Friday, August 14, 2009

Best of Tacoma

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 13, 2009
Pictured: Holly Senn installation, photo courtesy Holly Senn and 23 Sandy Gallery

Here are a few of my picks for the annual "Best of Tacoma" issue of the Weekly Volcano.

Best art gallery

How much can change in a year? Last year I picked Fulcrum Gallery at 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way as the best gallery in T-town. At the time, the gallery was so new and I had seen so little of it that my choice based mostly on speculation as it its potential.

Fulcrum Gallery has met my expectations. I think it’s still the best in town. Now that, sadly, The Helm has bit the dust, Fulcrum is probably the edgiest gallery in town. They’re willing to take chances of works with little commercial potential, such as an installation of collaborative works by Shannon Eakins and Marc Dombrosky including a portrait of serial killer John Allen Muhammed that Eakins shot full of bullet holes — with the same model gun Muhammed used and purchased from the same gun shop. That was, understatement of understatements, Creepy.

Fulcrum has also displayed beautiful abstract works such as Lance Kagey’s prints based on numbers and lots of excellent glass art (gallery owner Oliver Doriss is a glass artist). It’s a small and unimposing gallery. Blink while driving down MLK and you’ll miss it. But the variety and quality of work shown there is consistently top drawer.

You never know what Fulcrum is liable to do next. Well, yes you do, next up is ceramic sculptures by Meghan Elissa Hartwig and photographs by Kristin Giordano.
"I am honored that Tacoma has responded so positively to the work we do here at Fulcrum. Open now for a year and a half I am pleased with the growth that has occurred thus far, and look forward to melding the experimental contemporary art displays with the products and events that are the back bone of this delicate business model," Doriss said.

When Doriss first opened this gallery, an article in The News Tribune said they were going to specialize in installation art. Installation art is impossible to sell or collect, and while wanting to provide opportunities for installation artists and others whose work has little or no commercial appeal, Fulcrum has also shown an awareness that people want to be able to buy affordable art they can put in their homes, so they have balanced the unsalable with small and affordable paintings, sculptures and glass art, a formula that so far seems to be working quite well.
Further information is available online at or by calling 253.250.0520.

Best visual artist
Jerry Managan

I’m going to go out on a limb and choose as best artist a painter whose work I’ve seen very little of other than on a computer screen. I’m assuming the actual paintings look something like they look online. Jerry Managan, this year’s Foundation Award winner. Managan’s technique and inventive imagery is admirable, as is the wide range of styles he works in. His surrealistic paintings of barn-like buildings have a brittle quality and interesting juxtaposition of crowded areas and open spaces, and some of his paintings have a lush photo-realist-pop look, both of which I like. But let’s not look too hard at the commercial and commission work on his Web site. What we do for money is like what we do for love, excusable.
You can see his work online at

Best book art

From the libraries at Pacific Lutheran University and University of Puget Sound to the Woolworth windows to Brooklyn, N.Y., Holly Senn has taken her love of books and art on a wild ride that appears to be only starting. Using old discarded books as a starting point, Senn builds sculptures and installations that are intriguing, thought provoking and beautiful. Perhaps Tacoma is not big enough to contain her talent, as her latest installation, Windows on Nature and Knowledge, is installed in display windows in the Brooklyn Public Library in — where else? — Brooklyn, New York.

Next up will be an installation called Tale at 23 Sandy Gallery in Portland. You can also see photos and videos of her work on her Web site at /

Senn’s art is primarily conceptual, meaning the ideas she conveys are her central concern. But they are not without visual appeal, which is one of the things I most appreciate. Many conceptual artists seem to care little or know nothing about the visual aspects of their art, But Senn is sensitive to visual beauty and also to implications of her media. The connections between the paper the books are made from and the trees the paper comes from and between human industry and thought — expressed with words and images — is always present in her art.

No comments: