibition. But it is a solid and historically important show highlighting works by some of the Pacific Northwest’s best artists, as well as many little-known but worthy artists with more than 55 works from the museum's collection of PNW art from the 19th century until today. Included are works by Louis Crow, Morris Graves, Kamekichi Tokita, William Ivey, Jacob Lawrence and many more.
One of the earliest works in the show is Vincent Colyer’s oil painting “Home of the Yakimas.” This moody, hazy landscape offers a precious view of a Yakima Indian village on the banks of a river in 1875. The light is veiled and mysterious — a misty scene typical of the Northwest.
In Walter Isaacs’ 1936 “In the Paddock” we get a glimpse of the artist’s Cezanne influence prior to his more abstract modernist works associated with the famous Northwest School of painting made famous by Morris Graves, Guy Anderson and Mark Tobey. “In the Paddock” is a painting of horses depicted in flat planes of color.
From these early works, the show carries viewers to bold contemporary art such as Patti Warashima’s “Amazed,” a maze of human and animal figures in porcelain and Plexiglas. Nude female figures perch on shelves in a wall-size maze. Some seem to be falling, while others appear to be ascending or descending on ropes, and there are larger-than-human rats prowling through the maze. The obvious message is that modern humans are caught in a rat race in which there are no winners and from which there is no escape.
Among the more interesting contemporary works are Joseph Park’s “Chess,” a delightful painting of rabbits playing chess, painted in an almost photorealist manner but all in tones of brown, and Roger Shimomura’s Minidoka No. 5 (442nd),” a Pop Art picture of a fierce warrior painted in a style reminiscent of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein in tribute to the Japanese interred at the Minidoka relocation center in Idaho.
And fascinating to study is Sutton Beres Culler’s “Convenience Booth,” a telephone booth with everything a person could need in it, including a gum machine, first aid kit, a clock, and a condom and tampon vending machine.
"When we talk about art history we often reduce it to a few orderly lines, a few key figures, so that it's easier to get our arms around," say TAM Curator Margaret Bullock. "But in reality it's messy and changeable."
Expressing similar sentiments, Chief Curator Rock Hushka said, "Exhibitions such as this one share the multifaceted art history of the Northwest with our visitors and are key to TAM's work of studying and celebrating that artistic heritage."
 If there is any downside to this exhibition it is that it is too heavily weighted with 19th century landscapes that look alike.
Notice: some works on view will change during the run of the show.

Familiar Faces & New Voices, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, $15 adults, $13 students and seniors, free for military and children 5 and younger, free Third Thursday from 5-8 p.m., Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, 253.272.4258,

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Birds of a Feather

Chris Maynard’s feather creations at Childhood’s End
By Alec Clayton

All photos by Chris Maynard, courtesy Childhood’s End Gallery

"Morning Crow 6" turkey and small parrot feather
Chris Maynard’s feather art at Childhood’s End begs the questions, how do you distinguish between art and craft, and when does cleverness become trickery? Bev Doolittle’s famous paintings of horses hidden in trees because the spots on their coats match the spots on trees in snow are clever gimmicks. But her oeuvre becomes a one-trick pony through repetition, and thus her painting’s value as art are lessened. Maurits Cornelis Escher employs similar tricks in his paintings of flocks of birds that morph into schools of fish and negative spaces that become positive and paintings of buildings with disorienting architecture, yet his work is generally considered greater art than Doolittle’s paintings. The difference might be hard to quantify. It has to do with the greater variety in Escher’s work and his larger vision.
"Swallow's World" turkey feather

'Pluck 2" argus pheasant feather
Maynard’s feather art has a lot in common with both Doolittle and Escher. He even blatantly borrows from Escher with repetitive images of birds becoming fish or stars and vice versus. But his vision is unique to him and conveys a deep love for the world of nature he depicts. And as in Escher’s work, there is a lot of variety in his imagery.
Maynard cuts images out of feathers and mounts them under glass. He cuts out the shapes of birds and fish and mounts them along with the feathers with the negative shapes he has cut out to create inventive worlds of his imagination — literally in the case of one piece called “Swallow’s World,” in which he created an entire world, including a globe made of turkey feathers.
In these pictures he employs many fine art elements such as unity created through repetition and a sophisticated interplay of positive and negative shapes.
In “Pluck 2,” an eagle hovers in attack more at the top of a feather, and as the eye travels down we see schools of fish. As in many of his pictures, the feather from which the pictures are made becomes a part of the picture.
Also on display are wire and metal sculptures of animals by Colleen Cotty. These are created by twisting wire into animal shapes and mounting them on driftwood and stone and other materials from nature. The most interesting one of these one called “The Becoming,” which is a mass of twisted and overlapping wire inside a shell form made from a bent sheet of brass. Only upon close inspection does it become clear that the tangled wire is in the form of a horse lying on its back with its legs in the air. It is most interesting when seen as a purely abstract shape playing off the contrasts between the brass shell and the twisted wire.
Also showing are pastel landscapes by Mary Denning.

