Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Watch for these plays coming to area theaters in January

There are some great plays coming to South Sound theaters this month.

My Brother Kissed Mark Zuckerberg is back on stage at Tacoma’s Dukesbay Theater for three nights only, Jan. 9, 10 and 17 at 7 p.m. plus one matinee Jan. 18 at 2 p.m. This is the amazingly touching and funny one-man play (a true story) written and performed by Peter Serko. This is what I wrote in my review a year ago: “(Serko’s) demeanor and timing were impeccable. His voice is soft and well-articulated, and his sincerity is palatable. The almost two-hour show zooms by. It is heartbreaking, inspirational, and generously peppered with comic relief. The descriptions of what AIDS did to David Serko’s body are hard to take, but this is not something we should close our eyes to. AIDS is very much still with us and despite marvelous advancements in treatment it is still destroying lives.”

Dukesbay Theater is located in the Merlino Art Center (3rd floor), the corner of Fawcett St and 6th Ave in Tacoma, the same building as the Grand Cinema.
Buy Tickets Online:

Also coming in January is the award-winning play Glengarry Glenross by David Mamet, coming to a href="" target="_blank">Lakewood Playhouse Jan. 9 to Feb. 1 with performances Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.

Known for its biting humor tinged with harsh reality and for liberal use of adult language, including the infamous F-bomb in almost every sentence, Glengarry Glenross has won almost every major award imaginable including:

Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Olivier Award  For Best New Play

New York Drama Critics' Circle For Best American Play

Tony Award For Best Revival of a Play

I’ve seen the movie (who hasn’t?) but have not yet seen the play. I am looking forward to it and will be reviewing it for The News Tribune.

Finally, this quirky little gem is coming to Olympia Little Theatre: Come Back to the Five & Dime Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. I saw it years ago and loved it. Can’t wait to see it again.

The OLT website describes it as a poignant drama with adult themes and mild language. “The ‘Disciples of James Dean’ fan club are gathering for their 20th annual reunion at the Kressmont Five-and-Dime in McCarthy, Texas.  Teenagers when Dean filmed the movie Giant nearby, the now middle-aged women were infatuated by Dean's ‘bad boy’ beauty. Fond memories of their youthful heyday are shattered with the arrival of a stunning, yet familiar, stranger who sparks a confrontation that smashes their illusions of the past and forces them to rebuild their friendships in the present.”

It runs Jan. 16-Feb. 1, Thurs.-Sat. at 7:55 p.m. and Sundays at 1:55 p.m. Tickets are $10-$14 ($2 student discount).

Monday, December 29, 2014

Getting personal . . . and naked

 Warning: blatant self-promotion 

Anatom Afterglow, oil on canvas
Anatom and Woman with Stripes, oil on canvas

Once upon a time when I was in high school my older sisters and their husbands and children came for a visit my then six-year-old nephew watched me working on a life-size painting of a nude. I talked to him about how I mixed the colors and about light and shade while I painted. Later, as we were finishing a family meal, my nephew said, “Alec, let’s go paint some more naked womans.”

At a recent family reunion—the first I had attended in 17 years—he told that story. Only his version was quite different from what I remembered.

Anyway, I continued painting “naked womans” (and men too) off and on for the next 40 years. I must have done hundreds of figure paintings, some naked and some clothed, some realistic and other abstracted to various degrees, including a few with both boy parts and girl parts, and some monster figures called anatoms. And I recall at least one woman with three breasts (I sold that one to a woman who was a sex therapist).

Now there are only about a dozen of those paintings still in my possession. I sold a lot and gave some away, and some were lost or destroyed. Of those few, there are a few that I intend to keep for myself ’til death do us part.  That leaves seven paintings that are available for purchase. Only seven out of God knows how many. And they will all be in an upcoming show called BARE :: A BOUDOIR EXHIBITION IN GROUP SHOW EXPLORING 1 & 2 DIMENSIONAL EXPRESSIONS IN NUDITY at B2 Fine Art in Tacoma.  That’s quite a title, and it should be quite a show. I don’t yet know who the other artists will be, but I look forward to finding out.

The show opens Jan. 24 and runs through March 14. See, I told you this was blatant self-promotion.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Mary Lucier’s Plains of Sweet Regret at Tacoma Art Museum

Published in The Weekly Volcano, Dec. 24, 2014

 Grain Elevator, Store. Video still from “Mary Lucier: The Plains of Sweet Regret,” five-channel video and sound installation
Grab a seat in one of the vintage school desks scattered haphazardly about Tacoma Art Museum’s spacious Weyerhaeuser gallery and prepare to be immersed in desolate beauty as Mary Lucier’s five-channel video installation “The Plains of Sweet Regret” takes you to another time and place not so far away — the plains of North Dakota in the recent past.

Five videos are projected on large screens. Smoothly edited images of bleak landscapes and almost empty roads, abandoned churches and houses and commercial buildings, farmers and cowboys tell the tale of hard-scrabble people trying to hang on amid changes to their romanticized lives. Cameras pan desolate fields of grass and lonely roads. We feel as though we are running through the tall grasses until we come upon an empty church, an abandoned home, a grain elevator that’s seen better days. We witness a farmer at work, a calf being born and finally kaleidoscopic images of a rodeo, all set to music composed by Earl Howard and punctuated by the country song “I Can Still Make Cheyenne” by George Strait.

You have to turn your head to look from one screen to another and glimpse the similarities and differences as films that are identical in places and vastly different in others reflect one another. (As I read the sentence I just wrote I realize that it sounds hectic or frantic. It is not. The images move slowly, and the mood is quiet and introspective).  

It might well be worth watching the 18-minute film multiple times, since it is impossible to see all at once. Noticing the differences and similarities is fascinating. In some places the differences may be no more than a slight adjustment in camera angle or closer or more distant view of identical images, while in other places there may be a house on one screen and a barn on another, both weather worn with peeling paint and an aching feel of abandonment. Four of the five screens are in the open part of the gallery while almost  hidden behind two wall panels a totally different film is shown — a film obviously taken in some of the same settings but otherwise unrelated until it merges with the others and all five films become the same as rodeo cowboys ride bulls in kaleidoscopic movement.

The recently opened Haub Galleries present a romanticized vision of the American West. Lucier’s video is also romantic, but offers a refreshing change with elements of stark reality not to be seen in the Haub collection.

Wall text tucked away in a far corner explains that the area where the film was made has changed dramatically in the past few years with the boom and bust of oil riches. The way of life depicted in the film has disappeared. The rodeos are a last ditch effort to hold on to something already gone. Shale oil and fracking has both enriched and perhaps destroyed the region, and many of the inhabitants have moved to other parts of the country.

“The construct of home and the experience of leaving home are universal. Throughout time and place, people have developed cultures, values, and lifestyles related to place. We talk about sense of place — and place is deeply integrated with our identity,” says Lucier. “History reveals endless cycles of migration, of people moving onward seeking better opportunities. It is happening today in Africa, in Central America, in North Dakota, in your town, from regional to individual migration. These are experiences that resonate with each of us.”

“Mary Lucier: The Plains of Sweet Regret” was commissioned by the North Dakota Museum of Art as part of their Emptying Out of the Plains initiative.

Mary Lucier: The Plains of Sweet Regret, Wednesdays–Sundays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Third Thursdays 5–8 p.m. through Feb. 8, 2015, Tacoma Art Museum, adult $10, student/military/senior (65+) $8, family $25 (2 adults and up to 4 children under 18), 5 and younger free, Third Thursdays free from 5-8 pm., 253.272.4258,]

Friday, December 19, 2014

Jean Nagia’s “Correctional Fluid” at Salon Refu

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Dec. 18, 2014
"Canned (Sardines)" correctional fluid on canvas by Jean Nagia
I don’t know how she does it. Susan Christian, owner of Salon Refu, keeps discovering artists of note. Or maybe they find her. The latest is Jean Nagia, an artist completely new to me. He painted the bright, geometric abstract mural on the side of Salon Refu, and he’s working on a mural for the artesian well park in Olympia. But what he’s showing in his exhibition is something completely different: works on paper and fabric in correctional fluid, aka, whiteout. Yes, that’s right, the stuff we use to use to correct typewriter mistakes back when we used typewriters.

With countless little white dots on either black or blue backgrounds, creates repetitive, sometimes organic and sometimes geometric patterns that in some cases can be seen as based on nature and in some are purely abstract. They are intricate, obviously work-intensive, and often hypnotic.

“Shipped” depicts many fish or eel swimming inside the framing device of an archway.

“Cheers” is a field of meandering ropes of dots, within which can be seen five masks.

“Mystic Truths” presents a monolithic rock-like formation of sparkling white dots on a blue field of watery, loosely brushed paint.

“Channels 3” is a wash of back-and-forth optical illusion.

“Ancient Vision” is a screen print (one of two in the show) of what appears to be the ocean at night.

“Canned (Sardines)” is a humorous title for a painting that looks like a Native American tapestry depicting five vertical icon-like fish stacked side-by-side — tightly packed like sardines in a can. Inside of these fish are many smaller fish linked together like sausages.

