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Critic’s picks: Vocal recital at Christ Episcopal Tacoma, Museum of Glass and the Sister Cities film fest

Vocal recital at Christ Church

The Third Fridays at Noon recital series at Christ Episcopal Church presents soprano Melissa Fontaine in a lunchtime recital today, accompanied by pianist Una Hwang and organist Mark Brombaugh. On the program are four early songs by Alban Berg, “Letters from Saint Paul” by Daniel Pinkham, and “Cantata of Spirituals” by John Carter. 12:10 p.m. today. Donation at the door. Christ Episcopal Church, 310 N. K St., Tacoma. 253-383-1569, ccptacoma.org

Moore at MoG

Opening at the Museum of Glass this weekend is a new show by Northwest glass artist Benjamin Moore. “Translucent” evokes

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FlowerHouse lights up Tacoma’s Hilltop like a stained-glass eulogy to the common weed

Duncan Price, "FlowerHouse." Courtesy photo.

It sits at the corner of South 15th and G Streets like a beacon. Architecturally it’s just an ordinary large four-square Craftsman of the kind you see all over that neighborhood, but it’s what’s in the windows that make it shine, literally: 28 backlit photographic panels of brambles, thistles and weeds on a heroic scale, lighting the darkness in silent, appreciative hope. It’s “FlowerHouse,” a City of Tacoma-granted installation by artist Duncan Price, who lives in the house and has come up with a great way to brighten the darkest time of the year (and promote his work at the same time).

Duncan Price, "FlowerHouse." Courtesy photo.

Sitting on the corner one block down from St. Leo’s and St. Nicholas’ on Yakima Avenue, the “FlowerHouse” functions, in fact, a little like a church – visually, at least. Every single window, from the small rectangle over the doorframe to the three-part bay window on the side to the upstairs bedrooms, is completely covered over with a backlit rectangle printed with a giant, close-up shot of a weed. Yes, Northwest garden pariahs like blackberry, ivy and thistle are here captured with all the care and fascination usually given to more exotic species like hummingbirds or orchids: A yellow dandelion bloom sparkles with morning condensation, a bramble’s thorn arches greenly out of a blood-red base, a purple thistle-flower spreads a dainty, delicate filigree. Read more »


Alfredo Arreguin paints lush mysteries at the Tacoma Public Library’s Handforth Gallery

Work by Alfredo Arreguin, now up at the Handforth Gallery, Tacoma Public Library main branch. Courtesy image.

Alfredo Arreguin sees patterns. The Mexican-born, Seattle-based artist whose work is in the National Museum of American Art and has shown at the Smithsonian Portrait Gallery, paints lush landscapes comprised of patterns – intricate geometrics that hide or reveal larger portraits of animals or people. It’s a masterful effect, but the only chance Tacomans have had to see this work lately is at the Tacoma Art Museum, where Arreguin’s Frida Kahlo portrait was included in the exhibit about her several years ago. Now the Handforth Gallery at the Tacoma Public Library main branch is full of these mysterious, lush-colored patterns, each mingling Arreguin’s Mexican roots with visions of his adopted Northwest home in “Alfredo Arreguin: Selected Paintings.”

Staring into each of these paintings is like a journey back and forth along the eye’s perspective plane. In “El Arete,” for instance (the Kahlo portrait), Frida stares fiercely out with unblinking dark eyes, her lips blood-red, her hair-piece immaculately beautiful. But close-up her curvy outlines and smooth skin are made up of a grid of cross-like flowers and vaguely Native American faces, squares and diamonds alternating with subtly colored outlines. The effect is both wild and tamed, order coming out of chaos, a living person at once assembling from and dispersing into the atoms of the land that produced her. Read more »


Lynn Di Nino sculpts Twinkies with ironic flair at Flow Gallery, Tacoma

Lynn Di Nino, "Ejectulation Confection." Courtesy image.

If you’re still thinking of Tacoma artist Lynn Di Nino as a concrete sculptor it’s time to get up to date. In the last few years Lynn has turned her hand to everything from jewelry to coffee filters as a medium, and her latest expedition into mixed-media art involves junk food. Specifically, Twinkies – and Sno Balls, Ding Dongs, Cupcakes and various other Hostess food products – enshrined in snarky, tongue-in-cheek installations at Flow Gallery that’ll have you laughing (and reaching for the organic whole wheat).

