Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Clothing drive at Museum of Glass

In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, Kids Design Glass™ creature Sockness Monster and Museum of Glass invite the public to warm up by the Hot Shop fire in exchange for donating items of clothing to keep those less fortunate warm too.

WHAT: Clothing drive at Museum of Glass (new hats, scarves, pairs of gloves and socks suggested). Visitors who donate items at the Museum front desk will receive a 50% discount off their individual admission price (applies to all admission levels). Free parking will also be offered to every visitor in the Museum of Glass underground parking garage and members will receive a double discount on their entire purchase at the Museum Store.

WHERE: Donations should be made at the Museum of Glass front desk. Items collected will be displayed on a Giving tree in the Grand Hall for visitors to see before being donated to Tacoma Rescue Mission the following week.

WHEN: Saturday, December 20, from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday, December 21, from 12 to 5 pm.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Today’s Featured artist

Becky Frehse

Becky Frehse in her studio

Becky Frehse has been a fixture on the Tacoma art scene for as long as I’ve been writing about that scene, and even longer. I first became aware of her in relation with work she did in collaboration with the late Louise Williams, some delicate, sensitive and loving drawings of children, if my fading memory serves me right.
"Scherzo for Goldfish and Violin 22x12 acrylic on wood
Over the years she has created art in so many different styles or themes that I tend to think of her as the Gerhard Richter of Washington. I remember a piece in a group show at Tacoma Art Museum that somewhat like a doll house diorama combined with a box of goodies a la Joseph Cornell. And it seems like she’s been in just about every group show at Tacoma Community College with paintings and assemblages and even once a series of documentary photographs of a man refining salt in Sichuan Province, China. Visits to China have played a large role in her art. So has music, which seems to be the strongest theme in her more recent work.
"Ellensburg Nocturne" 2014 36x42 oil and acrylic on canvas
About three years ago she had a show called Reconfigured - a Collaboration in what was called Gallery 301, the space next door to the old Mineral Gallery. This show, a collaboration with sculptor Jane Kelsey-Mapel was filled with sculptures of cowboys and circus performers, and featured a large assemblage by Frehse called "Seeking Center" with flying birds suspended from the ceiling and a strange doll in the center of an equally strange landscape.
Most recently I visited her studio during Tacoma’s November artists’ studio tours, and I was deeply impressed with a few large paintings with assemblage or collage elements (whichever label best describes these works may be up to the viewer; I prefer to think of them as paintings with objects embedded or stuck on). These paintings are shimmering, heavily textured and quite beautiful. They make me want to reach in and feel everything with my hands. The paint application is like rich icing on a cake and the connected objects are like encrusted jewels.
Music is a strong theme in much of her more recent work, and the work itself is musical in the sense of objects dancing rhythmically across the surface and playing with color harmonics.
Frehse says of her recent work, “Work continues with musical ideas; mostly thinking of the composition as a musical score to be ‘read’ in some way. I'm especially engaged in the vigorous reticulation of the painting's surface with lots of modeling paste texture, etc. And then, of course color relationships as the ‘score’ moves from movement to movement. Sometimes I embed or add actual musical instrument parts—especially for installations like Music Box that I did for the Woolworth Windows this year.”
She will have three pieces in the TCC show called "Found Photos" in January. 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Kellë McLaughlin at Fulcrum

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Dec. 11, 2014

"Stag and Moon," wood lock print by Kellë McLaughlin
If you haven’t seen Kellë McLaughlin’s art, which I had not until this week, you really should. Her “Bestial Mirrors” at Fulcrum Gallery is a skillfully presented mythology or bestiary of imaginative and fierce imagery. In bold wood block prints and even bolder ceramic sculptures, McLaughlin creates hybrid creatures with animal heads and human bodies.

Her ceramic busts include a wolf, a tropical fish, and a snow monkey in dark, brownish-bronze or black ceramics with gold highlights, each with a naked woman’s torso. The wolf with its wide open mouth and sharp, gold-tipped teeth is frightening. The monkey is almost comical and somewhat sad with red hair framing a face that looks like one of the apes from “Planet of the Apes.”

