Monday, August 29, 2016

Art in the Swan Creek Food Forest

"Color Grove" by Elizabeth Gahan, photo by Beth Gahan
Lisa Kinoshita is a force of nature. She is Tacoma’s indefatigable impresario of art and nature—

  • art FROM nature
  • art IN nature
  • nature AS art.
She recently curated an art exhibition at W.W. Seymour Botanical Conservatory in Wright Park that blended art and nature so thoroughly that it was almost impossible to tell the art from the plants, and she has put together similar shows at the Seaport Museum, at her gallery Moss + Mineral; at Matter (co-owned by rePly Furniture and birdloft); and Gallery 301, where she showed her own and other artists’ hand-made jewelry and exhibited taxidermy as art.  And who can forget the Chastity Show?

Eukarya" by Gabriel Brown, photo courtesy Lisa Kinoshita

"River in the Forest" by Terri Placentia and students at Tacoma School of the Arts, courtesy Lisa Kinoshita
Now she has pulled together an outdoor, site-specific art show for Swan Creek Food Forest with works by 13 local artist. I haven’t seen it yet, but from what I’ve read about it, wandering through the park is like a scavenger hunt for art, much of which is made from materials found in the park itself. It’s a show (or event) that blurs the boundaries between art and life, continuing a tradition that began more than half a century ago with Marcel Duchamp and then Allan Kaprow, blurring the walls between art and life. The park itself becomes the art.

For starters there’s the sculptured tree tied to a fence by Acataphasia Grey. If that name sounds familiar, Grey is the Tacoma-based taxidermy artist feature on the television show “Immortalized” three years ago. This is what I wrote about her for the Weekly Volcano at the time: “(Acataphasia) sees what others may call grotesque — roadkill, for instance, and strange hybrid creatures —as beautiful. Tacoma’s art audience was first introduced to Grey when she did an installation in an empty building in Opera Alley called ‘Tea for Short Expectations.’ Seen through peepholes in the window were reworked taxidermy animals not found in nature, and stuffed animals with more than the normal number of eyes and limbs.” That may be quite a far cry from a sculpted tree carved from a dead tree with limbs bolted on and gold paint applied, but it’s a good example of the kind of outside-the-norm thinking that has gone into this outdoor art installation—which, by-the-way, will remain in place until the art works are rotted, blown away or destroyed by nature or my vandals (and this is not an invitation to vandals).

Gabriel Brown’s “Eukarya” is made from cardboard that has been ripped into strips and pieced together with found garbage to form what looks like hornets’ nests hung on tree trunks. Brown wrote: "Eukarya protrudes out as an abnormal growth, catching the eye of those passing by. Upon second glance, Eukarya is easily determined as made of cardboard/garbage, and may be interpreted as a manmade tumor, nest, or 'ManFungus' reminding us of our mounding garbage problem. In this case, garbage has taken on a life of its own, becoming a new invasive species of our creation."

"River in the Forest" by Terri Placentia and students at Tacoma School of the Arts is a stone and pinecone mosaic that cascades around massive evergreens toward a precipice.

"Color Grove" by Elizabeth Gahan is recycled political posters wrapped around a pair of trees in a red, green, black and white checkerboard pattern in a grove. 

“What makes (this installation) super special is the park and food forest are next to Salishan," Kinoshita said. "Once among Tacoma's most troubled neighborhoods, it is now a shining, national model of urban renewal. The Eastside is a low-income area, and has been described as a ‘food desert’ (with limited access to healthy restaurants and groceries), so that makes the food forest an educational test pilot, as well. The woods are extraordinary; in the fall it feels a bit like the Olympic rainforest. And, there is a perennial salmon stream, Swan Creek, the first one salmon go up on their migration after leaving Commencement Bay. I amso lucky to live here.”

Swan Creek Food Forest, an experimental garden inside a 373-acre wilderness on Tacoma's Eastside managed and cared for by volunteers. The entrance to this part of the park is at E 42nd and E Roosevelt in Tacoma.

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