Monday, October 30, 2017

Young Frankenstein in Yelm

From my review in OLY ARTS

Ian Montgomery as Young Dr. Frankenstein,Dahlia Young as Inga and in background Jesse Geray as Igor.

Anyone who enjoys comedy and horror has seen the classic Mel Brooks movie Young Frankenstein, but far fewer have had the opportunity to laugh like hyenas at a live theatrical production. Now the Standing Room Only company has launched a live musical version, on stage at the Triad Theater in Yelm through November 12.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Liberal and Phenomenal paintings at UPS

By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Oct. 26, 2017
“Symmetrical Four-layered Ovoids & Lattices III,” oil on canvas by Michael Knutson, courtesy Kittredge Gallery
“Liberal and Phenomenal” is not my assessment of the two current shows at Kittredge Gallery, University of Puget Sound. It is the name of the combined shows, each with works by five painters. “Liberal” in the main gallery features paintings by painting professors Michael Knutson (Reed College), Richard Martinez (Whitman), Cara Tomlinson (Lewis & Clark College), James Thompson (Willamette University), and Elise Richman (University of Puget Sound), and “Phenomenal” features paintings by Eric Elliott, Anne Gale, Emily Gherard, Ron Graff, and Jan Reaves.
The first thing to hit your eyes as you enter the gallery is the array of four stunning paintings by Michael Knutson on the back wall. These are bright, almost pulsating op-art paintings with many layers of overlapping kaleidoscopic patterns of spirals and ovals in seemingly every intense color available. They are simply gorgeous, almost too much so —too ornamental, too decorative, too perfect.
Representing the local art faculty, UPS professor Elise Richman is showing five oil paintings from a series called “Ripple Ellipse.” Each is a painting in rainbow colors of concentric swirls of primary colors painted with precision with paint application that is heavy and opaque. In “Ripple Ellipse: Vortex” the spirals form a whirlpool going down, while in its neighbor, “Ripple Ellipse: Rise,” the spirals rise to form a perfectly conical mountain peak.
Many of the works are scientific and mathematical in concept and require thought and concentration. Such as in James B. Thompson’s twelve paintings from the series “Water is Sacred; Water is Life.” Each of the dozen is square. His medium is a mixture of ink, acrylic, pigment and shredded United States currency. That’s right, paper money cut into tiny strips and pasted to the canvas in clusters. Similar clusters of marks, lines, dashes, squiggles, some like tangled clumps of fine hair or fish nets, float across the canvases; and in each painting a transparent rectangle of blue sits on top. The dozen paintings are almost identical but with nuanced changes in color. They coalesce into a single unit.
Outstanding in the back gallery are Anne Gayle’s two paintings of a woman, one a life-size, full-figure nude, and the other a portrait head of the same woman. She is a large woman with dark brown skin. The many shades of brown paint are applied in short dashes of color like brushstrokes in a van Gogh painting. Seen up close these paintings are almost abstract fields of closely related dashes of color. But as the viewer steps back for ever more distant views the strokes come together to create realistic images of the woman.
Also attention-grabbing in the little back gallery is “Rigorous Devotion,” an oil and acrylic painting by Jan Reaves. This is an odd abstract painting with a few clearly defined shapes in dull colors that are applied with painterly drips and runs. The shapes do not represent anything recognizable and teeter provocatively between randomness and order; these odd shapes fit together like pieces of a puzzle. Remove any one shape from this painting and the solid composition would probably fall apart.
Overall these are academic paintings. There is nothing startling or new about any of them, but they are all painted with skill and sensitivity to light, shape and color. It is an enjoyable show.

Liberal and Phenomenal, Kittredge Gallery, Monday-Friday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday noon to 5 p.m., through Nov. 4, exhibition reception Nov. 4, 5-6:30 p.m.,1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma, 253.879.3701

Saturday, October 21, 2017

All the King’s Women at Olympia Little Theatre

Tonight and tomorrow's matinee are your only and last chances to see this comedy.

