Friday, October 26, 2018

The Jungle and Tsunami Coming

Laura Boilini and Michael Kaniecki at Minka
By Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Oct. 25, 2018

Top: "Tsunami Coming"by Michael Kaniecki, bottom: "The Jungle" by Lauren Voilini, photos by Alec Clayton
Featured artists at Minka are Lauren Boilini and Michael Kaniecki. Boilini is a Seattle-based painter and public artist who has been awarded commissions across the US and artist residencies all over the world. Her epic installation "The Jungle" explores themes of overcrowding, aggression and ecological breakdown.      
Tacoma artist Michael Kaniecki bends, cuts and paints on almost endless sheets of paper with India ink. His new installation at Minka, "Tsunami Coming," is a 51-foot sheet of paper that has been folded into a giant slinky hung over the door and snaking from wall to wall. At the lowest point of each of five curves the paper is pinched into a point and fans out in sharp radiating lines that are hidden among the black and white shapes painted on the surface.
On another wall are a group of smaller ink paintings on folded paper by Kaniecki. These works are decorative; the large one is impressive in its monumentality and its complexity of form within a simple snake-like shape.
Boilini’s "The Jungle" is also monumental in scale and concept. The installation consists of five large paintings on paper depicting fighting birds and monkeys in a jungle setting. Each painting is approximately 84 inches in height and 34 inches wide. According to an artist’s statement, they “explore themes of male aggression, overcrowding, ecological devastation, nature stripped down to its essence.” These paintings are expressive and aggressive. The jungle background is more stylized than natural, with blobs and streaks and splatters of paint, mostly tones of blue on a tan ground, standing in for trees and sky and earth. In one of the paintings, rhymical yellow lines flow across everything like vines hanging from trees. The animals are painted in wild bursts of contrasting colors. The birds, which flank three paintings of fighting monkeys, are barely recognizable as birds but are slashes of feathers and claws in deep ultramarine and Prussian blue with orange and brown feathers. The paint application is rough, in keeping with the violent imagery. In one of the bird paintings, the background is a splatter of flung paint like blood splatters but blue.
In addition to these paintings and a store crowded with unique arts and crafts, there is more art in the upstairs Art Above Gallery, including collections of Oaxaca carved and painted wood animals and masks and a large Day of the Dead alter. The animals are from the collections of Brian Ebersole and Dr. Antonio Sanchez. They are whimsical, funny, and highly imaginative.
There will be a reception for Lauren Boilini November 15, 5-8pm, during the Third Thursday Art Walk.

Tsunami Coming and The Jungle, noon to 5 p.m., Thursday-Sunday and by appointment, through Nov. 30 (Day of the Dead Alter comes down Nov. 1, “The Jungle” is scheduled to remain on display through Dec. 31), Minka, 821 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.961.5220

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Juried art exhibition at Tacoma Community College

The good, the bad, and the what-the-heck
by Alec Clayton
Published in the Weekly Volcano, Oct. 4, 2018
"Reverie," painting by Alain Clerc, courtesy Tacoma Community College
I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: juried exhibitions are always a mixed bag of the good, the bad, and the what-the-heck. Given that, the annual juried exhibition at the gallery at Tacoma Community College weighs much more heavily toward the good, with a few pieces that could even be called great.
Among the more outstanding pieces is Irene Osborn’s ceramic sculpture “Refugee.” It is a small bust of a mother holding her child to her breast. The feelings it conveys are sadness and sweetness. It could almost be said to be maudlin, but it rises above that. And then, if you look at it from the back, there is a huge surprise. The figure is hollowed out and lumps of clay inside the scooped-out figure look like a cascading waterfall of boulders. It is startling, thought provoking and attention-grabbing.
“Refugee” ceramic sculpture by Irene Osborn, courtesy Tacoma Community College
Another piece that is attention-grabbing is Lois Beck’s monoprint “Intersection.” There are four small prints mounted within a horizontal frame. Each print is an almost solid dark brown with two jagged white lines like lightning strikes that run from edge to edge, intersecting at one point. It is a small but bold and simple print that is electric in its impact.
And yet another startling image is Mary Beth Haynes’s sculpture in painted waxed clay, “Manifesto.” It is a bust of a woman with arms lifted as if in celebration and mouth open in what looks like a defiant shout. Even though the sculpture is small, the figure appears monumental. She is a large, muscular woman. Her hands and the top of her head are left unfinished in jagged shards like a figure in the process of being chiseled out of a mountain. This is a powerful image that reminds me of the female figures seen in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes now on display at the Tacoma Armory.
Barbara Patterson has two paintings in the show that amazingly look much alike even though one of them is completely abstract and the other is clearly figurative. “The Dance of the Monks” depicts three dancing monks painted mostly in flat areas of blue with some orange, and the untitled abstract painting next to it is a grouping of squarish shapes in the same range of blues and oranges.
“Nude Window” by Paul Steucke is a large nude that reminds me very much of paintings by Robert Henri of the Ashcan School in its moody simplicity, but it is more contemporary in appearance because it is flatter.
There are two paintings by Alain Clerc that create large overall patterns with peek-a-boo figures that are mostly hidden within patterns of organic shapes. His “Reverie” is a landscape with two female nudes sprawled across hills. At first glance the figures are not noticeable but are just part of the landscape. And at the bottom there is a large running rabbit that’s remindful of the hare in Alice in Wonderland. His paintings are clever in concept and eye-catching due to the ways in which a variety of colors and shapes are unified into a single pattern.
Glen LaMar is represented with three abstract sculptures, two with soaring shapes and one like a heraldic shield, and all with rich, opalescent colors. His “Inner Beauty” was chosen for a juror’s choice award. Also chosen for a juror’s choice award was one of two paintings by Lynette Charters from her celebrated Missing Woman series, either of which could easily deserve the award.
Annual Juried Local Art Exhibition, noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, through Oct. 20, Tacoma Community College, Building 5A, entrance off South 12th Street between Pearl and Mildred, Tacoma, visitor parking in Lot G. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Paradise Motel