“Processed,” one of my favorites, is a two-panel painting with flowing forms in white on a dark blue-violet background. Little fish-like forms are herded together at the juncture of the two canvases with swooping forms that are like hair framing a face.

Frankly, these works are of a type I do not usually care for, but as created by Nagai they are mesmerizing. I particularly like the way he creates an illusion of space and dark-to-light modulations of tone by spacing the dots closer together or farther apart.

The reproduction of one of his works used on the invitation did not look inviting because these paintings don’t work at that small size. The pieces in the gallery are larger and work much better. I think they need to be larger still.

Also happening in the gallery is a large batik project that was just getting underway when I visited. You will be able to see this project in the works. Christian said the batik project was her suggestion of a way for Nagai to make these images much larger. She agrees with me that they need to be larger.
Planned for Friday evening, Jan. 4 at 6 p.m. is a multi-media happening. Details are sketchy, but it will involve the batik project and gift items, food and drink and live music.  


Salon Refu, Correctional Fluid, Jean Nagai, Tuesday-Saturday, 2- 6 p.m. through Jan. 4,

114 N. Capitol Way, Olympia.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Clothing drive at Museum of Glass

In the spirit of giving back this holiday season, Kids Design Glass™ creature Sockness Monster and Museum of Glass invite the public to warm up by the Hot Shop fire in exchange for donating items of clothing to keep those less fortunate warm too.

WHAT: Clothing drive at Museum of Glass (new hats, scarves, pairs of gloves and socks suggested). Visitors who donate items at the Museum front desk will receive a 50% discount off their individual admission price (applies to all admission levels). Free parking will also be offered to every visitor in the Museum of Glass underground parking garage and members will receive a double discount on their entire purchase at the Museum Store.

WHERE: Donations should be made at the Museum of Glass front desk. Items collected will be displayed on a Giving tree in the Grand Hall for visitors to see before being donated to Tacoma Rescue Mission the following week.

WHEN: Saturday, December 20, from 10 am to 5 pm and Sunday, December 21, from 12 to 5 pm.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Today’s Featured artist

Becky Frehse

Becky Frehse in her studio

Becky Frehse has been a fixture on the Tacoma art scene for as long as I’ve been writing about that scene, and even longer. I first became aware of her in relation with work she did in collaboration with the late Louise Williams, some delicate, sensitive and loving drawings of children, if my fading memory serves me right.
"Scherzo for Goldfish and Violin 22x12 acrylic on wood
Over the years she has created art in so many different styles or themes that I tend to think of her as the Gerhard Richter of Washington. I remember a piece in a group show at Tacoma Art Museum that somewhat like a doll house diorama combined with a box of goodies a la Joseph Cornell. And it seems like she’s been in just about every group show at Tacoma Community College with paintings and assemblages and even once a series of documentary photographs of a man refining salt in Sichuan Province, China. Visits to China have played a large role in her art. So has music, which seems to be the strongest theme in her more recent work.
"Ellensburg Nocturne" 2014 36x42 oil and acrylic on canvas
About three years ago she had a show called Reconfigured - a Collaboration in what was called Gallery 301, the space next door to the old Mineral Gallery. This show, a collaboration with sculptor Jane Kelsey-Mapel was filled with sculptures of cowboys and circus performers, and featured a large assemblage by Frehse called "Seeking Center" with flying birds suspended from the ceiling and a strange doll in the center of an equally strange landscape.
Most recently I visited her studio during Tacoma’s November artists’ studio tours, and I was deeply impressed with a few large paintings with assemblage or collage elements (whichever label best describes these works may be up to the viewer; I prefer to think of them as paintings with objects embedded or stuck on). These paintings are shimmering, heavily textured and quite beautiful. They make me want to reach in and feel everything with my hands. The paint application is like rich icing on a cake and the connected objects are like encrusted jewels.
Music is a strong theme in much of her more recent work, and the work itself is musical in the sense of objects dancing rhythmically across the surface and playing with color harmonics.
Frehse says of her recent work, “Work continues with musical ideas; mostly thinking of the composition as a musical score to be ‘read’ in some way. I'm especially engaged in the vigorous reticulation of the painting's surface with lots of modeling paste texture, etc. And then, of course color relationships as the ‘score’ moves from movement to movement. Sometimes I embed or add actual musical instrument parts—especially for installations like Music Box that I did for the Woolworth Windows this year.”
She will have three pieces in the TCC show called "Found Photos" in January.