Thursday, January 25, 2007

Sex Workers Art Show comes home

Published in the Volcano, Jan. 25, 2007

The Sex Workers’ Art Show returns to Olympia for one night only at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, Friday, Jan. 26 beginning at 8 p.m.

Like so many things weird whacky and wonderful, this annual event started in Olympia and now tours nationwide, with performances in San Francisco, New Orleans, Boston, Chicago and New York. It was started a decade ago at the old Liberation Café in downtown Olympia by a South Sound sex worker and activist who goes by the pseudonym Annie Oakley.

“We're very excited about doing the show in Olympia,” Oakley said. “After ten years, Olympia now has an incredible amount of sex worker-savvy for a town its size, and being here is always so warm and welcoming. The show would never have grown into what it is now without the support and influence of this community.”

The Sex Workers’ Art Show is cabaret-style entertainment featuring music, spoken word, burlesque and multi-media performance art by people who have worked in or continue to work in the sex industry, such as strippers, prostitutes and phone sex workers.

Oakley said this year’s show will feature more men than ever before. “Male workers and their perspectives tend to be underrepresented in the sex worker movement and we're pleased to be able to present Kirk Read, Stephen Elliott, and Reginald Lamar,” she said, adding: “The show also has more burlesque than ever. It's a bit flashier and shows a bit more leg. We've got the spectacular Miss Dirty Martini, who was recently voted 'Best Body in Burlesque', tassel-twirling master Jo Weldon, and C. Snatch Z.”

Elliott and Read are both award-winning authors. Elliott wrote the novel “Happy Baby.” Read co-edited “Best Gay Erotica 2004” and is known for his popular coming out memoir “How I Learned to Snap.” Also on the bill is Japanese performance artist Cono Snatch Zubobinskaya, an internationally renowned member of the Japanese performance collective Dumbtype.

Finally, starring in the show this year is one of the most original and uncatagorizable artists in America, Julie Atlas Muz, an exotic dancer and 2004 Whitney Biennial artist and who was crowned Miss Exotic World 2006.

Organizers bill the event as “intelligent and hot, challenging and hilarious,” offering “scathing and insightful commentary on sexuality, gender and labor.” It is also intended to dispel some myths about sex workers. But most of all, it should simply be a lot of fun.

For more information and performer bios, go to
Tickets are $12 at the door.

Black Front Gallery contains good stuff

Published in the Volcano, Jan. 25, 2007
Pictures: "Growth," oil on paper by Jason Greene

This is the good stuff. Portland artist Jason Greene’s paintings of bottles and jars and bags at the new Black Front Gallery in Olympia. The show is called “Contain” because all of the paintings are of containers of one sort or another. But what these forms contain is virtuoso painting and bottled-up emotion. Go ahead and groan.

“These generic forms hold my attention,” the artist writes in a statement. “As I observe common objects through painting, they begin to transcend their function. They provoke memories and experiences. The object itself becomes a symbol of human existence, and the paint helps preserve the moment, idea or emotion.”
That’s a lot of stuff for empty bottles to contain.

Greene paints simple, long neck drink bottles and Mason jars in dark sepia tones on a plane white ground; groups of bottles, jars and bags arranged in simple compositions; and containers combined with overlapping child-like line drawings and finely incised echoes of the container shapes that almost vanish into the background.

The most outstanding of these are the two large bottle paintings on the back wall of the gallery. These are approximately eight feet tall and four feet wide. Each is a painting of a single bottle painted with drippy thin paint on a background of thick white paint. These have an iconic presence reminiscent of Warhol’s soup cans and Thiebeaud’s pastries of the early ‘60s. They are monumental in scale and concept. Two similar but slightly smaller paintings of jars are nicely done but lack the impact of these two bottle paintings -- a good illustration of the impact scale can have on a painting.

