Libraries can be great places for seeing art. They’re open long hours, are nice and quiet and often show local artists. Two Tacoma libraries are showing work right now that’s worth a long look.
Tacoma Public Library’s downtown branch shows art regularly in its Handforth Gallery (past check-out and up the short steps to the left.) This month the show is “BIG: An exploration,” which is exactly what it sounds like.
The biggest work of the lot is probably Marsah Glazière’s “Human Tapestry.” A 15-foot frieze of 10 lifesize human sculptures projecting out of a paint-and-textile collage, this work is meant to explore a humanity-in-diversity theme by garbing each figure in different flags. Unfortunately, what with the flags shrouding the sunken chests like a military funeral and the plaster feet dangling like hanged corpses, the effect is somewhat different.
On the opposite wall are three large canvases by Christopher Mathie featuring his usual swept-abstract style of paint in studies of docks and sailboats. More immediately interesting is J. Neils Harvey’s acrylic of underwater fish, the cornflower-and-aqua bubbles as sharply outlined and shimmering as a mosaic.
Then there are small works with big ideas, like Anne Haley’s tiny painted blocks of Walla Walla sky, sweepingly cut off. Around the corner don’t miss Chuck Gumpert’s painted figure falling gracefully through pale green space, and Karl Krogstad’s French street scene jumping with giant paint strokes and oversize eyeglasses.
“BIG” is on view 9a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday-Saturday through Nov. 6 at the Tacoma Public Library main branch, 1102 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma. 253-591-5666, www.tacomapubliclibrary.org
The Collins Memorial Library at the University of Puget Sound, meanwhile, has been quietly staking itself out as a regular venue for good letterpress and book artists. Opening next week is “Local Conditions” by Chandler O’Leary, local letterpress artist whose work has been seen lately in the Dead Feminist poster series and Art at Work month posters. Since moving to the Northwest in 2008 O’Leary has been, in her own words, obsessed with Mt. Rainier, and “Local Conditions” is an interactive artist book based on different aspects of our mountain. Like Hokusai’s “36 Views of Mt. Fuji,” O’Leary’s book explores the changing faces of the mountain via 100 scenes that mix letterpress text and imagery with hand-colored illustrations.
In an edition of 25, the book has three drawers and an outer shell styled like a Japanese wrap-case. Each drawer has a tiny scene like a stage set, with 120 illustrated “stage flats” that the viewer can rearrange in different permutations.
“Local Conditions” is on view 7:30 a.m.-2 a.m. Monday-Thursday, 7:30 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m.-2 a.m. Sunday from Nov.4 through January 21, 2011, with an artist reception at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 4 and an artist talk 7 p.m Nov. 11. The Collins library is in the middle of the UPS campus at 1500 N. Warner St., Tacoma. 253-879-3229, www.pugetsound.edu/library.xml