Friday, June 12, 2015

Intriguing installations in the Woolworth Windows

Published in the Weekly Volcano, June 11, 2015

Sarah Casto’s installation “We Part to Meet Again,” detail. Photo courtesy Spaceworks Tacoma

I search my mind and my memory banks for clues as to the meanings of Nathan Orosco’s installation, “Take It to the Bridge” and Sarah Casto’s “We Part to Meet Again,” but I can’t imagine what must have been going through the artists’ minds — what message, if any, they are attempting to convey.

I like that they present mysteries with implied meanings. I like that I can’t figure it out.
Casto’s is a two-part installation in windows separated by a doorway. In the smaller of the two windows sits a headless manikin on a stool wearing jeans and a black jacket. On the floor are white porcelain hands with stems wrapped in red material protruding from the wrists. The hands are crawling in military formation like an army of ants toward the second and larger part of Casto’s installation. In this one two more manikins, headless, female and unclothed, stand leaning against each other. Neither could stand without the other. Behind them on the wall is an array of scissors of various types, and hanging in the air between the figures and the wall are parts of animal skeletons. In the back corners stand two blue neon tubes. You can’t see the light from the tubes in daylight, but I have seen a nighttime photograph and the blue light on the white figures is beautiful. The title hints at a possible story of people, perhaps lovers, separated and then coming back together again. The overall feel is ominous.

Orosco’s “Take It to the Bridge” appears to be more abstract in nature and possibly is intended to be viewed in purely visual terms, but I suspect some greater meaning may be implied. It could be symbolic of the bridge in the recently released movie Selma. There are exquisite black and white paintings in delicate ink washes with drips and black coated sticks that could be seen as easels or as the sticks holding up picket signs. There are also strips of purple cloth and sheets of aluminum foil, both of which reinforce the interpretation of the piece as an abstract representation of the marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge into Selma.

Another interpretation might be that the tableau represents the remains of a building that has burned to the ground. No matter the meaning, it is a gritty and quite attractive installation.

Also in the windows is a sampling of photographs from a project by the Gender Alliance of South Sound called “T-Town Transgender Neighbors.” Each photo is a portrait of a transgender man or women who lives in a Tacoma with their printed stories below the photographs.

In the Commerce Street windows is a piece called “Say My Name” by Marisa Vitiello and Beate Liepart, which illustrates a myth about a woman and a dolphin, both of which are huge cut-out shapes that hang from the ceiling. The dolphin, which is yellow, looks rather silly and childish like part of a stage set for children’s theater. The woman’s figure is more lyrical and features a nice combination of materials.

Woolworth Windows, Broadway and Commerce at 11th Street through Aug. 20, on view 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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