A group of smaller paintings in a long, horizontal format deals with a different set of compositional concerns, the repetition of similar forms across a flat expanse of space. There are three paintings in this series, hung one above the other. On top is a line of five brown bottles, in the middle are four clear plastic baggies, and the bottom painting shows four brown paper bags. Whereas the larger paintings are all about the drips and smears and smatterings of wet-on-wet paint, these are all about placement in space. In the top and bottom paintings of this group, dark forms march against a stark white ground. In the middle painting we have a delicate interplay of clear on white, with subtle crinkles and cast shadows (there are no shadows in the top and bottom ones).

There is also a group of very small paintings, perhaps six inches square, which I suspect were included because they could sell cheaply. Two or three of them had already been sold when I saw the show. Compared to the other works, these paintings are mildly decorative.

Another interesting group combines one or more line drawing techniques with paintings of containers. There are nine of these, five on one wall that are similar in technique, and four on the opposite wall that are somewhat different. The group of five shows containers on shelves with atmospheric backgrounds. Overlapping these are very crude, child-like line drawings of what appear to be insects, and a network of finer and more sophisticated line work that often repeats the form of the containers in a deliberate kind of pentimente. On the opposite wall are four similar paintings but with slight differences. The heavier line drawings that overlap the containers are in color (in the first-mentioned group they were black), and they are blockier. They look something like a child’s rendition of trees and houses. Most of these have a clunky look and the color stands out too much. The ones on the other wall, I believe, are much better -- with one exception. That exception is a painting titled “Growth,” which is used on the show’s invitations. In this painting, three decidedly different ways of drawing and painting come together in beautiful harmony.

Black Front Gallery is located at 106 4th Ave. E, downtown Olympia. They're open Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Encore! cast creates fun ‘Housewives’

Published in The News Tribune, January 19, 2007

When word spreads about “Angry House­wives,” there should be a surge of people crossing the Narrows to the little Encore! Theater in Gig Harbor. Sellouts are expected, so advance tickets are recommended.

This is one of the few truly grown-up shows the company has done in recent years, and it is among the edgiest. It might be shocking to some. Parental guidance is definitely suggested.

Born in Seattle 20-something years ago with the book by A.M. Collins and music and lyrics by Chad Henry, “Housewives” was a smash hit at Seattle’s Pioneer Square Theater, where it ran for more than four years before going to off-Broadway. Set in the early 1980s, it is the story of four women who decide to form a punk-rock band.

Bev (Teri Deshon) is a frustrated single mother trying to support her 15-year-old son, Tim (Grant Troyer), by selling Betty Jean Cosmetics. As the play opens, Bev – dressed in pink with ludicrous pink floral-patterned tights – is preparing for a Betty Jean house party.

While she is trying to get ready, her son is playing his guitar and screeching a song called “Hell School.” (It should be noted that Troyer can sing angelically, as he proves later in the show, but this song is an ear-splitting howl with what seems to be the sole purpose of driving his mother insane.)

Only three of the 30 women Bev has invited to her cosmetics party show up, and none of them has any money. They are Bev’s best friends: Jetta (Sharon Eason), a put-upon housewife whose pompous lawyer-husband threatens to “revoke privileges” if she compromises his image; Wendy (Kathy Davis-Hayfield), whose boyfriend Wallace (David Michalski) is obsessed with his boat and his hobby of laminating the fins of fish he has caught; and Carol (Terri Whitman), who has gained 35 pounds since her divorce and compulsively gobbles food.

Taking a clue from Tim, the women decide to enter a band competition at Lewd Fingers, a local punk-rock club. They call themselves The Angry Housewives, and they win the $2,000 prize with their song “Eat Your … Cornflakes.”

The costumes, the wigs, and the outlandish songs make for a wildly funny performance, but underneath all the hilarity there are layers of comedic insight into the human condition. Although slightly exaggerated, the relationship between Bev and her son, the drudgery of Jetta’s marriage, Carol’s hunger for food and romance, and Wallace’s blindness to Wendy’s needs all resonate with real life.

The actors throw themselves into their roles. Some of the singers might not make it past the first round on “America’s Got Talent” and some seem to be trying too hard, but that’s forgivable because of the absurd nature of their roles.

Eason is outstanding as Jetta. She seems not to be acting but to be living the life of a put-upon housewife. She resists playing the role of a punkster, but when she finally gets into it she does so with all her heart. And she’s an excellent singer, both on tender ballads and punk screechers.

