Friday, December 14, 2018

Review: Rapunzel” a Holiday Pantomime

By Alec Clayton
Published in The News Tribune Dec. 14, 2018
Joshua Jerard as Prince Caspian and Jessie Selleck as Rapunzel, photo courtesy Centerstage

Few people in the United States know about British pantomimes, also known as pantos, but they have been a beloved holiday in London for decades and at Centerstage Theatre in Federal Way for the past 11 seasons.
For those who still do not know, a panto is an outlandish fairy tale retold as an extended Vaudeville routine for children and adults with stock characters. There is always a fairy godmother and a friendly character who narrates the story , and one or more overly ugly “women” (men in outrageous drag), sometimes beautiful women playing men, a handsome prince (often played by a woman); bad jokes and worse puns; tons of local references and topical humor such as slams on places like Rife and Enumclaw and jokes like being mad because the Seahawks traded Richard Sherman to the Forty-niners; a lot of audience participation; and finally a lot of rocking music, often popular music updated with comical lyrics.
“Rapunzel” is the story of the beautiful princess, Rapunzel (Jessie Selleck) who was locked in a tower all her life and grew her hair absurdly long – it has to be seen to be believed – and how she was rescued from her imprisonment by the handsome Prince Caspian (Joshua Jerard).
The humor, which is both topical and local, begins with the names of some of the characters, such as Dame Fanny Smalls (Brad Cerenzia), Fairy Good (Jenna McRill) and Fairy Nuff (Michelle Abad).
Cameron Waters as the narrator Sammy Smalls (Dame Fanny Smalls’ son) primes the audience like an announcer on a TV show warming up the audience. He tells them when to applaud and cheer and to boo and hiss whenever the evil fairy, Gothel (Deanna Martinez) comes on stage. These two, Waters and Martinez, are the life of the performance. Martinez nails the stereotypical evil witch character with her snarling and sneering and her attempts to romantically snare willing and/or reluctant men in the audience. She is big, brash and wonderful. And Waters is as loveable as a character can be in the role of the narrator. His energy and his range of expression is perfect.
Selleck as the title character displays an ability to run words together in breathlessly long sentences that will rattle your head, and she sings beautifully – especially mesmerizing in her solos on “How far I’ll Go” and “When Will My Life Begin”. Jerard as Prince Caspian also sings terrifically and is funny and loveable.
Also notable are performances by John Kelleher as King Bertie; Barrett Penrod, a member of the large ensemble whose dancing and broad gestures are delightful; and Leila Neidlinger as the Fairy Queen and a member of the youth ensemble. Neidlinger is a fourth grader with acting chops worthy of an experienced adult. Watch for her to light up stages for years to come.
The wild antics appeal to children in the audience, while the ridiculous puns and topical humor appears to the adults. In previous years a lot of the adult humor took the form of slightly risqué barbs and double entendre, but not so much this year.
Two warnings: first, you might not be able to escape the audience participation, and second, at almost three hours including intermission it is long for a show appealing to children – but it did seem to wholly hold their rapt attention.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, through Dec. 23
WHERE: Centerstage at Knutzen Family Theatre, 3200 SW Dash Point Road, Federal Way
TICKETS: $35 adults, $30, Seniors, Military: $15; Youth (18-23): $12 17 and younger (plus 5% City of Federal Way admission tax)
INFORMATION: (253) 661-1444,

Kanani Miyamoto’s ‘The In-between’

A new kind of print installation at Feast Art Center 
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Dec. 13, 2018
Detail of Kanani Miyamoto’s ‘The In-between’, photo by Alec Clayton
Currently on view at Feast Art Center is an installation called The In-Between by Kanani Miyamoto. It is an installation of printed images that is nigh on impossible to describe because to the best of my knowledge it is a print process that’s seldom if ever before been done. According to the Feast Website, “Miyamoto pushes the standards of printmaking in the form of large-scale mixed-media original prints and installations. She combines copper plate etchings with screen prints and wooden block prints to create rich and unique installations.” What ends up on the walls are images that look for all the world like paintings executed directly on the walls — but unlike mural paintings, they can be removed without doing damage to the images or to the wall and installed again on other walls or in other configurations. (I would love to see Miyamoto come into the gallery weekly or even daily and remove the images and rearrange them.)
Also printed and mounted on the wall, presumably by Miyamoto, is a statement describing “the in-between” as “a mysterious place maybe a place of tension, maybe a place to create new stories. A place between now and the next thing.” That description would certainly hold true if Miyamoto did in fact change the work on display.
Also printed on the wall is a quote from filmmaker Sabaah Folayan: "I'm tired of seeing pictures of men with flowers and the title is Redefining Masculinity. Boy if you don't put that bouquet down and start demonstrating emotional respect, communication skills, and support for women.” These statements are printed in all capital letters and are quoted here with punctuation transcribed verbatim.  
How this relates to the printed murals on display is left to the viewer to interpret.
The printed images are of flowers and vines with heavy, snake-like tendrils that bend around corners and expand onto the ceiling. Could this be called “redefining masculinity?” Perhaps. The heaviness of the vines could be perhaps be viewed as masculine and aggressive, but I will not make that assessment.
It looks like paint, but it is not. The edges of leaves and vines appear hard and precise as do the lines. The leaves and flowers look like watercolor paint, and the patterns on the vines look like snakeskin. Only upon close — very close — inspection does it become clear that what looks like flat areas of color is actually transparent, and other forms, shapes and colors can be seen below the surface as if things seen through colored glass.
The images are sensual, and there is much more to them than appears at first glance. They can be easily dismissed as decoration, but should not be.
This exhibition is part of a yearlong project in partnership with yehaw celebrating indigenous artists in cities across the Puget Sound area. For more information of yeehaw, go to
Kanani Miyamoto’s The In Between, noon to 5 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, and by appointment, through Jan. 11, Feast Arts Center, 1402 S. 11th St., Tacoma, 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