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, through Nov. 11, Childhood’s End Gallery, 222 Fourth Ave. W, Olympia, 360.943.3724.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Jungle and Tsunami Coming

Laura Boilini and Michael Kaniecki at Minka
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Oct. 25, 2018

Top: "Tsunami Coming"by Michael Kaniecki, bottom: "The Jungle" by Lauren Voilini, photos by Alec Clayton
Featured artists at Minka are Lauren Boilini and Michael Kaniecki. Boilini is a Seattle-based painter and public artist who has been awarded commissions across the US and artist residencies all over the world. Her epic installation "The Jungle" explores themes of overcrowding, aggression and ecological breakdown.      
Tacoma artist Michael Kaniecki bends, cuts and paints on almost endless sheets of paper with India ink. His new installation at Minka, "Tsunami Coming," is a 51-foot sheet of paper that has been folded into a giant slinky hung over the door and snaking from wall to wall. At the lowest point of each of five curves the paper is pinched into a point and fans out in sharp radiating lines that are hidden among the black and white shapes painted on the surface.
On another wall are a group of smaller ink paintings on folded paper by Kaniecki. These works are decorative; the large one is impressive in its monumentality and its complexity of form within a simple snake-like shape.
Boilini’s "The Jungle" is also monumental in scale and concept. The installation consists of five large paintings on paper depicting fighting birds and monkeys in a jungle setting. Each painting is approximately 84 inches in height and 34 inches wide. According to an artist’s statement, they “explore themes of male aggression, overcrowding, ecological devastation, nature stripped down to its essence.” These paintings are expressive and aggressive. The jungle background is more stylized than natural, with blobs and streaks and splatters of paint, mostly tones of blue on a tan ground, standing in for trees and sky and earth. In one of the paintings, rhymical yellow lines flow across everything like vines hanging from trees. The animals are painted in wild bursts of contrasting colors. The birds, which flank three paintings of fighting monkeys, are barely recognizable as birds but are slashes of feathers and claws in deep ultramarine and Prussian blue with orange and brown feathers. The paint application is rough, in keeping with the violent imagery. In one of the bird paintings, the background is a splatter of flung paint like blood splatters but blue.
In addition to these paintings and a store crowded with unique arts and crafts, there is more art in the upstairs Art Above Gallery, including collections of Oaxaca carved and painted wood animals and masks and a large Day of the Dead alter. The animals are from the collections of Brian Ebersole and Dr. Antonio Sanchez. They are whimsical, funny, and highly imaginative.
There will be a reception for Lauren Boilini November 15, 5-8pm, during the Third Thursday Art Walk.

Tsunami Coming and The Jungle, noon to 5 p.m., Thursday-Sunday and by appointment, through Nov. 30 (Day of the Dead Alter comes down Nov. 1, “The Jungle” is scheduled to remain on display through Dec. 31), Minka, 821 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.961.5220

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Juried art exhibition at Tacoma Community College