David Jensen as the rough and charming club owner of Lewd Fingers also seems not to be acting. I suspect he’s very much like this wisecracking but sensitive character in his everyday life.

Troyer has been a standout child star but has a much more mature role. It’s quite a stretch for an eighth-grader, and he handles it with grace beyond his years.

Note: Davis-Taylor and Whitman as Wendy and Carol, respectively, alternate in these roles with Wendy Coville and Nancy Taylor.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday through Jan. 28
WHERE: Encore! Theater, 6615 38th Ave. N.W., Gig Harbor
TICKETS: $15 for adults and $11 for military, seniors and teens
INFORMATION: 253-858-2282

a better juried show

Published in the Volcano Jan. 18, 2007
Pictured: "Know by Heart" oil on paper by Bethany Hays

The Second Annual Regional Juried Art Exhibition at the Fine Arts Center, South Puget Sound Community College is far more consistent in quality than the first go-round last year. There’s nothing that really blows me away; it’s all rather typical modernist painting, sculpture and photography. But the overall quality is right there.

The Juror’s Award, which carries with it a solo show next year, goes to Bethany Hays, whose three oil on paper paintings dominate the back wall of the gallery. Each of her paintings is approximately five feet tall and three feet wide, with a consistency of subject matter and style that makes the three of them look like a single painting presented as a triptych. All are paintings of children and animals with writing. The children are painted with broad strokes in thin washes of chalky color combined with collage materials such as paper and leaves. The animals are mostly contour drawings in overlapping free-flowing lines. Her colors are particular effective for their semi-transparency and for being value keyed. This is particularly noticeable in the center painting, “Know by Heart,” which depicts a child in a bunny costume and a large goose. The poetic lettering in the background reads: “Sweet vanilla rose breath Made sugar toesy nose breath.” For art lovers from the Olympia area, Hays’ paintings will bring to mind works from the late Louise Williams.

Easily overlooked because of its placement in the gallery is Michael Stone’s digital photograph “The Search.” I did not ask about specific techniques, but it looks like this photograph was severely manipulated in Photo Shop or some similar computer paint program. It pictures a series of eight identical suburban homes receding up a grassy hill (that’s a very loose definition; actually you can’t tell whether the hills are covered with grass, trees or shrubs). Four policemen search in front of the houses with guns drawn. But these aren’t normal looking policemen. They look like plastic figurines, and each one is absolutely identical. It is a very bizarre fantasy scene like Joe Friday searching for the Stepford Wives.

Mollari Sederberg’s “Moodusa” is a sculpted cow’s head in polymeric steel and acrylic with Medusa-like snakes for hair and a glittery gold metallic finish like that of a custom car. It’s really quite startling and beautiful.

Diane Kurzyna’s “Bag Lady,” plastic wrap, Wonder Bread wrappers and tape, is another in her series of life size and lifelike figures made from recycled plastic -- this one notable for the artist’s careful choice in placing the wrappers to create dot patterns on the hat and dress and an All-American “tattoo” on the woman’s arm.

Susan Christian has two of her signature long, horizontal images of curtains. The best of these, called “Handel” has a pair of feet in the center with background colors in off-white tones tinged with blue, green and peach. She displays a deft sense of placement and use of open space in this one.

Most of the sculpture shown is typical figurative stuff. The best of these is Aisha Harrison’s “Ambition,” a strange head glazed with dark slashes of brown and black. A different kind of sculpture can be seen in Michael Born’s three monumental welded steer sculptures, each of which is a lyrical line drawing in space, and each of which mirrors two identical forms.

One of the more unique pieces in the show is Bill Fleming’s “Vision #1” a mixed-media drawing on cardboard. This piece is six or seven feet tall and only a foot wide. It is a drawing of a house created from multiple stacked boxes. Fleming’s drawing style is deceptively simple and hard to describe, but it reminds me a lot of Blake Haygood’s drawings of fantasy machines (some of which were recently seen in the Neddy Award show at Tacoma Art Museum.

Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Here's a fun thing to do on a cold night

I like my job. It gives me the opportunity to see plays on an average of once a week. Not bad, huh? Still, there are some good plays I don't get to review. One in particular I was hoping to review but can't is Sam Shepard & Joseph Chaikin's "When the World Was Green" opening tonight at Olympia Little Theater.

It should be good. I don't think Sam Shepard's ever written anything that wasn't. Plus, Dennis Rolly's in it. He's always entertaining.

Here's a copy of the press release:

This play, written for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics Arts Festival, merges the best of Shepard's lyrical and meaningful language, with Chaikin's gift for characterization in a most unusual, and beautiful, one-act play.

"When the World was Green" has only two characters, an old man who was once a superb chef, and a young woman who comes to interview him in prison where he has been locked up after poisoning a man. Yet, their eight conversations, in which both characters recall incidents from their childhoods, link together to form a tender narrative of regret, loss, and revenge and maybe even hope.

The director, Tim Samland, says, "It is about Bosnia and Belfast and New Orleans, about the miraculous perfection of well-cooked food, and about how very much and how very little it takes to make theater sing."

"I'm still obsessed with this idea that words are pictures," Shepard has said, "and that even momentarily they can wrap the listener up in a visual world without having to commit themselves to revealing any other meaning. The sounds and rhythms seem to support these images and bring feeling into it.”

This play says more, with language and gesture, about hope for the world in which we live than all the politicians in the world.

Opening Friday January 12, and running through February 4th at Olympia Little Theatre. Shows Thursday - Saturday at 7:55pm, Sundays at 1:55pm. Tickets are $10, available at Yenney music or

For more information call Olympia Little Theatre at 360-786-9484, or

Pictured: Dennis Rolly and Samantha Chung in "When the World Was Green"

Sixth sense

Claudia Riedener discusses her sixth avenue project vision
Published in the Volcano Jan. 11, 2007
Pictured: CJ Swanson's "T-Town Indigenous"

Claudia Riedener, Art Chair of the 6th Avenue Merchants Association, has great visions for 6th Avenue. She sees this somewhat commercial and somewhat funky neighborhood as a destination arena of community art, a haven for public art highlighted by (eventually, if all goes according to plan) a beautiful archway over the avenue.

But the first steps in seeing Riedener’s vision come to light were baby steps. The 6th Avenue project began with five decorated garbage cans, a bench, and a stack of car parts. Five local artists worked their magic on five street side garbage cans in a two-block area near Schuck’s Auto Supplies. Granted, these are just decorated garbage cans. No big deal. It’ll never rival the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, but it could someday grow to rival the famous Chihuly bridge, which I think is terribly overrated anyway. And the decorations of these garbage cans are more than superficial. By way of contrast, the cat-themed decorations on Antique Row trash bins are sort of like appliqués on a teenager’s notebook. But the cans on the Ave are funkier and more creative. They’re not just painted. There is laying of tiles and welding of steel going on here. They are constructed with great care and pride of craftsmanship. Plus, they have imaginative titles, and the project itself has a punny name. It’s called the “Can Do” project.

C.J. Swanson’s "T-Town Indigenous" is a salute to Northwest Native American art, with repetitive symbols in a pictographic style in primary red, yellow and white. On top are words the artist describes as “friendly comments to the people sending the trash down the openings.”

Ann Meersman’s “Mandala” is a decorative but very formal design made up of colored tiles embedded in a concrete wrap around the can, with spray-painted decoration on the lid and interior (a fine finish to areas that normally won’t be seen being the mark of dedicated craftsmanship).

Sue Pivetta’s “Glassy Trashy,” glass mosaic over expanded metal lath, is also a finely crafted formalist design, whereas Mark Larson’s “Tacoma Pride,” welded sheet metal and paint, is a more traditional design with Tacoma scenes painted within the “eyes” of peacock tail feathers.

My favorite can is Jason Owens’ “The Space Between,” found objects and welded steel. Painted a bright red, this can is a tribute to industrialism, with its gears, springs and chains.

