Thursday, February 20, 2020

The Naturalist & the Trickster

 Differing perceptions of nature
By Alec Clayton
 “Coyote Bone Crayons," box of cast crayons by RYAN! Fedderson, courtesy of the artists, photo by RYAN! Fedderson.
What an odd pairing: John James Audubon, the 18th and 19th century artist famous for precise drawings of birds and mammals, and RYAN! Fedderson, Native American artist now living in Tacoma known for contemporary interactive murals and mixed-media art. What they have in common is respect for nature and concern over humankind’s impact on the environment. But artistically they are as different as a wolf and box of crayons.
Audubon is most famous for his multi-volume Birds of America series and slightly lesser known for the series that followed, The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America, a study of mammals, from which his art in The Naturalist & the Trickster at Tacoma Art Museum is drawn.
“Juxtaposing these two artists will present a very immersive and thought-provoking experience regarding perceptions of the natural world and relationships between humans and the environment,” says Faith Brower, TAM’s Haub Curator of
Western American Art.
Audubon’s precise illustrations of animals are important as nature studies, but as art they are boring. There is little concern for composition. His colors, though naturalistic, are dull. And what little emotion they depict seems artificial. 
Fedderson’s work, by contrast, is vivacious and playful and colorful. The pièce de résistance in this show is her 75-foot long interactive mural “Coyote Now Epic,” which narrates the adventures of Coyote, known in many Native cultures as The Trickster, a cunning prankster. In this narrative, which stretches wall-to-wall and floor-to-ceiling, Coyote confronts the modern world with its rules and regulations, its computers and its destruction of nature. It is a comic-book-style mural with lyrical, flowing lines in black on white. And it is interactive. Visitors are invited to color it with special crayons Fedderson cast in the shape of coyote bones and which are displayed in and in front of a crayon box. As displayed, the crayons have a pop-art flair. There are special activity times set aside for coloring the mural: Thursday from 5-8 p.m., second Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Earth Day, Sunday, April 19 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
When I visited the show, only small portions of the mural had been colored, and I loved the interaction of the colored areas with vast expanses of black and white. It should prove interesting to see how this changes over time. I hope TAM will document the progress.
Feddersen is also showing a number of glass vessels with images of Coyote and coyote bones. These are elegant in shape and simple in design, with shiny primary colors.
“Feddersen’s engaging storytelling presents a contemporary perspective on the interactions of humans, animals, and the natural world in humorous and compelling ways,” Bower says.
The Naturalist & The Trickster, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday, through May 10, $12-$55, free Third Thursday, Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Avenue, Tacoma, 253.272.4258,

Friday, February 14, 2020

Review: “Oleanna”

By Alec Clayton
Published in The News Tribune, Feb. 14, 2020
Angelica Barksdale as Carol and Sean Neely as John. Photo by Lisa Monet Photography. 
David Mamet writes dialogue in such a unique way that the way his characters talk has become known as Mamet Speak. It is the way people actually talk, with stops and starts, lots of “ums and uhs” and incomplete sentences – none of which works very well when other playwrights attempt it, but lends burning realism to Mamet plays.
His intense and unsettling two-person play “Oleanna,” now playing at Tacoma Arts Live’s Theater on the Square, opens with college professor John having a one-side phone conversation while his student Carol waits for him to get off the phone. He stammers and repeats himself, paces the floor and keeps trying to signal Carol to wait, while she struggles barely successfully to remain calm and patient. In this opening scene, without Carol and the professor saying a word to each other, reams of information are conveyed through their body language. This is writing and acting of the highest order. Kudos to Angelica Barksdale as Carol and Sean Neely as John.
From this opening, the two feel each other out, circling like boxers with tentative jabs before trying to land a knockout punch. The audience can sense the knockout punch is coming, and it does, over and over, harder and harder, until Carol finally charges him with sexual harassment, and John falls apart in a most spectacular fashion.
When “Oleanna” was first performed in 1992, it was seen by some as a diatribe against “political correctness,” and audiences went away arguing about who was right and who was wrong – Carol or John. Heated talkbacks after performances became common and eventually, Mamet weighed in saying theaters that produce the shows should not allow for talkbacks with the cast and director. Today, after the Anita Hill/Justice Clarence Thomas case and charges against Bill Cosby and Harvey Weinstein to name a few, and the Me-Too movement, people may well view sexual harassment quite differently. Still, “Oleanna” provides no clear answers. Both John and Carol are manipulative, each has their own agenda, and each goes through many changes in the course of their meetings in John’s office.
The set by Lex Marcos is a beautiful and immaculately ordered university professor’s office with a large desk, a small table, books on shelves and two posters on the walls, each perfectly chosen for this production. One has the word harassment in stark red letters and a list of harassing actions that will not be tolerated. The other one is a quote from the poet Hafiz, “The words you speak become the house you live in.”
“Oleanna” is thought-provoking, intense and dark. The direction by Joshua Knudson and the acting by Barksdale and Neely are excellent. I saw something opening night I have never seen in my years as a reviewer. No one applauded at the end of the first act, and for a long time no one got up to stretch their legs for go out for concessions at intermission. I think they were too stunned by what they had just witnessed on stage. This is not an easy play to watch, but it is a great play.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 15, 21 and 22, 3 p.m. Feb. 16 and 23
WHERE: Theater on the Square, 915 Broadway, Tacoma
TICKETS: $19-$39
INFORMATION: (253) 591-5894,
915 Broadway, Tacoma, WA 98402

