The opening of the Sheraton Hotel in the early 1980s was a big deal in Tacoma; a downtown that had been in decay for years after Tacoma Mall slowly dragged retail activity away had its first major, modern hotel.
It was eventually acquired by Provenance Hotels of Portland. The renovation it did on the property, which converted it into Hotel Murano, was another milestone. Glass art was installed throughout the building, celebrating Tacoma’s emergence as a major city for this medium.
A new book provides information on all of this art. The descriptions are brief and the book is heavy on breathtaking color photographs.
“Hotel Murano: The Collection” is split into sections that correspond with sections of the hotel. It begins with an introduction by Matthew Kangas, an art critic who lives in Seattle. This provides background on the uniqueness of the glass art installations in a hotel.
It explains how Tessa Pappas, curator of the art, traveled the world to find glass creations that would fit with the refurbished and redesigned interior areas of the building. The collection fits into seven categories: major commissions; commission for elevator lobbies, commissions that are part of the hotel’s design environment, objects and vessels that carry a symbolic or ceremonial character; abstract art; sculptures with animal imagery and those that use the human figure.
The most visible work is “Orizon” by Greek artist Costas Varotsos. Two pages are devoted to a photo and information on this 100-foot sculpture situated just outside the entrance to Hotel Murano.
Many Tacomans have seen some of the work around the lobby, from attending social functions or business meetings. Unless one has had relatives or business associates spending a night at Hotel Murano, much of the artwork has not been seen. This book fills that gap nicely, depicting all the glass art in the building.
Of most interest to those who have been in public access areas of the hotel, but not on the floors above, is the section on the guest floors in the tower.
On the eighth floor is “Akhenaton” by Seth Randal. A human face and headdress in hues of purple and red, the piece is inspired by ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome.
Another fascinating installation is on the 14th floor. “Trio,” by Seattle artist Dante Marioni, is three tall vase forms, yellow with red trim. The page has a description of the work by the artist.
The next floor up has Susan Taylor Glasgow examining the female form with “Happily Ever After.” Made of fused and sewn glass, it is in the form of a woman’s torso in a corset. Her brief artist statement and the longer description that follows explains how her work is influenced by traditional gender roles and her interpretations of them as a modern woman.
The shortest section is two pages devoted to Bite Restaurant, in the passage off the lobby. The art there is “Oakland Deck” by Therman Statom, who lives and works in Omaha, Neb. It is a wall of playing cards. “His work displays a refreshing curiosity and child-like innocence, while at the same time demonstrating wit, wisdom and self-confidence. The charm of his work is that it keeps us guessing.”
One page near the end provides background information on Pappas.
“Hotel Murano: The Collection” is an interesting look at a very unique hotel. The book makes for a quick, but satisfying, read.
Reviewed by John Larson