Staged readings from the works of Sam Shepard
By Alec Clayton

Photo of Company, left to right: Jeff Salazar, Deya Ozburn, Jason Sharp, Meleesa Wyatt, Marilyn Bennett, Mark Peterson, and Peter Pendras, photo courtesy Marilyn Bennett

Paradise Motel is Toy Boat Theatre’s staged readings from Sam Shepard's plays, short stories, poems, essays, journals and interviews with actors Marilyn Bennett, Mark Peterson, Deya Ozburn, Jeff Salazar, Jason Sharp and Meleesa Wyatt. Longtime Northwest guitarist and recording artist, Peter Pendras will accompany the performance.
“In college I did an independent study course on Sam Shepard and discovered that his plays, like August Wilson’s, gave the world an honest glimpse into an American perspective of American Life,” Peterson said. He goes on to say That Bennett’s selections give audiences “a beautiful tribute to Sam Shepard's effect on her work and I think in the spirit of Mr. Shepard's storytelling.”
Shepard is an iconic American playwright and Oscar-nominated film actor who died July 27, 2017 of complications from ALS or Lou Gherig's Disease.
Born in Fort Sheridan, Illinois in 1943 to an army officer, Shepard grew up on a ranch in California and went to college in Texas. He first came to national notice during the 1960s, winning three OBIE Awards for three short plays. His greatest theatrical accomplishment was his 1979 full-length play, Buried Child, about a dysfunctional family with a terrible years-old secret, for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama. He also wrote screen plays, directed for stage and screen, and was nominated for an OSCAR for his role as Chuck Yeager in The Right Stuff.
Shepard's cannon of plays and writings offers a dark and gritty portrait of the American family. In plain, often profane language, his characters argue, abandon, return after years away, love hard and fight harder. Many of his works are funny, his characters given to high expectations and very low results.
I grew up on Shepard's writings, and wanted to offer some sort of homage to him and his incredible, unique writing, Bennett said. “I am six years younger than Sam Shepard, and became aware of his work during my college days in the UW School of Drama. While a graduate student in Seattle, I performed at a Capitol Hill theatre in Shepard's early one-act play, the Cajun thriller Back Bog Beast Bait with fellow Paradise Motel company member, Meleesa Wyatt. I played the Cajun conjurer, Gris Gris, miming recorded music on a fiddle as I roared around the stage spouting beast prophecy and harassing those who feared his coming. Needless to say, it was a blast and I was hooked.
“I began reading anything of Shepard's I could find, and some years later, at University of San Diego, I directed his darkly humorous family drama A Lie of the Mind. I continued to read his writings: plays, prose, poetry, reflections, musings. I was less enamored of his film work, but always found him a looker. Somehow, his unique way of writing about and describing a dusty, flat, itinerant and violent American West, and his long estrangement from his father, have always moved me. And I am struck by the vulnerability of his fear of flying. His openness about the progression of his ALS in Spy of the First Person is devastating.

The reading includes pieces from many of his non-theatre writings, including selections from Motel Chronicles and Cruising ParadiseHawk Moon, Two Prospectors, The One Inside, Rolling Thunder Log Book and his last work, Spy of the First Person. Play excerpts include Back Bog Beast Bait, Curse of the Starving Class, Buried Child, A Lie of the Mind, Fool for Love, True West, and Sympatico.
"I'm a Shepard newbie,” said Ozburn. “Never having been particularly drawn to the genre in which he writes (that ‘dusty, flat, itinerant, violent American West,’ as Marilyn describes it). Working with Toy Boat and Marilyn always expands my horizons though, and I jumped at the change to have an excuse to dive in and explore the sampling of Shepard's works that she had curated into this performance reading. More than his plays, I'd say I've been drawn to his poetry, writings on art, and his last work, Spy of the First Person. I'm a big fan of his dry humor—at how un-precious he is about his ‘process’ as a writer and an actor; the ridiculous situations artists find themselves in to do what they do for an outcome at any cost. Countering that with Spy at the end of his life—absolutely open to the humility of losing with the fascination of character study equal to one of his plays. He leaves you in a place of very specified, detailed loss of things you take for granted. He leaves you with a sense of the importance of family, and what lives on after."
This reading contains adult themes and language; suitable for mature teens and adults. It is a minimally staged reading by six actors, underscored with American country-rock guitar by Peter Pendras. Plays about 80 minutes, followed by wine.
Paradise Motel 8 p.m. Oct. 12 and 13, King's Books. 218 St. Helens Avenue, Tacoma, WA, $5.