The good, the bad, and the what-the-heck
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Oct. 4, 2018
"Reverie," painting by Alain Clerc, courtesy Tacoma Community College
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: juried exhibitions are always a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the what-the-heck. Given that, the annual juried exhibition at the gallery at Tacoma Community College weighs much more heavily toward the good, with a few pieces that could even be called great.
Among the more outstanding pieces is Irene Osborn’s ceramic sculpture “Refugee.” It is a small bust of a mother holding her child to her breast. The feelings it conveys are sadness and sweetness. It could almost be said to be maudlin, but it rises above that. And then, if you look at it from the back, there is a huge surprise. The figure is hollowed out and lumps of clay inside the scooped-out figure look like a cascading waterfall of boulders. It is startling, thought provoking and attention-grabbing.
“Refugee” ceramic sculpture by Irene Osborn, courtesy Tacoma Community College
Another piece that is attention-grabbing is Lois Beck’s monoprint “Intersection.” There are four small prints mounted within a horizontal frame. Each print is an almost solid dark brown with two jagged white lines like lightning strikes that run from edge to edge, intersecting at one point. It is a small but bold and simple print that is electric in its impact.
And yet another startling image is Mary Beth Haynes’s sculpture in painted waxed clay, “Manifesto.” It is a bust of a woman with arms lifted as if in celebration and mouth open in what looks like a defiant shout. Even though the sculpture is small, the figure appears monumental. She is a large, muscular woman. Her hands and the top of her head are left unfinished in jagged shards like a figure in the process of being chiseled out of a mountain. This is a powerful image that reminds me of the female figures seen in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes now on display at the Tacoma Armory.
Barbara Patterson has two paintings in the show that amazingly look much alike even though one of them is completely abstract and the other is clearly figurative. “The Dance of the Monks” depicts three dancing monks painted mostly in flat areas of blue with some orange, and the untitled abstract painting next to it is a grouping of squarish shapes in the same range of blues and oranges.
“Nude Window” by Paul Steucke is a large nude that reminds me very much of paintings by Robert Henri of the Ashcan School in its moody simplicity, but it is more contemporary in appearance because it is flatter.
There are two paintings by Alain Clerc that create large overall patterns with peek-a-boo figures that are mostly hidden within patterns of organic shapes. His “Reverie” is a landscape with two female nudes sprawled across hills. At first glance the figures are not noticeable but are just part of the landscape. And at the bottom there is a large running rabbit that’s remindful of the hare in Alice in Wonderland. His paintings are clever in concept and eye-catching due to the ways in which a variety of colors and shapes are unified into a single pattern.
Glen LaMar is represented with three abstract sculptures, two with soaring shapes and one like a heraldic shield, and all with rich, opalescent colors. His “Inner Beauty” was chosen for a juror’s choice award. Also chosen for a juror’s choice award was one of two paintings by Lynette Charters from her celebrated Missing Woman series, either of which could easily deserve the award.
Annual Juried Local Art Exhibition, noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, through Oct. 20, Tacoma Community College, Building 5A, entrance off South 12th Street between Pearl and Mildred, Tacoma, visitor parking in Lot G. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Paradise Motel

Staged readings from the works of Sam Shepard
By Alec Clayton

Photo of Company, left to right: Jeff Salazar, Deya Ozburn, Jason Sharp, Meleesa Wyatt, Marilyn Bennett, Mark Peterson, and Peter Pendras, photo courtesy Marilyn Bennett

Paradise Motel is Toy Boat Theatre’s staged readings from Sam Shepard's plays, short stories, poems, essays, journals and interviews with actors Marilyn Bennett, Mark Peterson, Deya Ozburn, Jeff Salazar, Jason Sharp and Meleesa Wyatt. Longtime Northwest guitarist and recording artist, Peter Pendras will accompany the performance.
“In college I did an independent study course on Sam Shepard and discovered that his plays, like August Wilson’s, gave the world an honest glimpse into an American perspective of American Life,” Peterson said. He goes on to say That Bennett’s selections give audiences “a beautiful tribute to Sam Shepard's effect on her work and I think in the spirit of Mr. Shepard's storytelling.”
Shepard is an iconic American playwright and Oscar-nominated film actor who died July 27, 2017 of complications from ALS or Lou Gherig's Disease.
Born in Fort Sheridan, Illinois in 1943 to an army officer, Shepard grew up on a ranch in California and went to college in Texas. He first came to national notice during the 1960s, winning three OBIE Awards for three short plays. His greatest theatrical accomplishment was his 1979 full-length play, Buried Child, about a dysfunctional family with a terrible years-old secret, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama. He also wrote screen plays, directed for stage and screen, and was nominated for an OSCAR for his role as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff.
Shepard's cannon of plays and writings offers a dark and gritty portrait of the American family. In plain, often profane language, his characters argue, abandon, return after years away, love hard and fight harder. Many of his works are funny, his characters given to high expectations and very low results.
I grew up on Shepard's writings, and wanted to offer some sort of homage to him and his incredible, unique writing, Bennett said. “I am six years younger than Sam Shepard, and became aware of his work during my college days in the UW School of Drama. While a graduate student in Seattle, I performed at a Capitol Hill theatre in Shepard's early one-act play, the Cajun thriller Back Bog Beast Bait with fellow Paradise Motel company member, Meleesa Wyatt. I played the Cajun conjurer, Gris Gris, miming recorded music on a fiddle as I roared around the stage spouting beast prophecy and harassing those who feared his coming. Needless to say, it was a blast and I was hooked.
“I began reading anything of Shepard's I could find, and some years later, at University of San Diego, I directed his darkly humorous family drama A Lie of the Mind. I continued to read his writings: plays, prose, poetry, reflections, musings. I was less enamored of his film work, but always found him a looker. Somehow, his unique way of writing about and describing a dusty, flat, itinerant and violent American West, and his long estrangement from his father, have always moved me. And I am struck by the vulnerability of his fear of flying. His openness about the progression of his ALS in Spy of the First Person is devastating.

