Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Bluebird

Jessica Bender’s tribute to Charles Bukowski

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Aug. 13, 2009
Photo: Courtesy photo
"Bluebird": a work in progress by Jessica Bender, courtesy of The Telephone Room Gallery

"The Bluebird" by Jessica Bender is one of the more unique art installations in Tacoma at one of the most unique galleries in town. The Telephone Room is billed as “the world’s second-smallest art gallery.” Is it really? We may never know, but it’s certainly Tacoma’s second smallest, with the Tollbooth Gallery being the smallest.

Founded by Heidi Fernandez-Llamazares, Marty Gengenback and Ellen Ito, it is a room in a 1930s Dutch Colonial home located near the intersection of Union and Sixth Avenue that until now has had the sole purpose of housing a black rotary telephone.

By the way, the phone is still there, but there is no phone number listed for the gallery.

The founders refer to it as “artist-driven,” and so far in the brief life of the gallery it has featured works by some of Tacoma’s most innovative artists, including Marc Dombrosky, Shannon Eakins, NicholasNyland and many more.

Jessica Bender is an artist whose work is mysterious, often strange, haunting and very elegantly beautiful — beautiful in the way perhaps an ancient wedding dress found in someone’s attic is beautiful. Look at the items pictured on her blog at and you will get a taste of how elegantly enigmatic some of her work can be, from a pile of sculpted fingers to an array to antique letter openers to hanging heads attached to what looks like perhaps wedding dresses or funeral shrouds.

Her show at The Telephone Room was inspired by the poet and novelist Charles Bukowski. Bender explains: “The work is the culmination of a week-long residency at the Two Dot Spot in Two Dot, Mont. This remote town consists of a post office and a bar, which seemed the perfect setting to channel Bukowski energy, as he worked for the post office for some time and is known for his drinking habits. Bukowski made a series of paintings/drawings using whatever was on hand. Embracing this principle, much of the work is made from materials available in Two Dot, including excavated antelope bones and moths.”

Coming up next at The Telephone Room is a show called LEGO, in which artists will be invited to come and play with LEGO sets. Sorry, it’s by invitation only. But what they create on the LEGO build night will be shown in an exhibition scheduled for September. So watch for announcements.

[The Telephone Room Gallery, The Bluebird by Jessica Bender, through Aug. 31, 3710 N. 7th St., Tacoma, by appointment only, for appointment e-mail]

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