Thursday, February 25, 2016

What’s New at TAM

New Acquisitions at Tacoma Art Museum
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Feb. 25, 2016

"Torso" cast porcelain with gold leaf by Claudia Fitch, number one from edition of two, gift of Lucy and Herb Pruzan.
The first thing to catch the eye when entering the gallery of new gifts to the Tacoma Art Museum is Guy Anderson's "Mountain Picnic," a moody painting in oil on paper mounted on plywood. Next to it is an equally dark and moody painting by Paul Horiuchi titled "Religious Heritage", and "Introspection," a huge, equally dark painting by Milton Simons. Nearby can be seen Kenneth Callahan's untitled painting of fishermen or workers in a fish market (it's not clear which). These works provide a fitting opening to a show celebrating (mostly) Pacific Northwest art, because Anderson, Horiuchi and Callahan were all associated with the Northwest Mystics or the Northwest School, which put our region on the international art map.

"Capitoline Museum: Dying Gaul" pastel on paper, 53' x 72", gift of Lynn Loacker.
Over the past five years, TAM has increased its permanent collection to the tune of more than a thousand works of art. A large selection of these works is included in this show, including paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints, jewelry and more. It is a fairly representative collection focusing on the museum's stated mission of ensuring the collections grows "to fully represent the rich artistic identity of the Northwest and broader western region."

There are some wonderful works of art to be seen, such as Michael Spafford's three-part etching, "Leda and the Swan" and Drew Daly's Escher-like sculpture, "Spindleback Merge." There are also some pieces that are not museum worthy, such as Howard Kottler's ceramic sculpture, "Sheldon" and Elizabeth Sandvig's "Peaceable Kingdom with Clouds."

Sandvig has created many excellent paintings, but this is not one of them. It is one of many in a series of "Peaceable Kingdom" paintings on the subject made famous by the strange and wondrous painting of lions and cattle and cherubic children by Edward Hicks. Sandvig's painting looks clumsy and has none of the strangeness of Hicks' famous painting nor even of other Sandvig paintings.  

Like Sandvig, Kottler has produced some outstanding art, but "Sheldon" is just clunky and garish.
But the good stuff - oh, the good stuff is delicious. Spafford's three etchings on the myth of Leda and the Swan are beautiful and strong, with a plethora of patterns, shapes and marks hidden within deceptively minimalist curvilinear forms. They are strong and sensual, and show the hand of a master. Similarly, Lauri Chambers' untitled oil painting has a lot going on within what appears to be nothing more than two black lines on a big white canvas. Almost hidden on the edges of her forms are layers and layers of marks and scrapings, and the strong black shapes divide the canvas into an interestingly asymmetric balance of positive and negative shapes.

WHAT'S NEW AT TAM? RECENT GIFTS TO THE COLLECTION, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through Sept. 18, $12-$14, Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave. Tacoma,

Wednesday, February 24, 2016



POLITI OSO Exhibition
For seven weeks, B2 gallery explores the “alarm bells of consciousness” through idioms of
and the body politic -
welcoming the works of
internationally recognized artists:

Opening reception Saturday, Feb. 27 5-8 p.m. Show runs through April 16.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

On the Verge

Photo: from left, “Mary (Dana Galagan). Alex (Maggie Ferguson-Wagstaffe) and Fanny (Heather R. Christopher). Photos courtesy Theater Artists Olympia.

The Geography of Yearning
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Feb. 18, 2016