The reading includes pieces from many of his non-theatre writings, including selections from Motel Chronicles and Cruising ParadiseHawk Moon, Two Prospectors, The One Inside, Rolling Thunder Log Book and his last work, Spy of the First Person. Play excerpts include Back Bog Beast Bait, Curse of the Starving Class, Buried Child, A Lie of the Mind, Fool for Love, True West, and Sympatico.
"I'm a Shepard newbie,” said Ozburn. “Never having been particularly drawn to the genre in which he writes (that ‘dusty, flat, itinerant, violent American West,’ as Marilyn describes it). Working with Toy Boat and Marilyn always expands my horizons though, and I jumped at the change to have an excuse to dive in and explore the sampling of Shepard's works that she had curated into this performance reading. More than his plays, I'd say I've been drawn to his poetry, writings on art, and his last work, Spy of the First Person. I'm a big fan of his dry humor—at how un-precious he is about his ‘process’ as a writer and an actor; the ridiculous situations artists find themselves in to do what they do for an outcome at any cost. Countering that with Spy at the end of his life—absolutely open to the humility of losing with the fascination of character study equal to one of his plays. He leaves you in a place of very specified, detailed loss of things you take for granted. He leaves you with a sense of the importance of family, and what lives on after."
This reading contains adult themes and language; suitable for mature teens and adults. It is a minimally staged reading by six actors, underscored with American country-rock guitar by Peter Pendras. Plays about 80 minutes, followed by wine.
Paradise Motel 8 p.m. Oct. 12 and 13, King's Books. 218 St. Helens Avenue, Tacoma, WA, $5.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Newsies at Tacoma Musical Playhouse

Newsboys shut down New York City with song and dance
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Sept. 27, 2018
The cast of Newsies, photo by Kat Dollarhide
Disney’s Newsies at Tacoma Musical Playhouse is a romping stomping look at the beginnings of the labor movement, based on the true story of an historic strike by newsboys that brought business to a standstill in New York in 1899. Newsies won Tony awards for Best Choreography (Christopher Gattelli) and Best Original Score (Alan Menken and Jack Feldman). Locally, choreographer Megan Hicks adapted the challenging dance numbers to fit on a smaller stage with 35-plus actors running, leaping, spinning and turning flips in a space where it would seem impossible to move without knocking fellow dancers flat on their backs — quite the choreographic feat, and they pulled it off.
Newsies is an exuberant, high-energy show with a huge cast but only a handful of lead characters, including the versatile and exciting Jake Atwood as Jack Kelly, leader of the striking news boys; Sam Bennett as his best friend Crutchie; Colin Briskey as Davey; 10-year-old Howy Howard as Les; Ashley Koon as the reporter Katherine, a not-so-surprising love interest; and Lakewood Playhouse Artistic Director John Munn as the autocratic Joseph Pulitzer. It’s a stellar cast.
In the past few years it has been my pleasure to review Atwood’s work in wide range of musicals from Footloose to Catch Me If You Can, to The Rocky Horror Show, and in each of these, different versions of his talent have been manifest. In theater circles there’s a phrase, “chewing the scenery,” that is usually a derogatory meaning to display excessive emotion. Atwood not only chews the scenery, he spits it out and makes the audience love it. He plays Jack as a wisecracking, streetwise tough guy with a sensitive core. He’s not only tough, he’s highly flawed and vulnerable.
Howard might be young, but he’s no novice to the stage. He was recently seen in Beauty and the Beast at TMP and has been in 14 of their youth camp shows. He holds his own and shines brightly among the adult actors.
Koon and Bennett each play their parts well and have voices that stand out. Bennett is particularly outstanding on the poignant “Letter from the Refuge” in the beginning of Act Two.
Munn is convincingly autocratic and powerful with terrific acting chops as Joseph Pulitzer the complex newspaper tycoon who championed labor until it came to his own paper.
Two giants of South Sound stagecraft, Blake York and Bruce Haasl, were responsible for the gorgeous set — a group of moveable industrial stairs and balconies with a backdrop that combined newspaper pages and graffiti, said backdrop beautifully lighted with changing colors by lighting designer Jacob Viramontes and lighting operator Demmarie McKay.
Few of the cast members are identified by name in the show, so I can’t credit all I would like to. I would like to point out Alex Domine as Race and Jessica Furnstahl, recently seen as Elle Woods in Broadway Olympia Productions’ Legally Blonde, for her energetic and expressive dancing.
Kudos to the whole cast and crew of Newsies. Special kudos for casting women as a good number of the news boys.

Newsies, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 7, Tacoma Musical Playhouse at The Narrows Theatre, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma, $22-$31, 253.565.6867,