By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Oct. 19, 2017
Meigie Mabry (left) and Kendra Malm (right), photo courtesy Olympia Little Theatre
All the King’s Women at Olympia Little Theatre is a cute, lighthearted play. The concept is inventive, and the structure is unique — more an evening of storytelling and skits than a play. It is a series of eight short stories about the women in Elvis Presley’s life, not his girlfriends or his wife or mother, but the everyday woman who happen to encounter him. A woman who sells him his first guitar, another who bumps into him while grocery shopping at 3 a.m., car sales women and secretaries and receptionists at the White House. Some of the stories are touching, some are surrealistic, and most are funny.
The eight stories are enacted by a cast of 17 women and one man, actors who are beginners on stage for the first time and actors with more plays in their resumes than most of us have years in our lives, all directed by longtime OLT director Toni Holm.
The first story is told by the great veteran actor Sharry O’Hare, who plays the part of the sales clerk in Tupelo Hardware who talked Elvis into letting his mother buy him a guitar instead of the rifle he wanted for his eleventh birthday. Like all the stories in this play, this one is based on an actual event but elaborated upon and fictionalized by playwright Luigi Jannuzzi. O’Hare’s storytelling skill and her natural way of switching from talking to the audience and waiting on customers who keep interrupting her add charm to this touching and funny story.
Next up is “The Censor and the King,” a reenactment of a mostly imaginary scene when Steve Allen’s assistant, Abby (Meigie Mabry), the network censor’s secretary, Barbara (Kendra Malm) and an assistant to Elvis and Col. Tom Parker (Bianca N. Cloudman) negotiate a deal where Elvis sings “Hound Dog” to a hound dog on “The Steve Allen Show.”
Next comes the highlight of the evening when Andrea Weston-Smart plays the part of a woman who went grocery shopping at 3 a.m. and runs into Elvis in the produce aisle. This is the one that gets surreal —too strange not to be true. Weston-Smart is outstanding.
The story of when Elvis met President Richard Nixon and became a federal drug agent is also too strange not to be true. And yes, it really happened, but probably not quite the way it is told in this play. Bitsy Bidwell as the White House operator, Becca Mitchell as secretary to Presidential Assistant Dwight Champin, and Toni Murray as Nixon’s secretary are hilarious.
There are also stories about Andy Warhol, about Cadillac saleswomen competing to see which one can sale Elvis his 100th Cadillac (Bonnie Vandver is great in this one), a short scene with a guard at Graceland, and finally a sweet scene with workers in the gift shop at Graceland who are constantly interrupted by a new sales clerk (O’Hare) who doesn’t know where anything is.
Elvis has not only left the building, he never even appears; but it is all about him, and recordings of his songs fill the space during scene changes.
All the King’s Women, 7:25 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 1:55 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 22, Olympia Little Theatre, 1925 Miller Ave., NE, Olympia, tickets $11-$15, $2 student discount, available at Yenney Music, 2703 Capital Mall Dr., Olympia, 360.786.9484,

Friday, October 20, 2017

Marilyn Frascas's wonderland of drawings at Childhood's End

"Intamacy," drawing by Marilyn Frasca, courtesy the artist
From my review in the Weekly Volcano and OLY ARTS

Marilyn Frasca is a marvel. If there was ever such a thing as a must-see show, it’s Frasca’s show of some 56 drawings at Childhood’s End Gallery. This exhibition is the result of a lifetime, so far, of making, studying and teaching art. Her drawing style reminds me of Albrecht Dürer and other early Renaissance artists, but her style is a much more eclectic than that. We see in her drawings evidence she hasn’t so much been influenced by but rather learned from a range of artists from Dürer to Picasso.

Read the complete review.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Peter Serko's picture puzzle for The Game Campaign

A photograph by local photographer Peter Serko is being used by The Game Campaign create a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle produced by Liberty Puzzles of Boulder, Co. The Brain Campaign is a community effort to delay the symptoms of dementia “by making brain workouts as common as cardio, and more specifically, by encouraging people of all ages to play challenging games at libraries, senior centers, YMCAs...everywhere and anywhere in Pierce County,” according to the campaign’s website. Liberty is one of the leading collectible puzzle makers in the world, known for challenging piecing, dramatic color, and durability. Puzzles are made from 1/4" plywood, and include Liberty's trademark whimsy pieces, cut in the shapes of everyday objects. 

