Wednesday, July 26, 2017 This Week's Paper

Decorative ephemera

// New installations at Woolworth Windows

As of this month, there is a new set of art installations on view in the Woolworth Windows, Tacoma’s open-air gallery at the corner of Broadway and South 11th Street. Janet Marcavage, Jennifer Renee Adams and Laura Foster have put their creations in place in the window cases of the old building. A fourth artist, Kenjii Stoll, is slated to install something but as of this review one window space remains vacant.

Janet Marcavage

Marcavage’s installation, “Fabrications,” appears in two of the window compartments. It is a large, three-dimensional collage of found textiles, paper and screen-prints, the latter being done on the glass of the windows themselves. Every element, the cloth, the paper and the prints, features stripes. “The simplicity of repeated line, “ states Marcavage, “is countered by the complexity of its shifting at the folds.”

Primarily a printmaker, Marcavage has long been interested in the visual effect of patterned fabric draped over forms such as tables and people. Her investigation into the visual language of printmaking, which employs areas of parallel lines called “hatching,” is responsible for her zeal for stripes.

“Fabrications” is colorful and bold. Everything is expertly arranged: the draping and layout of the fabric, the suspension of chunks of striped papers and the orange and red screen-prints on the glass. In the storefront window context, however, the fabric and all the patterns come across as a fancy backdrop that wants a dressed-up mannequin standing in front of them. The installation has all the polished glitz of a fashion magazine spread.

Jennifer Renee Adams

Adams’ installation, “Equus Cirrus,” consists of a long row of small, spindly-legged paper horses arranged along the lower sill of a stretch of window. Delightfully awkward, the horses have a color and texture like old masking tape or tan paper trays stained by greasy fast food. Some stand in pairs or little groups amid tufts of cotton (presumably the clouds that are referenced in the installation’s title). The scuffed and scarred expanse of wall behind them is left vacant.

Adams, a former nominee for the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation of Art Award, likes to work with old paper and old books whose pages have colored with age. “I am inspired by old photographs, forgotten and browned books and cast off ephemera,” she asserts.

Despite their crude simplicity and smallness, the paper horses arranged in a row along the base of the display case is every bit as eye catching as the gaudy stripes of Marcavage.

Laura Foster

Foster’s “strawcloud/parlour” is installed in the Commerce Street side of the Woolworth building. Her interest in the ephemeral is akin to that of Adams. There is also an interest in the decorative and the domestic that is in synch with Marcavage’s work.

“Strawcloud/parlour” is a surreal interior dominated by a big entanglement of a type of rope that is made entirely of twisted straw. Suspended from the ceiling, this straw rope is draped and looped like a tangle of snakes. The wall behind this titular “straw cloud” is covered in 1950s era wallpaper.

“I am interested in the murky areas of domesticity, when the dust forever creeps in under the front door, and the moss grows, insistent and patient, up the side of the house,” says Foster. Suspension of the serpentine hay monster in front of the outdated wallpaper strikes an odd note that is further accented by two other elements in the weird little glass room. A plaster-capped mound of straw occupies a little pushcart on the floor. It resembles a model of a mountain made as a school kid’s science project. A very gestural, doodle-like painting on paper is tacked to the wall adjacent to that covered by the wallpaper. The whole space captures an old farmhouse feel, earthy and old. It is a surprise encounter with something stale. Deliberately fragile, the straw rope looks as if would crumble were any poor soul to try and grasp it for support.

Strange, elemental and deliberately stagnant, “strawcloud/parlour” is worth a look-see.

The current set of installations is on view through mid-December. For further information visit the Spaceworks Tacoma website at