Friday, June 1, 2012

Styer’s Nightwatchman: A stunning photo installation at Fulcrum

By Alec Clayton

The Weekly Volcano, June 1, 2012

 "Clairvoyant," photo by Sharon Styer

Installation view, photo exhibit by Sharon Styer

The back room at Fulcrum Gallery is seldom used for art exhibits. It is usually a space for music and special events - the bread-and-butter stuff that allows DJ Broam, aka glass artist Oliver Doriss, to keep his gallery open. Currently on view is an installation of photographs by Sharon Styer called Nightwatchman.

I suspect the title of Styer's installation is an homage to Edward Hopper's famous painting "Nighthawks," the ultimate icon to the loneliness and intrigue of nightlife. Strange and wondrous creatures come out after dark, and we cannot but be in wonder about what it is they're doing under cover of darkness.

OK, I confess to being overly dramatic with the above statement - cue the "Edge of Night" music - but there is that quality and that appeal to Styer's photos. Dark shadows and empty buildings add to the mystery, and there are many of those in downtown Tacoma. Styer writes on her website: "Urban photography just grabs me. I love warehouses, abandoned buildings, alleyways, and walking down streets enjoying the lights and the shadows. I love the quickness of it. Just a moment caught out of the corner of my eye before it's gone. My own private passing show."

Tacoma is the passing show she documents in her photographs, and much of it is seen at night.

The photographs are nicely displayed in the back room. The overhead lights are all turned off and each photo is individually lighted in pitch blackness with a small, focused light so that the room is not just four walls for hanging pictures on but an integral part of the mystery and the beauty of the installation. Be careful, there is a step-up stage area at the front of the room that you can't see in the dark.

One problem I have with reviewing the show is that I could not see to take notes in the dark. After seeing the show I visited Styer's website at and saw many of the same photographs, but without notes I can't trust my memory of which photos I saw at Fulcrum and which I saw only online. With that in mind, I advise readers to see both. But don't fool yourself into thinking you don't have to see the show because you've already seen the pictures on your computer.

Styer does wonderful things with light and shadow and she finds scenes - often with people gathered in odd and mysterious places within the Tacoma urban landscape where you may never expect to see them - that the average person would never see wandering around town. Apparently Styer's love of beauty and intrigue leads her into places the rest of us would not dare enter.

Also showing at Fulcrum is Visions from the Other Side: Surrealistic Portraits, a Group Show with works by Larkin Cypher, Kelsi Finney, Jeremy Gregory and Keith Carter.

[Fulcrum Gallery, Nightwatchman, noon to 6 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and by appointment, through July 14, 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253.250.0520]

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