Around the walls of tiny Flow on Puyallup Avenue are around 15 of these sculptures. Enclosed behind plastic muffin-tray lids, they preserve Twinkies (in hand-made vintage packaging – look for the stitches) in any number of ‘archival’ situations. They perch in a rusty Radio Flyer toy wagon or huddle in WWI-era ration cans. They’re inserted phallically by tiny toy hands into a suggestive jack-in-the-box hole, or pounced on by a miniature Howdy Doody puppet, made in clay by Di Nino with a Wallace-and-Gromit innocence. Read more »


Tacoma Art Museum begins Late Night Thursday series of post-5 p.m. events at the museum

Tacoma Art Museum is opening up for the after-work crowd during March, April and June with a series of events from 5-8 p.m. every Thursday. Admission is not always free, but every Thursday will offer different groups and activities, plus more time to look at the galleries, particularly the upcoming GLBT portraiture show, “Hide/Seek.”

“We want to give people as many opportunities as we can to see “Hide/Seek” said TAM communications director Lisa McKeown. “And we realize many people work until 5 p.m.”

Late Night Thursday events include:

March 22: Tacoma’s 100th Monkey party, getting the arts community together

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Artists focus on themselves in “Self-Portrait” at Tacoma’s Brick House gallery

Peter MacDonald, "Self-Portrait 2003." Courtesy image.

Amid the snow and ice, a couple of Tacoma galleries stood staunchly open last week – and Brick House was one of them. The upper downtown gallery had just opened a self-portrait show by 20 established local and regional artists, and while there are a few unremarkable works, most take on the topic of self from unusual viewpoints.

Two of those come from Alan Hopkins: The Bay area artist uses himself as a metaphor for larger human issues with inventive grace. In “Painting Through It,” Hopkins positions an iconographic, waist-up nude of himself behind a thick wire screen. Despite interesting composition (a Buddhist-inspired pose, with arms bent at 90 degrees holding a paintbrush and mirror with tapered, delicate fingers) the portrait is static and uninspiring, until you realize that Hopkins has in fact painted it through the screen itself. The crisscrossed wire casts prison-like shadows on Hopkins’ body, the flatness of the portrait takes on a new metaphorical dimension, and paint dabs on the wire blur the boundary line. Read more »


Four abstract artists fire up Tacoma’s B2 gallery in “Cold Fusion”

Jeff G. Mitchell, "Fatal Edge." Image courtesy B2 Gallery.

Following on from its “Hot Fusion” show in summer, Tacoma’s B2 gallery on St. Helens Avenue downtown highlights four abstract artists for “Cold Fusion,” a show that includes some extremely strong work in painting and photography.

Best of the bunch is Judy Hintz Cox, whose painterly abstracts play with a textured white background imprinted with elements of black and just one other color. Almost sumi-like in the way she pays attention to paint drips and single, wide brush strokes, Cox uses the single colors judiciously to speak eloquently and emotionally. In “Fear Not 2” the splash of rust red falls on the thickly spread white like the shock of blood on snow. Just visible underneath the background are hints of newsprint, like a memory. Other red works are equally strong; those on a corridor wall with apple-green and more Miro-like geometrics, like “Inspired by Cello,” are less effective, with simpler texture in the background.

Photographer Jeff Mitchell exhibits two series all of the same object, one black-and-white, one color. It’s so close-up as to be unrecognizable, though it’s reminiscent of the curvy lines of the Bilbao Guggenheim museum, frequent inspiration of photographers around the world for its space-age asymmetry and shiny metal surface. Closely cropped, Mitchell’s black-and-white photographs bring out the light playing on the curves, tricking the eye’s perspective like an Escher drawing, the shadows flattening into the foreground and the shiny light flipping into the background. The color series isn’t as arresting but the composition is still compelling, placing curves and lines in unexpected parts of the frame.

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A Collins Library exhibit at Tacoma’s University of Puget Sound explores transgender identity through photography and written word.

Irielle Dean, "Lukas G." Courtesy photo.

It’s not fantastic art, but it moves you just as much. “T-Town Transgender Neighbors: A Portrait Exhibition,” which just went up at the University of Puget Sound Collins Library, is a portrait show in the deepest sense of the work: 13 works of photography and text that delve into the most fundamental aspect of people’s lives, their gender.

The show impresses, not with visual tricks, but with stories. Each of the 13 folks shown in 11×13 photograph and text has coped in some way with transgender issues, with outcomes ranging from crossdressing acceptance to surgery and a complete estrangement from their old life. The photography by Irielle Dean is polished but conventional, subjects posed in front of Tacoma landmarks like the Narrows Bridge or Wright Park. There are a couple that have more depth of eye, like “Lukas G.”, slouched defiantly in front of a slash of graffiti downtown, the light bisecting him on a diagonal. But in a way, the conventionality does more than place these people squarely in our own neighborhood; it frames them as would a prom or wedding photo: mainstream, accepted.

And that’s mostly the point. Read more »