This is a limited edition, with no more than 100 puzzle sets.
“I was approached by Ken Miller about doing something to support The Game Campaign,” Serko says. “He said they were thinking about selling high quality wood puzzles. I had never given it any thought before but thought it would be a great idea.  I sent him a number of images and he picked ‘Opera Alley In Snow.’"

Serko is the writer and producer or the one-man play My Brother Kissed Mark Zuckerberg. He has more recently made a documentary film based on the play called Footnote. Currently he is doing an artist residency in a high school English class on memoir. “We are working on making short memoir films. For me it is an important way to tell my brother's story and the story of AIDS during the ‘plague era’ to young people,” he says. 

Friday, October 6, 2017

Juried art exhibition at Tacoma Community College

by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Oct. 5, 2017

"Spring Break," mixed media by Michael Huffman
Juried art exhibitions inevitably include a few clunkers, a few so-so works, and — if we’re lucky — some excellent art. Sometimes the inconsistency in quality is because there were not enough good entries to choose from, and sometimes it is because the juror feels compelled to include a variety of media and styles. And so it goes with the 15th Annual Juried Local Art Exhibition at Tacoma Community College.
The clunkers are mostly near the front of the gallery, in particular the three pieces behind the front desk, which look like student work. There are some traditional figurative sculptures that are well executed but unexciting, and there are a couple of pieces by Paul T. Steuke, Sir. that almost hit the target smack-dab in the bullseye, but not quite. These are knockoffs of Renoir paintings that may or may not have been intended as lampoons. Finally, they just come across as slightly weak copies with none of the lushness of a Renoir.
"Mystery From a Reflective Mind," pastel by Ric Hall and Ron Schmitt
Now for the good stuff. The good stuff is really, really good.
Michael Huffman’s two paintings in mixed media on drywall are knockouts. “Spring Break” features cartoon-like figures in a style like that of Jean-Michael Basquiat. There are funny looking little creatures, one giving a middle-finger salute, painted with wildly exuberant brushstrokes and slung in circular sweeps like drawings by Dale Chihuly. His “Haiku on Floor” is a poem in hand-scribbled letters in gold, pink and black framed by rough, dark wood. Both of these have a raw emotive power that is hard to ignore.
Lynette Charters, a juror’s award winner, has three paintings in the show, all from her “Muses” series. This series is based on famous paintings by old and modern masters done in plaster, acrylic and candy wrappers (usually gold or silver foil). They are copies of master paintings in which the central figure or figures, always women, are partly missing. Their shapes — not their clothing, but only their faces and bodies — are left as unpainted parts of the board cleverly placed so that the knotholes become nipples, eyes and navels. Each piece in the series is a biting comment on women’s place in art history as empty bodies and faces with no humanity. They — the paintings, not necessarily the women depicted in them — are brilliant in concept and beautifully painted. They are homages to and criticisms of famous painters. Seen in this show are Charters’ versions of “Rosetti’s Museum Verticordia,” “Klimt’s Muse Judith” and “Tanoux’s Muses in a Harem” — each a Charters version of the original.
Also outstanding is David W. Murdach’s sculpture, “Night in Motion,” lamp parts and glass knobs. This shiny, circular sculpture looks like a rococo steampunk ship’s wheel or ferris wheel or playful whirligig. However you may describe it, it is joyful. I wanted to give it a spin, but it doesn’t move.
Also worthy of note are three soft and elegant mixed media paintings by Laraine Wade that are sumi-like in their directness and simplicity; two abstract paintings based on landscape with bodies of water by Becky Knold, which are gutsier than her usual; and three dark and brooding pastels by the collaborative duo of Ric Hall and Ron Schmitt, which depict the underbelly of urban life with wonderfully rich colors.
There is much more to see in this show, including a lot of nice photography that I have not mentioned and works by such well-known area artists as Joe Batt, Lois Beck, Frank Dippolito, Mia Schute, Jason Sobottka, and William Turner.
15th Annual Juried Local Art Exhibition, noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, through May 5, Tacoma Community College, Building 5A, entrance off South 12th Street between Pearl and Mildred, Tacoma, visitor parking in Lot G.