barry johnson at 950 Gallery

by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Dec. 6, 2018
untitled painting by barry johnson, courtesy 950 Gallery
barry johnson’s paintings at 950 Gallery are unlike art seen anywhere else in Tacoma. Judging from what I was told, johnson is self-taught and has been painting only five years. There is an amateurish quality to his paint application, which I suspect is more intentional than not, but his sensibility and his honesty are  those of a seasoned professional.
johnson says the show is “built atop of the backbone of soul music from the past 30 years.” He further describes the show as “life growing up in the ’80s and ’90s and the party lifestyle that accompanied it.”
The gallery is jam-packed with paintings. Most are large portraits, presumably of family and friends. Some are painted directly on the walls, and some painted on canvas or other supports and hung on the walls. In the smaller front gallery hangs a group of figure paintings. The faces and clothing are painted with flat areas of lush colors with little or no modeling, and the backgrounds are colorful abstract patterns in flat geometric shapes. Painted directly on the walls around them are more geometric patterns that appear to be coming out from behind the paintings. At first glance — until you notice the edges of the canvases — the entire wall appears to be one large mural painted on the walls. There is a fascinating contrast and blending of positive and negative shapes on and around the paintings.
As you entire the larger gallery space, you’ll see three large portrait heads to your right with chunks of wood, mirror and other materials glued onto the surface. The faces are almost featureless silhouettes, and the collaged materials interact with the shape of the faces in ways to make the spaces in between become positive abstract shapes. This is especially evident in the one with the chunk of mirror in the upper right corner.
Also in this larger room are a number of abstract paintings with zig-zag shapes and open spaces where the white of the wall bisects the paintings to create an interesting dance between inner and outer or positive and negative shapes.
There is one wall-size mural that differs from all the rest because instead of figures and faces it is filled with cartoon ghost figures in a jazzy dance of bright colors. All of the shapes in this one are rounded, in contrast to the more angular and geometric shapes in all the other paintings. It is a joyful, celebratory image.
johnson’s use of space and color is sensitive and strong. His colors are vibrant. His paint application tends toward crudity and sloppiness, but as indicated earlier, that looks to be intentional, as if he’s making the point that precise painting skill is not the point. His sloppiness is, in fact, a celebration of the naturalness and exuberance of painting, although in a few of the paintings he’s right on the edge of pushing the slap-dash quality right to the edge of bad painting.
I’m F.I.N.E, 1-5 p.m. Thursdays (until 9 p.m. Third Thursday), or by appointment, through Dec. 20, 950 Gallery, 950 Pacific Ave. Suite 205, Tacoma, 253.627.2175,

Friday, November 23, 2018

Tis the season

 Holiday shows around town
By Alec Clayton
Published in The News Tribune, Nov. 22, 2018

John Serembe as Scrooge and Zachary Clark at Tiny Tim in "Tiny Tim's Christmas Carol" at Olympia Family Theatre

