One of the brightest of the bright spots that are beginning to shine from Hilltop – an area once notorious for its economic depression and gang infestation – is the Fulcrum Gallery. Housed in a funky old storefront with large windows, high ceilings and wooden floors, the intimate space along Martin Luther King Jr. Way is an authenticart galley. Since its inception in 2007, Fulcrum has been a showcase for the work of some of the region's best emerging and mid-level artists. Gallery owner Oliver Doriss is possessed of a discerning eye and consistently puts on shows of high caliber.
In addition, Fulcrum is an important facet of Tacoma's glittering glass community. Along with the Museum of Glass, the Traver Gallery, the Hilltop Artists program and Tacoma Glass Blowing Studio, Fulcrum holds a place as a venue for numerous shows featuring local glass artists among whom Doriss himself is counted.
One such glass oriented show is currently on display. Entitled “Pr3v1ews & Pr0toTyp3s (Previews and Prototypes), Contemporary Glass in Tacoma,” the show is timed to coincide with the National Glass Art Society's 2011 conference in Seattle. The society is holding a “Tacoma Day” June 1 in which a tour bus will make the rounds of Tacoma's glass venues including Fulcrum Gallery.
The show features proprietor Doriss' distinctive glasswork as well as contemporary neon forms by homegrown tube-bender Galen McCarty Turner. Doriss' thick glass vessels reside on pedestals where they bask in the light that fills the gallery while Turner's wriggly and bulbous neon gas tubes hang on the walls.
The fine art glass vessels made by Doriss have heft. They consist of thick, cast parts joined together and given a blown glass liner. A handle-like appendage is often attached. His cast forms resemble machines made of ice that have partially melted.
Selections from Doriss' “Botanical” series are displayed. Among these in one called “Fern Antenna” which Doriss dubbed “the prettiest piece of art I've ever made.” The matte finish, smoky-white glass has a wide, clear channel in the center in which golden leaves and twigs – like detritus from the floor of an elfin forest – are embedded.
There is also a series of “cloched cities” that Doriss has created. Here, abstract, other-worldly little buildings done in cubes and rectangles of brooding color are housed in blown glass bell jars.
An artist from an early age, Doriss received his BFA from Massachusetts College of Art in 1996 and went on to become a player in the modern glass movement. He has worked with artists like Dale Chihuly and Donna Karan. He arrived in the Northwest in the late 1990s and settled in Tacoma in 2003.
The other half of this fantastic show consists of neon work by Tacoma artist Turner. A sense of humor and whimsy enlivens these little glass constructions that are filled with noble neon gas, fitted with electrical components and mounted on wooden “shields” like the taxidermied animal heads in a hunter's trophy room. Wonderful glass wiggles, bumps, bulbs, knobs and twists are lit up in orange, green and purple. Titles such as “Gods Little Pocket” and “The Dirty Pickle” lend to the air of fun and mystery.
Born and raised at Salmon Beach, Turner spent his youth combing the water's edge for interesting objects. He grew to love objects made by hand or via “old school” manufacturing techniques. Turner is currently involved in teaching the art of neon at Evergreen State College.
Standing in the back room of the Fulcrum is a large wooden rack on which a number of Turner's neon tubes (like giant hair pins) are displayed.
Any of these that remain unsold will become a neon barrier that Turner, under the alias “Gaytron the Imploder” will ride his bicycle through on Aug. 13. This third “Bike Jump” (billed as “3 inches of sheer terror”) will take place in the alley of 6th and “I' St. The event is a fundraiser for 2nd Cycle, an independent bicycle co-op located in Hilltop.
“Pr3v1ews & Pr0toTyp3s” is on display through June 11. Fulcrum Gallery is located at 1308 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. For further information visit www.fulcrumtacoma.com or call (253) 250-0520.