Thursday, June 21, 2018

The West and other art at Minka

By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, June 21, 2018

“Digital Mesh” print by Guy Hundere, courtesy Minka

I hardly know where to start. There is so much art crammed into this little space — basically three shows in one — that I need at least a thousand words to simply describe it, much less evaluate it. I shall do my best to consolidate it.
The West is a show of photography and artwork by S. Surface and Lisa Kinoshita offering a unique look at cowboy and cowgirl culture. It is two shows in one: The First Frontiers, rodeo photographs by Surface, and Kinoshita’s The Shape-Shifting West, conceptual documentary photography and mixed-media sculpture in the main gallery. The third show is Inflatable Mountain by Texas artist Guy Hundere in the downstairs shop. It is a mind-bending group of colorful abstract landscape prints that has traveled the country to land in Tacoma for an extended stay (indefinite, but (probably throughout the summer). The works are abstract with hints of astronomical photographs, densely congested with textural patterns. They demand close attention.
In the little upstairs gallery, Surface and Kinoshita bring a particular perspective to their views of the West. Both are Japanese-Americans born and raised in rural areas near Tacoma. Surface is a former bull rider.
Surface’s photographs are the most traditional work in the show. Most of the action shots of cowboys riding bulls are shot from odd angles and often in close-up. There’s one, for instance, of a cowboy being bucked off a bull, but the viewpoint is such that all we see is part of one pantleg and the underside of his boot as he is being thrown to the ground behind the bull. Others appear to have been shot from standing atop the pens just before the bulls and riders are let into the arena. 
There is also a group of three portraits of young women — glamour shots, it might seem, of pretty girls who follow the rodeo. But each is titled “After the Ride” followed by the name of a rodeo. Their legs are heavily bruised.
Kinoshita's metalsmithing and leatherwork, including a collaboration with prison inmates in Montana, highlight the material culture of the western frontier.
The most provocative piece might be the found-material sculpture of an American flag draped over an antique ironing board. Provocative because anything dealing with the flag these days tends to be a political hot potato. This flag is ancient, probably 48 stars but not countable due to the way it is folded. It is worn and dirty, the white parts turning brown. There is an old iron sitting on it, and it is burnt through in places. We may each interpret the meaning in our own way.
Another piece of hers is a beauty called “Grandfather.” It is an upright cabinet made of dark wood with a top section like a grandfather clock but missing the clock face. The middle section is offset as if swiveled outward, and there is a large piece of quartz on the base. It is quietly attractive. 
Also quite beautiful and stately is a horse bridle draped and wound over a wooden stand. This piece is sensuous in form and rich in color. It was created in collaboration with inmates at Montana State Prison.
The West, noon to 5 p.m., Thursday-Sunday and by appointment, through June 30, Minka (formerly Moss + Mineral), 821 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.961.5220

Friday, June 1, 2018

Building the Wall one night only at Tacoma Little Theatre

By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, May 31, 2018
Scott C. Brown and Iesha McIntyre, photo by Randy Clark
Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan’s timely political thriller Building the Wall comes to Tacoma Little Theatre for a one-night-only staged reading directed by Randy Clark, founder of Dukesbay Theatre, and starring Scott C. Brown and Iesha McIntyre.
Called a “must see show” by The New York Times and “a mesmerizing and shocking new play that simmers with of-the-moment urgency." By The Hollywood Reporter, Building the Wall is a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller set in a not-too-distant dystopian future. President Trump has been impeached after declaring marshal law following a terrorist attack on Times Square. Millions of undocumented immigrants have been detained in overflowing private prisons. Rick (Brown) is in prison awaiting what may be a death sentence and is being interviewed by Gloria (McIntyre) a history professor. 
“Rick is just an ordinary man put in an extraordinary situation,” Brown says. “He is a victim of circumstances outside his control, trying to make the best of the situation he finds himself in. Or is he? That is the elegance of this play: It doesn't expressly lead viewers down a path, but rather starts to unravel facts, and slowly lets the audience make its own decisions. It is hauntingly powerful, provocative, and I hope it will be discussed by those who see this production.”
Clark says, “I found this script last September down in Ashland, Ore. at the Shakespeare Festival's book store and immediately knew I had to produce it. I believe our country is in crisis and this is a well-written play about how far our fear might drive us. There are many ways that we can respond as citizens, and our way is to respond through the arts. The play is an important statement about how quickly our current policies about immigration can get out of hand and become truly criminal. Our country is in crisis at the moment and this play shows where it could head if the right circumstances came along and we gave into the burgeoning atmosphere of fear.” 
McIntyre and Brown worked together a few years back in a production of Doubt for Gold From Straw Theatre. She worked with Clark on Dukesbay's presentation of Never Again, about the Japanese-American incarceration during World War II.
I picked Brown as Best Actor three times for my “Critics Choice” in The News Tribune, as Salieri in Amadeus,  as Randle McMurthy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, both at Lakewood Playhouse, and as Bobby in Sins of the Mother at Harlequin Productions. He’s also been in more than a dozen Feature length films, and a number of TV/New Media series and in well over 30 local plays. 
This staged reading is free to TLT members and pay-what-you-can to all others.
Building the Wall, 7:30 p.m., Thursday, June 7, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 North I St. Tacoma, 253.272.2281,

