Thursday, May 19, 2011

"Coyote Forward"

Contemporary Native American art at B2

The Weekly Volcano, May 19, 2011

"Stone Giants Sleeping Under the Bear Star": Acrylic painting by Gail Tremblay

Three nationally prominent Native American artists and one quickly rising new Native art star are featured in the latest show at B2 Fine Arts.

Joe Feddersen, of Colville heritage from Omak and an art teacher at The Evergreen State College, is best known as a printmaker, but also makes baskets, glass art and sculpture. Readers may recall his recent outstanding solo show at Tacoma Art Museum. In the current show at B2, Feddersen has an installation called "Codex - 2009," consisting of 11 amber-colored, cylindrical vessels, each decorated with patterns and symbols that the artist says can be read in any number of ways, suggesting landscape, street signs and a forest of tree stumps. The symbols are very sparse and the colors muted. It is a quiet, contemplative piece that in a different setting could be seen as a sacred meditative alter. Feddersen acknowledges that it was influenced by a similar work by Eva Hesse.

Feddersen is also showing a couple of small prints (nice, but nothing like the amazing prints in his TAM show), and a beautiful large vessel with a mirrored surface. I wish there were more of his prints in this show.

Gail Tremblay, a descendant of Onondaga and Micmac ancestors and also on the TESC art faculty, has one of the most powerful pieces in the show, a two-panel acrylic painting called "Stone Giants Sleeping Under the Bear Star." Giant heads that look like craggy mountain ranges sleep under a black sky with perfectly circular stars. The silver, gold and light gray colors are particularly striking, as are her edges and brushwork. There is a monumental quality to this painting that is almost creepy.

Ironically, one of the least impressive works in the show is also by Tremblay. It's called "Grandmother Moon Reflecting Elder Brother Sun," and while the legends and the history of forced relocation it refers to are important stories, the painting with its clich├ęd man-in-the-moon image has none of the impact of her other works.

Tremblay is also showing some beautiful and well-crafted works made of cut and folded paper.

Lillian Pitt is one of the most highly regarded Native American artists in the Pacific Northwest. For her part of B2's current exhibit she's showing a lot of small sculptural figures, mostly in glass, and a group of callographs - a type of print that has many different applications, but in this instance look similar to monoprints and resist techniques. There are some medium-sized ones of stylized sunbursts with subtle colors and textures that give it the look of ancient drawings inscribed in rock walls, and a couple of large ones called "Visitors" and "The Old Ones" with figures like sarcophagi. These are very strong images.

Alexander McCarty, I'm told, studied with both Tremblay and Feddersen - and fits the "rising new Native art star" part of B2's current bill. The Feddersen influence is obvious in McCarty's prints, which are colorful and employ repetitive patterns

B2 is a large, beautiful space that lends itself nicely to a big show like this.

There will be a lecture and panel discussion with Tremblay and regional arts professionals Thursday, June 16, from 7-8 p.m. at the Broadway Center For Performing Arts Theater on the Square.
Coyote Foward

through June 18, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
open until 8 p.m. third Thursdays
B2 Fine Art Gallery, 711 St. Helens Avenue, Tacoma

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