Tacoma-based painter and sculptor Matthew Olds, a 2016 finalist for the Greater Tacoma Community Foundation's Foundation of Art Award, is a man on the move. His installations often involve a mural painting and some kind of reflecting pond. He combines quality craftsmanship with an appreciation for the unvarnished surface. His always strikes the eye as being both competent and rustic.
The Foss Waterway Seaport, a museum dedicated to Tacoma's maritime history, is currently showing one of Olds' installations called “Shipwrecked.” The central element is a life-sized replica of a sinking ship. The structure is made to seem as if the floor of the building is the surface of the sea and the ship is just about to slip underwater for its final descent into the abyss. On the wall behind the tilted bow is a large (6 x 16 feet) mural painting called “A Ship Divided.” The painting shows the shattered outlines of a ship that hovers over rays of color that converge on a single vanishing point. The impression is of an explosion or burst of cosmic energy. In the well-composed wall tags, Olds muses upon the romance of the sea and the metaphor of the ship as a vessel of adventure and what the sinking of a ship represents.
Nearby is a similar painting, “The Disappearing of the Old Simpson Mill” in which the posts and beams and old lumber of a dismembered industrial building are shown in Olds' muted, yet richly colored palette. Olds notes that he observed, photographed and sketched the dismantling of the old building over a period of time.
In a humorous vein, the installation includes a sculpture called “SOS,” a two life vests and a circular lifesaver (in the middle) that are cast in concrete. Objects meant to be buoyant are here rendered in material that is ironically non-floating.
Above hangs a trio of wooden signal flags (done in paisley), which spell out 253, our area code, using the old signal flag language of maritime communication.
Olds' installation is amusing, poetic and insightful. Yet it is but one gem within the larger treasure trove of the Foss Waterway Seaport. From the Olds installation, the eye is drawn to all the other wonderful things within the huge space, sparking a desire to explore deep into the recesses of the museum.
Olds is slated to show more of his work at Pacific Lutheran University's gallery in the middle of March. For further information on Olds visit www.oldsart.com. For information on the Foss Waterway Seaport visit www.fosswaterwayseaport.org.