Tacoma Ocean Fest

By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, May 31, 2018
"Kelp Forest" reclaimed plastic by Barbara De Pirro, photo courtesy the artist
Former Tacoma News Tribune art writer Rosemary Ponnekanti with the help of curator Lisa Kinoshita has pulled together an amazing arts festival to take Place June 10 at the Foss Waterway Seaport, 705 Dock St., Tacoma. The event called Tacoma Ocean Fest will feature photography, eco-sculpture, film, dance, music, an aerial circus, painting, poetry, hands-on marine science for all ages, paddleboarding and kayaking and more.
“I got the idea (and the first grant) when The News Tribune cut my job last year, and since then I've been working to bring together some pretty cool ocean-related art,” Ponnekanti says. “Come celebrate World Ocean Day weekend with me and help protect our ocean. It's going to be an amazing festival and I'm working so hard for it, along with a bunch of talented, generous people. 
“As humans, we need to collectively step up to protect our ocean from plastics, chemicals, sound pollution, warming and the rest. I really believe that together we can do it. That's what Ocean Fest is all about.”
A major visual art component is Barbara De Pirro’s suspended sculpture “Kelp Forest.” She used hundreds of reclaimed plastics to create this environmental installation. She collected, washed, cut and reassembled more than 300 plastic bottles to be suspended as a mass of kelp forest high within Foss Waterway Seaport Museum, enabling visitors to walk underneath it's ghostly form, which Ponnekanti describes as swaying gently above our heads. De Pirro "makes ethereal beauty out of trash,” Ponnekanti says.
I first discovered De Pirro’s work when she did a Spaceworks installation called “Vortex Plastica” in 2010. In the eight years since then I have reviewed her art many times, and I never ceased being overwhelmed with the otherworldly beauty of it.
Annie Crawly is an underwater photographer and filmmaker. She will be showing works called “Our Ocean and You” including photos of whales, sea lions and octopi, as well as photos of the devastation of plastic trash strewn on beaches. Crawly will be the keynote speaker at the festival.
Mike Coots is a Hawaiian photographer and shark advocate who lost a leg to a tiger shark 20 years ago. He will be showing shark photographs. He has appeared on “National Geographic,” the “Travel Channel” and is an Instagram sensation.
Ponnekanti says, “The reason I chose these three artists — other than the clear ocean theme in their work — was how their work encompasses pure art, journalism and sport. I have been a fan of Barbara's semi-abstract eco-sculptures for a while. They take materials usually considered debris and remake them into something imaginative and otherworldly, a reminder that beauty can come out of anywhere, but also a reminder that as humans we make a lot of trash and we need to deal with it.”
Other events and performances at Ocean Fest include performances by cellist Gretchen Yanover, aerilist performances by Deanna Riley, flamenco dance by Mrisela Fleites, songs by Kim Archer, Tacoma City Ballet's "Whale Song," and West African dance by Tacoma Urban Performing Arts Center. And all of that is just a fraction of the art and entertainment to be enjoyed.
Tacoma Ocean Fest, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., June 10, Foss Waterway Seaport, 705 Dock St., Tacoma, free.