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Tripod slideshow Friday night features national cartoonist Chris Britt, the new art in Mary Bridge and LaVonne Sallee, the ‘Barbie Lady’ of Oregon


LaVonne Sallee, "Barbie's Last Sleepover." Photo courtesy Lynn Di Nino.
LaVonne Sallee, “Barbie’s Last Sleepover.” Photo courtesy Lynn Di Nino.

The semi-monthly Tripod slide-shows at Gallery Madera in downtown Tacoma always have an array of quirky, fascinating pics, but this Friday the extremes are wild – and locally connected. Mady Murrey will show slides of the new not-so-public art at the Mary Bridge hospital extensions, nationally syndicated cartoonist Chris Britt will show and tell the life of a political cartoonist, and Oregon’s ‘Barbie Lady’ LaVonne Sallee will expose the cutesy doll in daring and sometimes bizarre vignettes that’ll make you look at dolls in a totally different light.

Of all of these, the Mary Bridge shots are perhaps the most useful to Tacomans, who won’t actually ever see this art unless they or a young relative happen to be sick enough to be admitted to the hospital. I blogged earlier about this work, which is Northwest in theme and vaguely ocean-based, including mosaic murals by Jennevieve Schlemmer and Mauricio Robalino, glass by Diane Hansen and Native Northwest art by Shaun Peterson. The one work you can see without even going in is the skyway window full of blown glass bubbles by the Hilltop Artists (visible from the emergency drop-off if you walk underneath). Even so, it’s still worth seeing up close in a photo to spot the cute glass sea-creatures hidden in the floats like a “Where’s Waldo” picture.

Chris Britt, "Bookends at the George W. Bush Library." Image courtesy Lynn Di Nino.
Chris Britt, “Bookends at the George W. Bush Library.” Image courtesy Lynn Di Nino.

Chris Britt is an editorial cartoonist for the Illinois Times of Springfield, Illinois, and has been syndicated since 1991. His award-winning work skewers politicians and public figures, pointing out the ironies of gay marriage, the gun debate, presidential illiteracy and more with goofy characters and detailed sketching. He’ll present “Slinging Ink: The Life of an Editorial Cartoonist.”

The third in the Tripod trio is LaVonne Sallee of Marquam, Oregon, otherwise known as the “Barbie Lady” for her extremely inventive art installations deconstructing the skinny, boringly-beautiful doll and reinventing her as a hairy tree-hugger, a topless Halloween angel, a bag lady, a circus clown, the White Witch, a prehistoric warrior, Lady Gaga and even Jesus.
She picks up material for her ‘altered Barbies’ from yard sales and thrift stores and lets her imagination go wild with clay, plaster, paint and more.

Even more cool is the fact that she’s the sister of Tacoma concrete-art diva Lynn Di Nino, co-organizer of the Tripod series and a quirky found-media artist in her own right.

The Tripod Show runs 7-8:30 p.m. May 17. Donation $5. Madera Furniture Company, 2210 Court A., Tacoma. 235-572-1218, maderawoodworking.com Read more »


Glass squid and octopi adorn the new Mary Bridge expansion in downtown Tacoma


Greg Piercy with the new floats installation by Hilltop Artists at Multicare. Photo: Rosemary Ponnekanti
Greg Piercy with the new floats installation by Hilltop Artists at Multicare. Photo: Rosemary Ponnekanti

The Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital expansion – atop MultiCare’s new regional cancer center buildings and the emergency section of Mary Bridge and Tacoma General – isn’t open to the public yet, but the art’s already there, brightening the corridors and waiting rooms with glass sea-life in vivid tangerines and limes. And I was lucky enough yesterday to get a sneak peek at the installations by Jennevieve Schlemmer and the non-profit Hilltop Artists glass program.

The HART installation is interesting in two ways: It’s art made by kids for kids, with ongoing interactions planned; and it’s also visible from the outside. Lining the north windows of the 6th and 7th floor skyway bridges connecting the front building on Martin Luther King Jr. Way and the back building on South J Street are 1,400 glass floats, blown by the skilled, hardworking HART students at Jason Lee Middle School. You can see it from the alley just beside the emergency drop-off (but you’ll have to walk underneath the skybridge to see the north window, as the south one was left clear to preserve the views of Mt. Rainier). Gelato-hued floats pile up like bubbles inside an aquarium: cool blues and greens on the lower floor, warm lemons, limes, tangerines and berry colors on the upper.

But the best part can only be seen by the hospital’s young patients and staff. Up close you realize that every so often the glassblowers (at Wilson High, this time) have popped an exquisitely-blown squid or octopus inside a float, so the whole installation goes from abstract beauty to a “Where’s Waldo?” treasure hunt for viewers. Read more »


Critic’s Picks: Seattle Folklife Festival, Rockwell closes at Tacoma Art Museum, sumi at Mary Boze gallery and American Art Co

Folklife Festival this weekend

If you’ve been to the annual Seattle Folklife Festival you’ll know it’s a great weekend; if you haven’t, check it out: national and local acts from klezmer to kindie rock, busking to drum circles, Celtic to Greek, and all free. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. today through May 29, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. May 30. Free (by donation). Seattle Center, 321 Mercer St., Seattle. 206-684-7300, www.nwfolklife.org

Last chance to see Rockwell at TAM

“American Chronicles: the art of Norman Rockwell” closes at Tacoma Art Museum this weekend. The last chance to see all those iconic images and magazine covers

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Artists turn graffiti into mural on South Tacoma bridge


Tired of seeing gang graffiti on the bridge at South 112th Street and Portland Avenue, local graffiti artists have painted over the area to create a mural measuring 50 by 34 feet. The mural was completed last Friday afternoon, and artists say that so far the community response has been positive.

