Friday, May 3, 2013

Northwest Artists Collect

The Weekly Volcano, May 1, 2013

Exhibiting works by Northwest glass artists alongside selected works from their personal art collections is an intriguing concept for an art exhibition. This is what you can find in the Northwest Artists Collect exhibition at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma. Seven favorite regional glass artists are shown with works from their collections. The artists are: Joseph Gregory Rossano, Richard Royal, Ginny Ruffner, Dick Weiss, Martin Blank, Preston Singletary, and Cappy Thompson.

“The Courtship of the Sun and the Moon” vitreous enamels reverse-painted on glass, mounted over brushed aluminum, 44 1/4 x 56 x 1 in. by Cappy Thompson.
Courtesy of the artist
Thompson’s “The Courtship of the Sun and the Moon” is an enamel-on-glass illustration of an anthropomorphized sun and moon kissing while being watched over by what may be a pair of angels. Stylistically it seems to borrow from medieval illustrated manuscripts and from the art of India. I thought it must have been an illustration from an ancient myth, but when I Googled it the only thing I could find was information on a French film from 1907 described on Wikipedia as homoerotic. In Thompsons picture the (heterosexual) lovers find themselves in a dense jungle. The colors are rich. It’s a beautiful piece.

Also fascinating is Martin Blank’s “Thirsting,” a male diver in a jackknife position diving into what appears to be a pair of ancient books. The gold plated, clear glass diver is slim and muscular. The heavy and rough-edged books are transparent glass. All is suspended in space in front of a black background. The gold parts of the diver look like a shell from which he is emerging. To me this piece represents a butterfly breaking free of its cocoon and diving into knowledge — my interpretation; I have no idea whether or not the artist intended something like that. It is quite lovely and dramatic, and I like the contrast of rough and smooth shapes, although the man’s body is a little too idealized.

Possibly the strongest works in the show are not glass art but a couple of paintings, one by Jacqueline Barnett (from the Dick Weiss collection) and one by Italo Scanga (from the Richard Royal collection). Scanga’s piece is a painting in acrylic on paper of what appears to be a glass vase in front of a curtain with, in the background, a green tree in front of the wall of a blue house. The simple repetitive vertical shapes are sensual, and the colors are brilliant. Barnett’s “Transition” is an abstract painting in oil on canvas mounted on a three-part metal folding screen. The painting seems to depict a black dolphin and other creatures. The forms and the paint application are rough and expressive. It reminds me of some of Jackson Pollock’s early works from before he started dripping. There is something deliciously primal about this painting.

I also very much like Ruffner’s “The Waterford Series: Grape Chandalier.” A bunch of blue and violet grapes in semi-transparent glass with clear glass leaves is suspended from the ceiling.
Singletary is showing a haunting “Raven Woman” in blown and sand-carved glass and a glass case called “Curio Shelf” filled with a collection of glass art objects and found objects representative of Northwest Coastal Indian art and culture. 

Rossano has a collection of art and found objects that are displayed in such a way that all should be seen as a single installation. They look like Joseph Cornell objects set free of their boxes. Included is an ancient camera on a tripod and a large-format photograph of a photographer using a similar camera and an intriguing assemblage called “Whitewashed: Ecopisties Migrators” made of wood, found objects, an antique pigeon gun, glass, tar and paint.

The show even includes three display cases filled with books belonging to the artists. They are mostly art books, with a good number of books about Michelangelo, one on Surrealism and one copy of “The TAO of Physics.”

[Museum of Glass, Northwest Artists Collect, through October, 1801 Dock St. Tacoma, 866.4MUSEUM]

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