In the back gallery there is a wall of crows, which is a most beautiful installation. The birds sold individually and completely sold out at the opening. I’m happy for the artist, but it is a shame that the installation had to be broken up as it works so marvelously as a single work of art. They are like taxidermy crows not mounted on boards but breaking through the stark white wall. They really should be seen as a group while that is still possible.

Along with the ceramics in the front gallery is a suite of nine wood block prints of similar mythological animal-woman creatures in heraldic designs. These remind me of both coats of arms and illustrations for Grimm-like fairy tales. All but two of these feature circular formats framed by various objects, creatures and other decorative elements. One of the few without the circular motif, “Rooster & Magnolia (Closure),” has instead radiating black and white rays like the rays of sun on Japanese flags.

Tigress & Snail” is the only one not in black and white. It is in a purple so deep that you have to look closely to see that it is not black. Displaying a touch of humor, it is a tiger with a woman’s body bathing in a stream while smoking a cigarette. Also displaying a touch of humor is “Crow & Beetle (Murder of Crows),” which includes an Escher-like flock of crows.

The artists writes: “There is a relationship between animal and humankind that is overt and undeniable. We share innate qualities and characteristics that reveal both the civil and savage nature within beast and man. My work accentuates this relationship not only in its base form but also on an intimate and personal perspective. Each piece reflects an individuals’ introspective persona that is then displayed in the public eye. Every person creates a bond with a particular beast, whether consciously or not, that is perceived to represent our own persona. We glorify ourselves through the eyes of that animal within, using it to justify our deeds and desires, both condemning and exalting it when we feel the necessity. What I strive to do is bring forth an awareness of the light that we shed on the beast within ourselves, our daemon, and why.”

These prints and sculptures are skillfully executed and will give you a lot to think about and relate to — perhaps even in ways you would rather not.

Bestial Mirrors, noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday and Friday, and by appointment, Fulcrum Gallery, 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253.250.0520]

Photo: “Stag & Moon, (Moonlight)” limited 1st edition cherry woodcut print, by Kellë McLaughlin

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

James Martin's Journey Encounter with Day Glo at Foster / White

James Martin, "Artists Delight," 18.5 x 21.25 inches, gouache on paper. Photo by

Watch for this one. Foster / White Gallery in Seattle will show small works on paper by James Martin Jan. 8-31. Martin creates a wild and whacky world all his own based on history, literature and his fertile imatination. Works in the show range from a strange version of "Mary Had a Little Lamb" with portraits of Rembrandt and van Gogh on the wall to a version of Washington crossing the Delaware without his soldiers in the boat but playing a guitar and with a mermaid on the bow of the boat (mermaids show up a lot in his paintings).

His painting style is much like Red Grooms and also like another popular Northwest painter, Gaylen Hansen. This should be a show worth traveling to Seattle for (or worth catching the bus if you live in Seattle).

There will be an opening reception Jan. 8 from 6-8 p.m.

F O S T E R / W H I T E G A L L E R Y
220 3rd Ave S #100, Seattle, WA 98104
www.fosterwhite.com 206.622.2833

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Head! That Wouldn’t Die!