Thursday, February 13, 2020

My wife makes art

My wife, Gabi Clayton, makes art. For all the thirty some odd years that I was painting and exhibiting my paintings in galleries, hardly anybody even knew she was an artist too. She majored in art in college during her first two years, and then she switched her major to film with an emphasis on animation. In her freshman and sophomore drawing and design classes she made art that was surprisingly good―so unique, in fact, with a signature style recognizable from the start, that I’m not sure anybody recognized how good it was.

After graduating, she went to graduate school to become a mental health counselor, and she did graphic art―websites, brochures, etc., but for decades she never made art as “fine art” and she never attempted to get her art in galleries. Then a couple of years ago, she started creating art on her iPad and started posting a few of them on Facebook. And people liked them. They liked them a lot.

Most of Gabi’s art can be made into prints. They can also be printed on t-shirts, coffee cups and other consumer goods through a print-on-demand service she contracts with. She will have prints of a few of her recent work in our upcoming studio art sale. Plus, we will have many of the works on paper she did as an art student, which have rarely been shown publicly.

I will also have a lot of my paintings for sale with prices marked down as much as 50% and more from what I price them in galleries.

The art sale takes place at our home Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 22-23 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Contact us for the address.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Repliction - A pop-up print exhibition

The next art exhibition at Diana Fairbank's Oly Pop-UYp Gallery is a print show called Replication. Featured artists will be Lois Beck, Teri Bevelacqua and Faith Hagenhofer.

Lois Beck

Lois Beck came late to making art. After taking various community college courses for 30 years, she decided she wanted a degree, which she completed in 1996 with a Bachelor of Arts in Humanities. During her last quarter at The Evergreen State College, she took her first art class - printmaking.
She says, “My artwork explores the many fascinating processes of printmaking with my current focus being monoprint. My prints include woodcuts, etchings, linocuts, solar plates and rubber blocks as well as monoprints, with each technique producing a different result. Recently, I have become interested in collage and combining collage with my prints is producing exciting results.
“Creating art and making abstracts with color and motion bring me much wonder and satisfaction. Often I use several layers of ink and multiple passes through the press to achieve my nature abstracts. It is my hope that viewers of my work enjoy a private dialog with what they are seeing.”
Teri Bevelacqua
“I tend to react to the world around me and build my paintings from a universally personal journey. My painted collages are layers of images that play off of each other and mood. The images are like memories you think you have neatly tucked away; they emerge and fade in the strangest ways. Natural landscapes, urban landscapes and our man-made mess inspire me. Similar to riparian zones, zones between these places are fragile lines. The fragile lines also exist throughout our days as too many of us walk around this planet together. I find inspiration in those fragile lines in our physical world, our social world and the challenges we all face as we question the way we treat each other and our home planet.”
Faith Hagenhofer
Faith Hagenhofer has been a print maker for 35 years, working with linoleum block prints and almost exclusively in reduction. The pop-up show will offer a lot from her back catalog (mostly from the 1990's) and a few brand-new pieces! Her studio is in Tenino and she happily takes students to the craft, and visitors by appointment.
About the Show
This show spans the range of modern printmaking because:
Printmakers in our time are not constrained by the need to produce editions because any artwork can be reproduced digitally. So, prints and printed material tend to be conceived and worked as stand-alone productions much like paintings or mixed-media work. This gives printmakers the freedom to mix materials and different printmaking techniques while taking advantage of the surface quality and traditional vocabulary of printmaking.
4-8 p.m. Feb. 21-29 and March 1. Reception 6-8 p.m. Feb. 29