The clock is ticking. Time is running out for Tacoma art viewers (you know who you are) to make their way to the Tacoma Art Museum to have a look at Jennifer Steinkamp’s enthralling digital exhibit called “Shimmering Tree.” The entire space of the Annette B. Weyerhaeuser gallery (the museum’s “big room”) is empty except for a viewing couch and a table with some books devoted to the theme of the four seasons. One wall of the space functions as a screen onto which is projected Steinkamp’s gigantic, computer-generated, animated tree.
While the exhibit is called “Shimmering Tree,” the tree itself is named “Mike Kelly.” It is meant as homage to, or a kind of symbolic portrait of, Steinkamp’s mentor. The huge, silvery tree twists and sways like a sea creature caught in a fickle current. It is peaceful, simple and silent. Neither too busy nor too static, it is a wonderful focus for a pleasant spell of meditation. Over the course of the 11-minute cycle, the tree goes through four seasons: the pink blossoms of spring, the green leaves of summer, the orange leaves of fall and the skeletal defoliation of winter.
Based out of Los Angeles, Steinkamp has been a practitioner of digital arts since the 1980s. An early adopter of digital media, she hopped aboard the bandwagon before there was a bandwagon. Her work has been exhibited around the world.
In Tacoma the exhibit has enjoyed a relatively short run. It opened Nov. 9 and will close Jan. 26. It is, however, one of the best things currently residing within the museum’s walls. For further information visit http://www.TacomaArtMuseum.org.