from left, “Mary (Dana Galagan). Alex (Maggie Ferguson-Wagstaffe) and Fanny (Heather R. Christopher). Photos courtesy Theater Artists Olympia. 
Heather Christopher and Maggie Ferguson-Wagstaffe, foreground: Morgan Picton.
Eric Overmyer’s strange and marvelous comedy, On the Verge, is like a marriage of Tom Stoppard and Monty Python. As presented by Theater Artists Olympia, it is a technical marvel. With little but a few wrapped boxes, some beautiful video projections and a plethora of props, TAO has turned the tiny Midnight Sun performance space into a set to match those in bigtime theaters with big budgets. Kudos to designers Pug Bujeaud (who also directs), Maddox Pratt and Michael Christopher, lighting designer Olivia Burlingame, and videographer Pargoth Productions for turning a black box into a Taj Mahal (speaking metaphorically as the denizens of Terra Incognita often do).
Night scene with the three adventurers.
Three adventurous explorers, Fanny (Heather R. Christopher), Alex (Maggie Ferguson-Wagstaffe) and Mary (Dana Galagan) set off through the jungle in search of Terra Incognita. It is the end of the 19th century and these three women are early feminists.
On their journey they encounter many creatures and people including a cannibal; a snowball-throwing abominable snowman; the apparition of Mary’s husband, Grover; a troll that spouts beat poetry and quotes Kubla Khan — eight characters in all, each played by Morgan Picton.
Throughout, the word play is prodigious and the humor is esoteric and outrageous. The women speak in convoluted and poetic sentences filled with rhyme, alliteration, onomatopoeia and pop culture references from the past to the future as they forge not only through jungles and over mountains, but into the future.
Early in their travels they pick up objects they do not recognize, which they eventually realize are objects from the future such as an “I Like Ike” button and a container of Cool Whip. The names of objects and of people and events come to their minds seemingly out of nowhere in a process they call osmosing. For example, they osmose the words “mo hair” and “Noxzema” and “Jello mold,” and guess those might be what the Cool Whip they find is.
They travel from the past into the future. It’s 1955 and they’re in America where they discover rock and roll and meet Nick Paradise (Picton, of course), a sleazy but nice man who runs a casino.
Mary is the oldest of the women and the most set in her ways; yet she turns out to be the most adventurous of all.
Alex is the youngest and the most enthusiastic. She’s in favor of wearing trousers, which Mary and Fanny think is shocking. Mary says, "The civilizing mission of woman is to reduce the amount of masculinity in the world. Not add to it by wearing trousers.” Alex is a daydreamer, and she is forgetful. She often says the wrong word: "I am delicious! I mean delirious. Not delicious."
Fanny is snooty and stuck in her ways, and disapproves of everything until a (spoiler) and a (spoiler) change her life.
The four actors playing these parts are terrific.
The audience may take many possible meanings from On the Verge. Bujeaud wrote: “I believe the desire to recognize and illuminate our foibles and to move forward is the brave thing. We all end up in the Undiscovered Country, in Terra Incognita, maybe the idiom serves especially best here, the reminder that it is the journey not the destination that is most important.”
Fanny is given to exclaiming, “Wow! Wow! Wow!” That pretty much sums up my reaction to On the Verge (or the Geography of Yearning).

On the Verge, Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. through Feb. 28, closing matinee 2:30 p.m. Feb. 28, The Midnight Sun, 113 N. Columbia St. Tickets: $12-$15, Available at door night of show or online at

Aaron Badham and Rita Robillard at UPS

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Feb. 18, 2016

“Somewhere between 1st and 2nd,” polychrome inflated steel by Aaron Badham, courtesy University of Puget Sound.
Aaron Badham’s playful and inventive sculptures can be seen in the main gallery space in Kittredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound, while Rita Robillard’s restful and hotly colorful Pacific Northwest landscapes grace the smaller back gallery.
I was pleasantly surprised by Badham’s sculpture after having seen photographs. They are not as monumental as I expected, which was a slight disappointment (photographs can never capture scale), but the colors, textures and forms were more interesting and more aesthetically pleasing than expected (scale is not the only thing photographs fail to adequately capture.)
Badham’s sculptures are described as soft. I did not touch them, but they are made of inflated steel, which I suspect would be hard to the touch, meaning they only look soft — a fun twist on what Claes Oldenburg did with his soft sculptures of hard objects. Badham seems to have his tongue firmly planted in cheek. He also has a great feel for abstract form.
Hard or soft, his sculptures are minimalist abstract forms based on toys and machinery. Most of them combine hard, black, machine-like clamps and other forms with the more soft-in-appearance inflated forms that are brightly colored. They also remind me of Mylar balloons. Each is a single color, some combined with the black parts and some not. The colors are yellow, blue, white, green, purple and turquoise. The forms are simple and mostly asymmetrical. Although they look like toys and machines, none are easily identified, with the possible exception of one called “Somewhere between 1st and 2nd,which looks like a plow with five circular disc blades.
His sculptures have a light-hearted pop-surrealist feel that I thoroughly enjoyed.
In addition to the sculptures — there are only seven of them — Badham is showing four nicely executed drawings and a set of three zinc plate etchings, all of mechanical forms.
"Restorations," screen print and acrylic by Rita Robillard, courtesy University of Puget Sound.
Robillard’s landscapes are traditional scenes of tall trees created by combining screen printing with acrylic painting. They stand out due to interesting textures and hot colors that verge on being gaudy. Some are mist-enshrouded scenes, and some have almost ghostly spatial depth. This is most noticeable in one called “Pastoral/Tropicalismo,” a scene with castles in the background and grazing cows in the foreground that look like they are wading in water or floating above the surface. Overall her paintings are too decorative for my taste and look as if they were created to be hung in a medical or real estate office. But I like what she does with space and color, and there is a mystical quality that I like.

Aaron Badham and Rita Robillard, Kittredge Gallery, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m., through Feb., 27, 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701.