Ready or not, the holidays are coming, and South Sound stages are promising quite a few live shows in celebration of the season.
Tacoma Musical Playhouse will do Irving Berlin’s classic “White Christmas” directed and choreographed by Harry Turpin. "’White Christmas’ is such a timeless classic,” Turpin says, “The challenge and opportunity is how to manage audience expectations with what they know and love while looking at the story with a fresh set of eyes. I think the audience will be pleased. This is such a wonderful, warm, cozy show, filled with energetic dance numbers, great songs, and of course, THE song – the one that melts our hearts every time. It's truly been a treat to work on this show.”
Turpin has worked on both local and national levels, with appearances and work seen at the 5th Avenue Theatre, Village Theatre, Seattle Musical Theatre, Tacoma Musical Playhouse, and Reboot Theatre Company, where he currently serves as president of the board. As a performer, he has performed with the 30th Anniversary cast of “Annie” (National Tour/Special Broadway engagement). He is the 2018 Gregory Award's People's Choice Winner for Outstanding Director, and Outstanding Musical for “Little Shop of Horrors.”
Lead actors in “White Christmas” include Josh Wingerter, Jake Atwood, Kaitlyn Terrill-Rose, Tasha Smith and Gary J. Chambers.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Dec. 16
WHERE: Musical Playhouse at The Narrows Theatre, 7116 Sixth Ave., Tacoma
TICKETS: $22-$31
INFORMATION: (253) 565-6867,

Lakewood Playhouse brings to life the most famous Christmas letter ever written in “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Clause.”
The true story: More than100 years ago 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Sun asking if there really was a Santa Claus, and the newspaper’s response became an instant classic.
This production will mark Lakewood Playhouse’s debut of director Aaron Mohs-Hale, who also serves as the theater’s technical director, and it features an all-star roster of local actors of all ages including: Tom Birkeland, Parker Dean, Christine Choate, Kyle Yoder, Audrey LaRoy, Ed Medina and many more.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 23 to Dec. 16, Special Showings 8 p.m. Nov. 29 (pay what you can) and Dec. 6 (pay what you can actor’s benefit)
WHERE: Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood TICKETS: $20-$26
INFORMATION: (253) 588-0042, 

The ever-popular “Scrooge! The Musical” is Tacoma Little Theatre’s Christmas offering, directed by Micheal O'Hara, musically directed by Zachary Kellogg and choreographed by Eric Clausell. Get ready for ghosts and the well-known tear-jerking story and great music. For those who might not know the story by Charles Dickens – as if there can possibly be someone who doesn’t know it – the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge undergoes a profound experience of redemption over the course of a Christmas Eve night, after being visited by the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. Andrew Fry plays Scrooge, TLT artistic director Chris Serface plays The Ghost of Christmas Present, Evie Merrill is Tiny Tim and Joseph Woodland is Jacob Marley.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Dec. 30 with added performances 2 p.m. Dec. 15 and 22 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 26-27
WHERE: Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 North I St. Tacoma
TICKETS: $22-$27
INFORMATION: (253) 272-2281,

For the eleventh year running, Centerstage in Federal Way is doing a traditional English-style Panto for its Christmas show. Panto’s are fractured fairy tales with raucous rock and roll music, cross-dressing characters and lots of audience participation – all based on popular children’s stories. The characters and costumes appeal to children, as does the throwing of candy into the audience, while the puns and sexual inuendo appeal to adults. It’s the kind of thing everybody should see at least once, if not over and over. This year’s Panto is “Rapunzel.” Guaranteed to have audiences laughing out loud from start to finish.

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 30 to Dec. 23
WHERE: Centerstage at Knutzen Family Theatre, 3200 SW Dash Point Road, Federal Way
TICKETS: $29 adult, $25 senior and military, $15 student, $12 under age 17
INFORMATION: (253) 565-6867,

 Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol,” is Olympia Family Theater’s holiday offering. It is a child-friendly updating of Charles Dickens’ classic tale. Tiny Tim (Zachary Clark) is now 15 years old and Scrooge (John Serembe) is still a greedy old bah humbug. When Scrooge refuses to give Tim’s father Christmas day off, Tim dreams up a spectacle involving pie sellers and booksellers and puppets and ghosts to scare the old curmudgeon back into the Christmas spirit.
“Who could pass up the opportunity to play Scrooge during the holidays,” Serembe said. “It’s been a joy to work with this cast and director and in this great theater. This is my fifth go-round at the role of Scrooge, but all have been in vastly different versions of the classic.”
Serembe moved to Olympia a few years back after working in film and television in Los Angeles. He was in popular television series including “Cheers” and “Scrubs” and has been in many shows with Harlequin Productions.
OFT founder and artistic director Jen Ryle said of this show, “There will be puppets and carol singing. It should be a festive holiday show, perfect for the whole family.”

WHEN 7:00p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. SaturdaySunday, Nov. 30- Dec. 23, one Thursday performance Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.
WHERE Olympia FamilyTheatre, 612 4th Ave. E, Olympia
HOW MUCH $15-$20
LEARN MORE (360) 570--1638 ,

Easily one of the top three Christmas stories of all time is the eponymous “A Christmas Story” by the great Jean Shepherd. It’s the laugh-filled story of little Ralphie Parker, who more than anything wants a Red Ryder air rifle for Christmas. In a clever twist, Olympia Little Theatre offers this adaptation by Philip Grecian updated to the 1970s and presented as a live radio play.
“Hear amazing voices and watch as we create all the classic sound effects right in front of your eyes in the KOLT studio in the Holiday classic. Come see this fabulous twist on the beloved story of a boy, his family, his friends and, of course, the leg lamp,” said irector and OLT artistic director Kendra Malm.