From left: Maxwell Schelling, John Serembe, Heather Christopher and Jesse Moore-Hendrickson
Theater Artists Olympia’s original musical The Head! That Wouldn’t Die! is the love child of Mel Brooks and Ed Wood with midwifery by Pug Bujeaud. In other words, it is exactly what expect by the homegrown theater company that brought you The Brain from Planet X, Vampire Lesbians of Sodom and Cannibal!! The Musical (twice). But this show elevates B-movie musical camp to a level far above those earlier TAO shows. Maybe those were mere warmups through which they learned how to do it.
The Head! That Wouldn’t Die! is based on the horror film of the same name (also known as The Brain That Wouldn’t Die) which garnered a lowly 28 percent audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Bujeaud adapted it for the stage with input from the TAO Collective and added music—quite nicely so, I might say, especially considering that she has never written music or lyrics. She is also the director.
John Serembe, Vanessa Postil and Xander Layden
Reflecting back on my reference to Mel Brooks, the similarities to Brooks’ Young Frankenstein are obvious, and this show is every bit as good as YF, minus the expensive sets and special effects, which TAO handles in a much cheaper but highly effective way.
Dr. Bill Cortner (Xander Layden) is a mad scientist who has been secretly working for some time now on experiments in transplanting body parts. His father, the elder Dr. Cortner (John Serembe), a notorious womanizer, warns him against going too far in his reckless experimentation. Bill, by-the-way, is not a very good driver. His driving may be even more reckless than his doctoring; it’s already killed one girlfriend and now he’s taking Deadman’s Curve far too fast with his new girlfriend, Jan (Vanessa Postil) in the car. But that’s all I’m going to say about the plot. No spoilers here.
Vanessa Postil and Xander Layden
Suffice it to say this show is uproariously funny, and there is a lot of damn good music from the big-musical opening, “Head” to the premonition of danger in “Deadman’s Curve” to a wild country song called “Abilene” sung by Serembe in his other role as Kevin, of whom I shall say nothing, nothing, nothing. Believe me: you don’t want to know about Kevin. There are also a couple of serious and lovely songs providing release from all the seriousness—beautiful songs like “Kurt’s Lament” sung by Jesse Moore-Hendrickson and Cassandra’s beautiful “Hope” sung by Heather Christopher.
The entire cast is outstanding. Layden seems to have been born to play Bill Cortner. His outsized expressions and movements are comic gems, and Postil’s portrayal of Jan in the Pan is the best acting I’ve yet to see from her. Moore-Hendrickson is a recent graduate from Cornish College making his TAO debut in this show. He’s a terrific singer and portrays the doctor’s assistant, Kurt with style. The multi-dimensional Kurt (a kind of matinee-idol version of Igor) idolizes yet fears the mad doctor and falls in love with the Head.
And there is Serembe, a veteran actor who has appeared in major productions all over the country and in favorite TV shows such as “Cheers” and “Scrubs,” in what must be his first performance in Olympia. I have certainly never seen him, and he flat-out blew me away. Seeing him in the little fringe show in the tiny Midnight Sun was something like if Tim Conway or Marty Feldman made a surprise appearance and took over the show — he’s a pro and he never upstages the other actors.
Finally, I must give props to whatever otherworldly creature is responsible for costumes and makeup. The program lists Ornatrix Couture as costumer; I suspect that’s a pseudonym. Fellow critic Christian Carvajal credited burlesque star Nani Poonani, and a program note from Bujeaud indicated that Morgan Picton was responsible for creating the look of “the monster.”
The entire cast and crew outdid themselves.
Seating is limited, so I recommend you get tickets quickly.
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. through Dec. 20 and at 2:30 p.m. Dec. 21, The Midnight Sun, 113 N. Columbia St. Tickets: $15.00 ($16.52 with service fee at brownpapertickets. Available at door night of show or online at brownpapertickets.com

Photos by Matt Ackerman

Monday, December 8, 2014

Barefoot in the Park at Olympia Little Theatre

Jennie Jenks as Mrs. Banks and Phil Folan as Victor Velasco in Barefoot in the Park. Photo by Austin Lang.

Critics and the more jaded of theater goers tend to be dismissive of Neil Simon. Maybe I’m not all that jaded yet. I enjoy Simon’s comedies. They’re as funny and as socially relevant as some of TV’s best sitcoms (“The Dick Van Dyke Show” comes to mind).
Simon’s Barefoot in the Park at Olympia Little Theatre is as fresh as homemade bread steaming hot out of the oven thanks to a cast of exuberant young actors and one seasoned pro. (Note: “young” can be a relative term. They’re young to me and according to the printed program most of their previous acting experience has either been in school productions or in theaters I’ve never heard of, so I view them as novices.)

