The Gallery at Tacoma Community College is currently hosting its “10th Annual Juried Local Art Exhibition.” Jurors Melinda Cox and Anthony Culanag (both members of the TCC art faculty) selected from works submitted by artists resident in Western Washington (mostly Tacoma, Olympia and Seattle). The result is a lavish display of paintings, photographs, prints, drawings, sculptures and ceramics by 32 artists. There are more than 40 separate works of art that are nicely displayed and expertly arranged so that the gallery space has a sense of harmony and the viewer flows easily from one work to the next.
If there is any lesson to be drawn form the show as a whole it is that any sense of regionalism is long dead. References to our specific place in the world are in the minority in the works on display. Daniel Rice does present a couple of Tacoma photographs. His “T-Town Hogwarts,” for example, is a shot of the plaza in front of Stadium High School. Likewise, painter Karin Williams’ “Shrine to the Ruston Man” is a charming, misty little scene of a waterfront stump with a face in the wood. The woodcut prints of the ubiquitous Bill Colby also have a regional feel. His “Pier Spirits” is characteristic of his prints. Colby shows off the native grain of the wood that he uses in a print that depicts the wooden pilings that punctuate our waterfront.
The overall impression, however, is that the majority of artists in the exhibition are engaged in a larger, global world of visual culture. In this age of mass, digital media, artists are bombarded with a flood of images from a multitude of origins in time and place. The post-modern free-for-all of borrowing and appropriating styles, images and ideas from the vast storehouse of human history has wiped out region-based art. “Schools” of art and stylistic movements also seem like artifacts of bygone eras. It would take a clever curator to cobble together an argument that there is some hidden something that links all the art in the exhibition to a specific quality of our physical place in the world.
This is an observation, not a criticism. The show is very engaging. There is not space enough to discuss the work of each of the 32 artists. What follows is a partial survey of a few, select pieces from the show.
In the realm of sculpture, Marilyn Mahoney’s “Ladies in Waiting,” three small bronzes, have particular charm. Small, angular figurines, they are a cross-pollination of totem pole carving and Neolithic goddess figures. They look like valuable, ancient artifacts.
The brilliant potter and ceramic artist Susan Thompson presents a pile of geometric forms called “Hedra (Ancient Greek) ‘face of a geometrical solid.’” The forms are made with textured, triangular slabs of clay that are done in an antique, greenish glaze. Made in a variety of sizes, the individual pieces are clustered together ala Dale Chihuly.
The most eye-catching (they catch but do not hold) works in the gallery are the tall, colorful and whimsical characters made of paper clay by Lavonne Hoivik. “Skinny Mini” is an upright alligator wearing a flowery dress with a big, pink flower on its head. Her “In the Formal Garden” is a tall, wobbly frog with a red jacket and bowtie. He holds a fish bowl with tadpoles inside. Hoivik’s lumpy, glossy creatures have a 1970s’ aesthetic; a bumpy, shapeless carelessness that children might appreciate.
Amongst the painters there is much to see and admire. David Noah Goldberg, for example, is going strong. In abstract paintings like “Ringolevio” there are circles overlapping circles. Broad, dark, heavy brush strokes are interspersed with foggy whites, singsong blues and orange-reds. His geometric forms are at once gestural and organic. One is aware of the human touch of the brush more than the mechanical aspect of the geometric forms.
Set next to Goldberg’s work is the bright and energetic “Structural Thinking,” an acrylic painting by C.J. Swanson. Her edges are more precise than those of Goldberg, her partner in crime (the two are the former proprietors of the Art of Center Gallery whose loss was a blow to serious art in Tacoma).
Don Haggerty’s “Centrifugal Forces” is a large diptych: two views of a dancer in a black dress. The composition is broken down into broad areas of mellow color that gives the work an 80s’ feel. There is also, however, something in the lunar-blue, fine-china skin tone of the dancer that brings to mind John Singer Sergeant’s high society dames.
Sarah Waldo’s “Chief’s Blanket” is very painterly and textural. Thick and rich, the red pigments look as if they were mixed with butter and chunks of sawdust. It is both sumptuous and wonderfully chunky.
Jason Sobottka’s “Demure Fox and Foxglove,” which incorporates acrylic, spray paint and collage elements, is a daredevil balancing act. It is part fantasy and part botanical drawing and has incompleteness that makes it somehow more satisfying. The boldness of the artist is evident in the way he rolls white paint over his lyrically rendered, dancing fox; he is unafraid of obscuring his baby. The botanical drawing is partially painted in. Comically, the titular fox is sticking on of its paws into one of the foxglove flowers. The unfinished feel engendered by partial painting in of drawn elements makes the piece fascinating. Pablo Picasso used a similar trick in paintings of his wife Olga. Sobottka’s parchment-like surface makes his painting seem like a scholarly artifact discovered in a forgotten archive.
There are tons of other great things in the show. There is one of Savy Jane’s musical portraits. Desiree Keller’s “Anthrophobia” is a human torso made of twigs. Jeffree Stewart’s “The Dream of St. Francis in the Wilderness” is a wild and energetic interweaving of spindly brush strokes that calls to mind both folk art and the expressionism of Vincent Van Gogh. We have just scratched the surface of all there is to see in this show.
The 10th Annual Juries Local Art Exhibition is on view through Oct. 26. A reception for the artists takes place Sept. 28 from 4 to 7 p.m. For further information call 253.460.4306 or visit http://www.tacomacc.edu/campuslife/thegallery.