Just when the weather’s finally warming up, we get clouds of art. The latest Spaceworks installation in the Woolworth Windows in downtown Tacoma features three artists – all female, not sure if that means anything – playing with clouds in form, metaphor and effect, using paper, fabric and straw to create art that wafts through the windows’ large interiors.
On the uptown end University of Puget Sound-based printmaker Janet Marcavage continues her rather dry, formal investigation of patterns and textures. This time she takes the ubiquitous stripe – think college dorm sheets, tacky business shirts – and transmutes it into flowing, leaf-shaped papers that flutter by in drifts, their interestingly-hatched stripes giving them the illusion of folded fabric.
The flat window decals add to the dimensional riff, and the palette of violet/poppy red is bold and lipsticky. What drags the installation down is the inclusion of all the striped jersey sheets, pinned lumpily to the walls. Their heaviness detracts from the paper’s skillful construction, and the whole thing seems a little lazy – a kind of “how can I possibly fill this entire window?”
In the next window along Jennifer Renee Adams doesn’t even try to fill the window but instead creates a delightful sky-scene along the floor. Tiny horses made from burnt-looking paper populate a cotton-ball cloud, gently standing in ones or twos. With blank, eyeless expression and skinny long legs they’re rather like a Deborah Butterfield bronze, reduced to one foot high. Not quite as effective are the odd square Polaroids of cirrus clouds tacked to the window – more than a little weird, they require a second look to realize that they are fragments bits of sky in this mythical horse heaven.
The window at 11th Street and Broadway is still vacant, but down on Commerce Street Laura Foster fills the deepest window with a wild vision: a looping chandelier of endlessly, delicately tangled straw ropes. Around one inch in diameter and very scratchy, they hang messy yet motionless, as if an arty poltergeist had run amok in a barn. Set against the peaceful rural wallpaper on the back the straw is even more prickly and tangible – if only some thought had been given to the display shelf on the bottom and the scuffed lino floor, which take away the magic utterly. Off to the right Foster’s mini straw mountain, “snowed” over in plaster and popped on a ribboned wagon like a Fair entry, doesn’t make a lot of sense and might have been better in the front.
The Woolworth Windows have been offering downtown Tacomans a slice of cool art for years, and the city’s Spaceworks team is still doing an excellent job. The only trouble is that all the other spaces along Broadway are gapingly vacant. Compared to upper Broadway, where Poppy & Co has joined a delightfully quirky set of new consignment and old antique stores to make a vibrant block, the theater part of Broadway is sadly lifeless. More art clouds, please.
The Woolworth Windows are visible 24/7 at Broadway, Commerce and South 11th Streets, Tacoma. spaceworkstacoma.wordpress.com