Tacoma has a number of artists who are also partners in life, and when this kind of duo combines their work the artistic depth expands. Alice di Certo and Kyle Dillehay are such a pair: Instructors at Tacoma Community College, the photographer and mixed-media artist are also wife and husband, and their new TCC gallery show “A Deeper Look: Stories and Faces” fills the gallery with compelling portrait photography that goes beyond traditional visual boundaries into text, stories and social justice issues.
Not every photograph in this show is stunning, but what makes it work as a whole is the contrast that peels through several layers. Di Certo creates large-scale color digital prints of single subjects, brilliant in their sharpness and saturated palette, while Dillehay takes a sidestep from his usual intricate sculptures of clay and twigs to create photographic “windows” – soft sepia palladiotypes printed on hand-coated vellum and mounted simply on paper bearing the hand-written stories of the couples in his photographs. Mounted about six inches from the wall, the papers glow with translucent light – windows into these Tacoma couples’ worlds. The contrast continues with size – di Certo’s portraits are near-life-size, Dillehay’s the scale of Victorian miniatures – and outlook. Because while Dillehay called for couples that sense difference in their relationship, nearly all express a deep-seated happiness despite (or because of) that difference. Di Certo’s subjects, though, are all victims of bullying, and though most have risen above and conquered their aggressors to reach new levels of self-esteem, each has a steely backstory behind the hopeful smile.
Bullying and difference are definitely subjects worth taking on, and since they hinge on identity, taking them on through photography makes sense. And there are some extremely good results in “A Deeper Look.” Di Certo grabs our attention from the start with three dramatic portraits by the entrance: androgynously beautiful Caleb; confident Ashley, and Asha with arms defensively folded and a meltingly sweet smile. Leaning against their picture frames, meeting our gaze or deliberately avoiding it, they radiate triumph over the bullying, drug addiction, cutting or suicide attempts that define their past. Thirteen more portraits in the large gallery surround the viewer in an intense palette of royal blue, orange and white, the lighting warm and close, the depth of field shallow, bringing these people right into our personal space with their direct, challenging gazes. They’re all kids, aged between 8 and 19, and their stories are all different – bullying based on looks, clothes, sexuality, shyness, even arachnophobia. But the result is the same – di Certo captures them with an encouraging, hopeful lens, each subject beautiful in their own way.
The one thing that doesn’t work is the text. Typewritten beside each portrait, the expression is clunky and error-filled, distracting from the visual beauty.
Dillehay’s work is less stunning and more repetitive. Most of the couples, though often visually fascinating (difference in height or coloring being a common thread), are posed in wedding-photo positions, smiling cheesily at each other or the camera and all framed exactly the same way. A few break the mold, but it would have been more interesting to highlight these couple’s differences rather than their happily-ever-after resolutions with creative composition or cropping. Still, the texts (handwritten by the couples themselves) are engaging, and create a vintage-scrapbook feel to the installation.
And being Tacoma, chances are you’ll know one of these people – which just adds to the fun.
Open noon-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday through Dec. 18. Gallery talks 11:45 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday. Free. The Gallery at Tacoma Community College, 6501 S. 19th St. (enter at South Mildred and South 12th Streets), Tacoma. 253-460-4306, tacomacc.edu/thegallery
Need free dance? The Barefoot Collective once again steps up to the plate with a series of free short contemporary dance events in unusual locations around Tacoma. Having kicked off at the Art at Work Month opening party last week at the Thea Foss Waterway, “Autumn Dances” celebrates the changing of the season with a changing series of works in spaces from bars and restaurants to bookshops and libraries.
It’s the same concept as the Collective’s show last fall.
“It worked really well,” says Barefoot member and choreographer Katie Stricker, who’s presenting work in this show. “For choreographers used to working in traditional proscenium rectangular spaces, to reimagine the process in small, uniquely shaped spaces like King’s Books provides a great choreographic challenge.”
It’s also good for the businesses involved, says Stricker, and for both the dance audience experiencing a new venue and business patrons experiencing new dance.
7:30 p.m. Nov. 6 and 7 at Indochine (1924 Pacific Ave., Tacoma); 3 p.m. Nov. 9 and 10 at King’s Books (218 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma); 1 p.m. Nov. 16 at Tacoma Public Library Main Branch (1102 Tacoma Ave. S., Tacoma); 7 p.m. Nov. 19 at The Mix bar (635 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma); 7 p.m. Nov. 21 at Dybevik Piano Co. (1314 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma); 7 p.m. Nov. 22 at Abby’s Wine Shop (739 Broadway, Tacoma). All free. 206-745-0492, barefootcollective.org
The collective will also be performing as part of Serendipity Dance Brigade’s “Fire and Ice” next week in Seattle. 8 p.m. Nov. 15, 16 and 17. brownpapertickets.com
Tacoma Art at Work Studio Tour
This year’s self-guided Studio Tour for Art at Worth Month in Tacoma features 60 artists and studios, all with demonstrations or hands-on activities. How many can you take in over one weekend? 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 2 and 3. Free. Various locations – for map see artatworktacoma.com or pick up a hard copy at downtown businesses and theaters. Art Bus tours leave 1 p.m. Nov. 2 and 3, taking 3.5 hours and covering seven studios each day. $10 regular/$20 VIP. brownpapertickets.com
Art at the Armory
Join artists, Historic Tacoma, Earthwise Architectural Salvage and Fred Roberson, the new owner of Tacoma’s 1908 Armory building, for a free event celebrating the building’s architectural past, present and future. 6-8 p.m. Nov. 5. Free. South 11th and Yakima Streets, Tacoma. historictacoma.org
Brentano quartet at Theater on the Square
Named for Beethoven’s ‘immortal beloved’ Antonie Brentano, the Brentano Quartet have been garnering an international reputation for warmth and lyricism since 1992; they’ll be playing Beethoven’s quartets op. 95 and 131. 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8. $19/$39/$49. Theatre on the Square, 915 Broadway, Tacoma. 253-591-5894, broadwaycenter.org
Dale Chihuly weekend at Museum of GlassGlass maestro teams up with artists Seaver Leslie and Flora C. Mace this weekend at the Museum of Glass for a two-day glass blow creating pieces inspired by his 1975 Irish Cylinders, now on display at the museum. Hourly shows from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Nov. 2 and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 3. $19 includes museum admission ($7 members). 1801 Dock St., Tacoma. 253-284-4719, museumofglass.org
We’re a long way north of Mexico, but plenty of people in Tacoma celebrate Dia de los Muertos, the annual Day of the Dead festival involving art, flowers, papier-maché skeletons and honoring lost loved ones. This year sees two free artistic ways to do it: the 9th annual celebration at Tacoma Art Museum on Sunday, and the resurrection of the 6th Avenue procession on Friday, the actual day of the traditional festival.
