For Shadow ManyWhales, her beadwork reflects many parts of her life: her love of beauty, her delight in using found or given materials, her concern for young girls owning their bodies, her 21-year sobriety. Now, the 82-year old Cherokee/Arapaho/Aztec artist’s work is reflecting another aspect – her age – as it is displayed in the sixth annual Regional Senior Art Show, on view last week at Franke Tobey Jones and opening tomorrow at Tacoma Art Museum.
The show, organized by FTJ’s Senior University, is open to all Western Washington artists over 55, but focuses on Tacoma-area locals like ManyWhales. Not just something to brighten the community rooms at the retirement home, the show has expanded from a few days at FTJ to four weeks in the community area of Tacoma Art Museum’s mezzanine, celebrating older artists and keeping seniors creative.
“We restrict entries to work created in the last two years only,” explains FTJ development director Sarah Idstrom. “The concept is to keep people creating.”
And it does. With over 80 pieces from over 70 artists, the Senior Art Show ranges from painting to photography to drawing to three-dimensional work like raku pottery and ManyWhales’ beadwork banners. There’s delicate sumi-e watercolor from Patsy Surh O’Connell, Ellen Miffitt and William Havens; and beautifully-shadowed ruffles in Janette Stiles’ graphite drawing of a theater costume. “American Graffiti,” a fused glass tablet by Mark Lubich with a brilliant tapestry of vivid lines and skyline blocks, won first place in three-dimensional; first place in photography went to Tim Clifton’s startling contrast of a red barn with a pale, snowy hillside. The show’s heavy on landscapes, Western and maritime scenes, but there’s enough abstract to balance it out.
And there’s ManyWhales’ banners. Two out of a series of five, they’re made of beads worked on colored felt squares mounted on a vintage table runner, accompanied by feathers and more beads. The work is simple but detailed, with lovely lines: On one green panel a pregnant dove rests heavily on a branch, her curvy stomach highlighted with a feather; in another a shimmery queen bee lectures young bees on how to protect their bodies. ManyWhales, with long silver hair and equally shimmery skirt, explains the stories behind each panel. Also a poet who writes on child abuse, she’s benefited from the Senior University’s classes, where she heard about the art show.
“I’m self-taught; I just picked up a needle one day after I got sober,” she explains. “Nothing in my house is safe. I wake up with an idea in my head, I thank all the chiefs, then I go to my beading table and work.”
The Senior Art Show opens with an artist reception at 5 p.m. Nov. 15, and is on view 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday through Dec. 9. $10/$8/free for under-five and 5-8 p.m. Nov. 15. Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. 253-272-4258, tacomaartmuseum.org, franketobeyjones.com