Joanna Gibson as Corie and Alex Harris as Paul. Photo by Austin Lang.
The young actors are Joanna Gibson as Corie Bratter (well named because she’s something of a brat, but loveable); Anthony Neff as the unnamed telephone repairman, Phil Folan as Victor Velasco; and Alex Harris as Corie’s put-upon husband, Paul. The more experienced actor who is solid in her role as Corie’s mother is Jennie Jenks, familiar to South Sound audiences for her performances in Orphan Train at Olympia Family Theatre, The Dixie Swim Club at OLT, and Hyde #4 in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at Tacoma Little Theatre to name just a few.
There’s an old saying Don’t let ’em see you acting. Never for a moment do these actors—except for Folan—appear to be acting. Each of them dives into their roles with energy and enthusiasm. As for Folan . . . well, Mr. Velasco, who lives upstairs and gets home by slipping through the Bratters’ bedroom window and crawling across the roof, is flamboyant and pretentious and constantly “on stage,” so the audience is supposed to see him acting.
There’s not much of a story, but there is funny dialogue and outlandish physical comedy. Corie and Paul are newlyweds. Corie (not so much Paul) is still enraptured by the bliss of new love. She can’t keep her hands off her husband—practically knocks him back down five flights of stairs plus a stoop when she leaps on him as soon as he comes home from work on their first day in their new 48th Street apartment. They’re visited first by the phone man, then by Corie’s mother, who makes a valiant effort of pretending to like the apartment, and then by Velasco. Corie cooks up a harebrained scheme to set up a blind date with Velasco and her mother. Naturally things go comedically awry.
Everyone in the cast plays their part with gusto while remaining just barely believable and natural. There is a bit of excessive drama on the part of almost every actor, seen mostly in their initial entrances when they are wiped out by climbing the steps to the Bratters’ apartment. It is not totally believable that anyone would be so thoroughly out of breath unless they suffer from emphysema and have just run forty blocks. But it’s for comedic effect, and if you allow for a little unreality it is hilarious.
I can’t remember when I’ve seen an actor dive into a role with such verve as does Gibson. From her first entrance she is an explosion of high energy and higher hopes. Constantly running around the apartment, she is a perky Pollyanna who never puts on the brakes. I can’t imagine anyone not loving her. I’d like to mention one moment that illustrates Gibson’s acting skill. It’s when she’s tasting an exotic dish Velasco has prepared. She drops it on the floor, picks it up with a tiny sparkle of a shrug that is so perfect to the moment that I defy anyone who has not read the script to know whether it was an adlib covering the drop or if it was scripted, and pops it in her mouth.
In contrast to Corie’s unbridled exuberance, Paul, as portrayed by Harris, is more down to earth, so much so that Corie understandably accuses him of being a stuffed shirt. But as the play progresses he loosens up. Or rather he falls apart. Of all the actors, he is the one who seems most natural, and when he does lose his composure he does it wholeheartedly. He’s the reason I thought of Dick Van Dyke in my opening remarks.
Moving forward with the sitcom analogy, Jenks reminds me of Vicki Lawrence on the old Carol Burnett show. Her malleable face expresses simultaneous revulsion and attraction to Velasco, and her love for her daughter and son-in-law.
Director Kendra Malm states in the program that this is her seventh show to direct for OLT. I’ve seen most of them, and this is by far her best directing outing. She changed the setting from February to December in order to make a Christmas play out of it. So far this season it is the least Christmasy show I’ve seen and the funniest.

WHEN: 7:55 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 1:55 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 21
WHERE: Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave., NE, Olympia
TICKETS: $10-$14 ($2 student discount), available at Yenney Music Company, 2703 Capital Mall Dr., (360) 943-7500 or http://www.brownpapertickets.com/
 INFORMATION: (360) 786-9484, http://olympialittletheater.org/

Coming soon: my review of The Head That Wouldn't Die.