WHEN 7:25 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 1:55 p.m. Sunday, through Dec. 23, one Thursday performance Dec. 7 at 7 p.m.
WHERE Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave., NE, Olympia
HOW MUCH $11-$15, available at Yenney Music, 2703 Capital Mall Dr.,
LEARN MORE (360) 570-1638,

Traditionally Harlequin Productions does a musical review wrapped around the performers and workers at New York’s Stardust nightclub. The Stardust series started in 1993 and has delighted audiences almost every years sense, first with 1940s music and then moving up to the 1960s. This year they go back to the beginning with a new version of “The 1940s Radio Hour,” the show that started the series. A (fictional) live radio broadcast is taking place in the Hotel Astor’s Algonquin Room on December 21, 1942. With top songs of the day such as “Strike Up the Band” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” 

WHEN 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 29-Dec. 31
WHERE Harlequin Productions in the State Theatre, 202 4th Ave. E., Olympia
HOW MUCH $25-$49
LEARN MORE (360) 786.-151,

In the Shadow of the Master

Alfredo Arreguin and Doug Johnson at Tacoma Community College
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Nov. 21
“El Joven Zapata” oil painting by Alfredo Arreguin, courtesy Tacoma Community College
Learning art by copying the masters is as old as art itself. Artists of the Italian Renaissance traditionally did it, and even today European artists continue to copy paintings in the Louvre. Peter Paul Rubens as a prime example, painted a version of Titian’s “Venus at the Mirror.” Both artists’ “Venus” hang in major museums; stylistically, they are almost indistinguishable, but one is a back view of Venus and the other is a front view, and in Rubens’ version there is a servant standing by who does not appear in Titian’s version. Thus it is with the many paintings of the same subjects and in similar styles by Alfredo Arreguin and Doug Johnson in the show at Tacoma Community College. 
Arreguin is an internationally recognized artist, born in Mexico and now living in Seattle. His paintings are in the collections of two Smithsonian museums: The National Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery. Johnson is a multi-talented artist, a writer who learned to write by copying sentences from Raymond Carver’s stories, a musician who learned to compose symphonies by copying Beethoven, and a painter who learned by copying his hero, Arreguin. 
There are a few paintings and ink drawings by Johnson is this exhibition of works by the master and the student, and there are — to our delight — many more paintings by the master.
Arreguin’s paintings are dense, exciting and exotic. His color, especially his liberal use of deep midnight blue and shining ultramarine blue and velvety shades of purple, is indescribably lush. He paints portrait heads that are made up of floral patterns and letters in the background and in the faces, much in the manner in which Chuck Close creates realistic faces out of dots and circles. In the most elaborate of Arreguin’s paintings, figure and ground become almost indistinguishable as faces, figures, animals and flora weave in and out in peekaboo fashion on the canvas. The painting is precise, tight and controlled, a little too controlled in my estimation, which gives it a cold or calculated feel (but alleviated or at least balanced by the warm colors).
Many of the patterns that fill his canvases are made up of words in Spanish and English. Many of his paintings depict Mexican life, folklore and mythology, and many of them depict religious iconography.
“Family Portrait” presents an energetic swirl of plants, animals, human figures, masks, butterflies, parrots and monkeys — many of which are hidden in the dense imagery. Most striking, there is a large monkey with a man’s face perched on a tree limb and the artist’s name spelled out but hidden on the major figure’s forehead.
There are many portraits of famous people, including revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata and artist Frida Kahlo. “Frida and the Wolf” is a large portrait face almost completely hidden in the swirling patterns of trees, river, deer and wolf.
There’s also a quadruple portrait of Frida with versions by both Arreguin and Johnson.
Johnson paints with loose, brushy strokes with thin paint. No matter the media, they look like watercolor sketches. Many of them appear unfinished. His pen and ink drawings are tight and controlled. They employ stippled ink marks, as in “Portrait of Juan Rulfo,” a large portrait head in tiny dots and dashes with repeated smaller heads making up the background, which overlaps the edges of the larger face.
Much of the enjoyment of Arreguin’s paintings is in seeing what you can find in them — true also of Johnson’s art, but to a lesser degree. 
In the Shadow of the Master, noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, through Dec. 15, Tacoma Community College, Building 5A, entrance off South 12th Street between Pearl and Mildred, Tacoma, visitor parking in Lot G. 

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.