Nearby are two other works of art that are part of the Association’s continuing art project: Bill Bruza’s “Jim Smith Memorial Bench” and Doug Danstrom’s steel sculpture “Carrot.” Bruza’s bench is a tribute to fellow woodcarver Jim Smith. Danstrom’s sculpture is a massive and brightly colored column of welded auto parts that, fittingly, stand guard outside Walt's Auto Care Center. Danstrom, CEO of Walts, created this piece in collaboration with Mauricio Robalino.

Danstrom said: “Communities where art thrives are more vibrant, not for one day but for generations. There is definitely a government role in making this happen, but businesses can play a part. It is wonderful that the 6th Ave. Merchants Association has decided to add art to the Avenue. The foresight this shows is great and as time passes, so will the benefits to the businesses and their patrons.”

Riedener said: “I am happy that the Merchants Association has put major efforts behind the idea of public art on the Avenue. We have commissioned seven pieces by local artists in 2006 and all are installed. I am looking forward to another year and more public art done by local artists. We are ready with funding and ideas and are working with some local educational institutions for work on bigger projects for 2007. Keep your eyes open for more art to appear on the Ave. And if you are a Tacoma artist, watch for more calls for work on the list-serve.”

If the amount and quality of work added to the project in ’07 matches or betters ’06, then we really have something worthwhile to look forward to.

Revue comes alive with romance, fun

Published in The News Tribune January 12

What is This Thing Called Love?” at Tacoma Little Theatre is a musical tribute to the great Cole Porter – a heartfelt tribute conceived and created by director and musical director David Duvall, who also wrote all of the arrangements and plays piano in a trio composed of himself, bassist Cary Black and drummer Bruce Simpson.

Duvall has spent more than 30 years in professional theater in Seattle and Tacoma. He received Emmy nominations for Best Original Music for Television for the KING-TV film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and the KCTS special “Things That Aren’t Here Anymore.”

“Cole Porter has been a passionate love of mine for most of my life,” Duvall writes in his director’s notes. He notes that he grew up listening to recordings of Porter songs by Bobby Short and Ethel Merman and reading Robert Kimball’s book “Cole,” which he says “had a home on my bedstand for all of my junior and senior high years.”

Porter was one of America’s most successful songwriters. His career spanned half a century. “Esmeralda,” his first song to be performed on Broadway, appeared in the musical revue “Hands Up” in 1915. His last major hit was the beautiful ballad “True Love” written for the movie “High Society” starring Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and Grace Kelly in 1956. In between those came a string of hit songs including such standards as “Night and Day,” “Just One of Those Things,” “I Love Paris,” “You Do Something to Me,” “Begin the Beguine” “From This Moment On” and the title tune to this revue, “What is This Thing Called Love?” He was noted for haunting melodies, creative rhythms and lyrics that could be insightful and humorous – often ribald, if not downright scandalous for the times.

Porter’s lyrics in this show are all about love, and they envision a 1950s dream world inhabited by glamorous and sophisticated men and women without the slightest hint that the songwriter was gay. Such things were usually only whispered in Porter’s day.

This world is simply and elegantly portrayed in the sets and costumes by David Jerome, which are lavish without being overdone.

There are eight cast members (four constantly revolving couples who compete for one another’s affection). They are Charmee Beauclaire, Karen Carr, Eric Emans, Tim Fobes, Jay Iseli, Betzy Miller, Emilie Rommell and Mark Wenzel. They are all good singers, and at least two of them display terrific acting chops. Those two are Wenzel and Miller. Wenzel, who looks a little bit like a young Fred Astaire, plays a lovable but dorky guy throughout. He is absolutely hilarious when he puts on a pair of Harry Potter glasses and plays the part of a young lover afraid of love in a comical duet with Rommell on the Gilbert-and-Sullivan-inspired “Let’s Not Talk About Love.”

And Miller proves once and for all that a hefty gray-haired woman can be mighty sexy if she takes a mind to. Her shimmy dancing to the tune of “Katie Went to Haiti” is one of the comedic highlights of the evening.