“There was already a painting there by Franklin-Pierce High School students, and a bunch of kids wrote bad stuff over it,” says artist Chris Williamson, one of the 12 artists who spent three days last week on the new mural. “So we did both sides as a mural.”

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A banquet of tapestry on Tacoma’s hilltop: locals at Brick House Gallery, international work at the library’s Handforth Gallery

Cecilia Blomberg, "Birches." Photo courtesy Brick House Gallery.
Cecilia Blomberg, “Birches.” Photo courtesy Brick House Gallery.

There’s a banquet of tapestry on show right now in upper downtown Tacoma, both local and international, as the Tapestry Artists of Puget Sound and the American Tapestry Alliance annual shows coincide at Brick House Gallery and the Handforth  Gallery, just two blocks apart, and with a joint reception this Saturday afternoon.

It’s a smart time to check out both shows, which offer a wealth of tapestry in two and three dimensions, a myriad of fibers and a range of genres. The Handforth, located in the Tacoma Public Library main branch, has pretty broad opening hours, but Brick House is on third Thursdays and by appointment only. Since you can easily stroll down the hill from one to the other, the joint opening makes a golden opportunity to see both, and compare.

Left to right: Cecilia Blomberg, Margo Macdonald and Mary Lane collaboratively weave a tapestry. Photo courtesy Margo Macdonald.
Left to right: Cecilia Blomberg, Margo Macdonald and Mary Lane collaboratively weave a tapestry. Photo courtesy Margo Macdonald.

At Brick House there’s a chance to go deep into the art of several local tapestry artists in “TAPS: Contained.” Three of the biggest hitters are Cecilia Blomberg, Mary Lane and Margo Macdonald, and in fact one of the best works in the show is by all three: “Labyrinth,” tucked away in a side room, was woven by the three women side by side, with Macdonald in the center linking Blomberg’s and Lane’s very different styles. A tan labyrinth pattern floats abstractly over ripples of chartreuse, purple and teal – a mental labyrinth in an imagined forest. (The three women have also co-woven three works hanging near the elevators at Mary Bridge Children’s Health Center.)

Blomberg, Macdonald and Lane, "Labyrinth." Photo courtesy Brick House Gallery.
Blomberg, Macdonald and Lane, “Labyrinth.” Photo courtesy Brick House Gallery.

Also collaborative is the signature work “Contained” – a delightful pattern of color fields that in fact represent Tacoma’s shipping containers. Some are pure color – gold, ochre, red – others are patterned, one’s labeled ‘Hanjin.’ They’re lengthwise, end-on, a Tetris of industrial shape and color, juxtaposing a gritty subject with a soft, clean medium.

Blomberg, Lane and Macdonald each have other work in the show. The most striking is Blomberg’s “Birch Rolls,” nine pale white cotton strips some six inches wide and ten feet high, drifting down from the ceiling like skinny birch trunks and blowing slightly in curator Peter MacDonald’s fan breeze. He’s placed the right in front of the window, with lilacs offering a green background outside, and the effect is gorgeous – soft fiber creating its own space in nature. The rolls appear also at the Handforth, where Blomberg has rolled them up for a completely different effect – the detail of the gray-flecked weaving now transformed, the edges becoming a textured side themselves.

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Critic’s Picks this week

Neddy Award-winning art can be seen at TAM

The Behnke Foundation has just announced its 2008 Neddy Award winners.

You can see Akio Takamori’s giant ceramic "Princess" and Randy Hayes’ painted photographs, along with other cool works in clay and paint, at the Tacoma Art Museum; 1701 Pacific Ave.; 253-272-4258, www.tacomaartmuseum.org

Stadium District will offer first Art and Wine Walk

Walk, drink and appreciate the art of local artists such as Mary Mann at the Stadium District’s first Art and Wine Walk on Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m.

Tickets are $25,

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Grant Elementary kids make arty “fruit” for the new Tacoma Children’s Museum building, opening January 14

Tacoma’s new Children’s Museum building isn’t yet open, but some of the art for it was being made last week at Grant Elementary. Third-graders from the arts-based school are helping artist Kristin Tollefson create an iconic tree full of unusual sculpted “fruit” for the museum’s new 8,700 square foot space for when it opens to the public on January 15.

The “playful tree” installation makes use of the Pacific Avenue space’s large vertical support pillars, and will transform one of them into the trunk of a tree, with aluminum branches and sprouting “fantastic fruit,” made by the artist from

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Puyallup Fair Art Show winners announced

The winners for this year’s Puyallup Fair Art Show have just been announced. Over 1,000 works were submitted, and for the first time a category for pastel art was included. $4,300 in prize money was awarded to work that will stay on show for the duration of the Fair, which runs Sept. 10-26. Much of the art will also be for sale. 

Here are the winners:

Best in Show

$400: Dan Klennert of Elbe, WA, “Little Jack”

World of Pastel

1st Place ($250): Barbara Newton of Renton, WA, “Sky View Afternoon”

2nd Place ($150): Debra Cepeda of Auburn,

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