Emans is a swinging crooner in the Bobby Darin tradition who stands out in a number of solos, most notably on “Where is the Life That Late I Led?” And Iseli is better in this role than in any I’ve seen him in.

Both Beauclaire and Carr have beautiful and sultry voices, but on some numbers they are hard to hear (which could have been a problem with the sound system on opening night). The only other complaint I have is that at well over two hours the show is a bit long. They could have easily cut a few songs.

For people who fondly remember the ’40s and ’50s, or for young people with romance in their hearts, an evening out to see “What is This Thing Called Love?” could make for a great date night.

8 p.m. Jan. 12-13and 2 p.m. Jan. 14
Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N. I St., Tacoma
INFORMATION: 253-272-2281

Monday, January 8, 2007

I feel dumb

An art historian friend asked me why I didn't mention Velazquez's painting "Las Meninas" when mentioning Shaw Osha's painting of the same name. The answer is I just didn't think of it. Duh! The title should have been a dead giveaway. And if you look at Osha's painting (still posted on this blog but soon to be banished to the archives) you can see it. Many contemporary artists -- most notably Picasso and Francis Bacon have done paintings based on Velazquez. There's an interesting Wickapedia article here about Velazquez's "Las Meninas" and its influence on contemporary painters.

Saturday, January 6, 2007

Theater groups ready to roll out diverse plays

Published in The News Tribune
January 5th, 2007 01:00 AM

The new year in community theater opens up with a cornucopia of offerings ranging from madcap musical comedy (“Angry Housewives”) to a haunting memory play by Joseph Chaikin and Sam Shepard (“When the World Was Green”) to a one-man show about Leonardo da Vinci (“The Life and Times of Leonardo da Vinci”) to a standard Broadway hit (Neil Simon’s “They’re Playing Our Song”) to a toe-tapping salute to Cole Porter (“What is This Thing Called Love?”).

“The Life and Times of Leonardo da Vinci” opens at Harlequin Productions in Olympia on Jan. 18. This one-man show is the creation of Peter Donaldson, a teacher, writer, artist and performer from Mercer Island. Donaldson tours the Pacific Northwest every year with his two solo performances, “da Vinci” and “Salmon People” – both of which have enjoyed previously successful runs on the Harlequin stage.

“When I went to college, I took a degree in painting and learned how to put on and take away layers of meaning. But each painting, once completed, seemed too soon silent. My palette was not broad enough,” Donaldson said in a biographical statement on his Web site (

His plays have given him that broader palette. In “da Vinci,” Donaldson greets the audience as himself, shares a little background information on the great Italian artist and inventor. Then, with the addition of costumes and props, he becomes da Vinci and tells his life story in a kind of stream of consciousness manner he describes as “like a needle pulling a silver thread.” At the end, the actor/storyteller steps back out of character and engages the audiences in an open conversation about da Vinci’s life and ideas.

On a much lighter note, “What is This Thing Called Love?” at Tacoma Little Theater is sheer entertainment. It is a musical review celebrating the works of Cole Porter, one of America’s most celebrated and beloved composers. Noted for his clever rhymes and rhythms, Porter’s songs included such hummable classics as “Night and Day,” “Begin the Beguine,” “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” and “I Get a Kick Out of You.”

Also in the light and delightful category is Neil Simon’s “They’re Playing Our Song” at Tacoma Musical Playhouse. This musical comedy offers a peek into the relationship between a composer and his lyricist. It was described by a New York Post reviewer as “another ‘Odd Couple.’” The music was composed by Marvin Hamlisch (“A Chorus Line”) with lyrics by Carole Bayer Sager.

“When the World Was Green” at Olympia Little Theatre, is a two-person play by Joseph Chaikin and Sam Shepard. It tells the story of an old man who was once a great chef but who is now in jail for poisoning a man. A young woman comes to visit him in jail. The play consists of their conversations. Sketched out in their simple dialogue (interspersed with monologues by each character) are trips to exotic lands, sketches of lavish meals and a history involving a family vendetta that has gone on for seven generations.

Chaikin and Shepard epitomize avant-garde theater. They have collaborated off and on for 40 years, beginning shortly after Chaikin founded the Open Theater in New York in 1964. Their works are poetic and thought-provoking. They are not always easy to understand, and they may not be appropriate for young audiences.

On a totally different note, “Angry Housewives” at Gig Harbor’s Encore! Theater brings us back home to the Northwest for a zany parody of feminism Seattle-style. This musical comedy originated in Seattle. It tells the tale of four women who form a garage band called the Angry Housewives because they are bored with their lives.

Friday, January 5, 2007

Web of art

Note: In the print version my editor titled this "Scrolling for art" but I prefer my original title: "Web of art."

Published in the Volcano Jan. 4 '07

Talk about serendipity. I had thought of writing about some of the strange and wonderful art that can be found on the Internet. But before starting to write I decided to check my e-mail -- or, to be more accurate, to scroll through and delete nearly 200 pieces of electronic junk mail. In the process, I stumbled upon a link to a fascinating Web site from The Underwater Sculpture Gallery in Grenada, West Indies. This site highlights an amazing project by sculptor Jason Taylor on the island of Grenada: an undersea sculpture park consisting of an artificial reef of underwater sculptures depicting the peoples of Grenada and their history.

I can only imagine how overwhelming it must be to go there and see this project onsite. It’s fascinating enough viewed on a computer screen. The Web site explains the uniqueness of viewing it in person: “An underwater gallery creates a whole new perspective on the world. Submerged objects are affected by different conditions both physical and emotional. Objects appear 25% larger and closer, colours are changed as light is absorbed differently by the water. The surface of the sea creates an ever-changing kaleidoscope of light, whilst its turbidity acts as a filter. The aquatic medium affords the viewer a multitude of angles and perspectives and thus transforms the traditional role of passive observer into an active process of discovery and engagement.”

The gallery shows many of Taylor’s sculptures both in and out of their watery sites, starting with an eerie installation of 16 figures cast from a woman named Grace. Go diving and watch the barnacles grow on Grace.

Then there’s British graffiti, collage and installation artist Banksy. His art is guerrilla art. It can be sneaky, infuriating and sometimes baffling. It defies authority and questions all of our preconceived notions. It makes us laugh as we squirm. And I have absolutely no idea if the people who own the buildings he paints on allow him to do his art on their property or if he does the deed in the dark of night.

Sometimes the humor in Banksy’s art is so subtle it is easily missed. Other times it slaps you in the face. Examples: a giant rat holds a dripping paintbrush with which he has written, “I’m out of bed and dressed. What more do you want?”; a tiger escapes a bar code cage (you have to see it); spear-wielding aborigines hunt shopping carts; an elegantly dressed man and woman dance on a beach where toxic wastes are being unloaded; and there’s the ever-present elephant in the room.

Local and area artists are also well represented on the Web. One Olympia-based artist who has an interesting Web site and who is an active blogger to boot is Diane Kurzyna, aka Ruby Re-Usable, the Dumpster Diving Diva. Readers of this column will recognize the name. I have reviewed her work on numerous occasions, beginning with various incarnations her “White Trash Wedding,” a wedding party sculpted out of recycled materials. For years, Kurzyna used Wonder Bread wrappers in almost all of her sculptures. More recently, she has gone to the use of plastic wrap and clear tape in life-size figures inspired by the sculptor George Segal.

Kurzyna is also a curator and a tireless promoter of recycled art, not only her own, but the work of other artists she admires, such as Seattle artists Marita Dingus, Ross Palmer Beecher and Jessica Geiger.

Another fascinating site from a local artist is that of Eugene Parnell, sculptor and manager of the Ice Box Gallery. Watch out. You can get caught up in Parnell’s site and waste your life away.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Champagne Summer

I've been working on some new paintings in preparation for an upcoming show at South Puget Sound Community College. One of the latest, which I recently posted on my website, is a big painting called "Champagne Summer." (oil on canvas, 48" x 60").
This painting is based on a computer art image I created a year ago called "Triplets" which was based on a much earlier painting called "The Last? Gerbils." To see all three paintings side by side, go here (opens in a new window).