“The business district like the feeling of bringing prople together to do something fun and cultural,” says Angela Jossy, who’s organizing the 6th Avenue procession. “And it’s artistic – that’s what 6th Avenue is known for.”
The artistry comes from the dozens of papier-maché skulls and skeletons, traditionally made to honor the dead and held aloft in Dia de los Muertos processions, which participants have been making over the last month in a series of pay-what-you-can workshops. Led by artist Annika Nelson, the workshops at Epworth LeSourd Methodist Church just off 6th Avenue have been attracting up to 25 people each Tuesday and Thursday night to work on the sculptures. It’s an idea that also happened for the previous incarnation of the procession, resulting in life-size decorated skeletons of fishermen, mermaids, devils, even Elvis Presley.
The current board of the district has been taking tips from the previous organizers, says Jossy, and intends the event to be a regular annual one again. After the procession, the Rev. Frances Lorenz will lead a ceremony honoring the dead, where participants can write the names of passed loved ones to set on an altar. Then 6th Avenue Photography will host a party with live music by Mariachi Fiesta Mexicana and a buffet dinner catered by El Guadalajara restaurant. Apart from the dinner, the event is free.
Everything’s free on Sunday as well, when Tacoma Art Museum hosts its most popular community festival of the year to honor Dia de los Muertos. Now nine years old, the event attracts around 3,000 people, and is a partnership between the museum and local non-profits Centro Latino and Proyecto Molé. For the last two weeks the museum’s traditional tapete (sand painting) on the lobby floor and community ofrendas (altars) upstairs in the mezzanine have been on display; Sunday adds in live music by Mariachi Ayutla, dance from Danza Quetzalcoatl of Olympia, food such as pan muerte, art activities like making skeleton charms and decorating sugar skulls, face painting and more. Gallery entrance is also free for the whole day.
“This is a favorite annual event for all of Tacoma that connects us across cultures,” says TAM director Stephanie Stebich.
6th Avenue Procession: 5:30 p.m. Nov. 1 at 6th Avenue Photography (2502 6th Ave., Tacoma) goes along 6th Avenue to Cedar Street and back; 6:30 p.m. Ceremony then party at 6th Avenue Photography. Free (buffet Mexican dinner $8). on6thave.com
TAM Community Festival: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Nov. 3 (altars and tapete on view daily until Sunday). Free. Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma. 253-272-4258, tacomaartmuseum.org
A SOTA senior in a bright red tunic and Mayor Marilyn Strickland in a suit and pearls might not seem the intuitive combination to portray Tacoma community. But for Dawoud Bey, that’s the whole idea. The internationally-renowned portrait photographer has created a new series for the University of Washington, Tacoma which combine pairs of people – some randomly chosen off the street – who’ve never met to convey the sense of Tacoma’s community through contrast. The works, now up in the college’s library building, have their official unveiling this weekend.
“It was very comfortable, very laid-back, and very quick,” said Strickland of her experience sitting for Bey during his artist residency at UWT in March.
“We were joking around,” adds Michael Wilkins, the senior at Tacoma’s School of the Arts who was chosen to share the portrait with the mayor.
Paid for by the Washington State Art in Public Places program, the 12 portraits each feature two people – who had to have strong Tacoma connections – sitting next to each other in or near the college campus. The artist, who teaches at Chicago’s Columbia College and whose work is in collections worldwide including the Brooklyn Museum and the Museum of Modern Art, describes the project of which the UWT portraits are a part as “attempts to visualize the often complicated nature of community... (The) two individuals bring their own narratives, histories, and presences together in order to negotiate their joint presentation to the camera—and the larger world—as members of their particular community.”
For UWT chancellor Debra Friedman, who worked with Strickland to get the photographer on board, Bey’s portraits “resonate deeply with our mission as an urban-serving university. In his work, the portrait pairings emphasize the power of the unexpected. In our work, the biggest impact is made on families and communities by the most unlikely students.”
The Strickland-Wilkins portrait emphasizes contrast: Wilkins, a teenager, is sitting cross-legged and wearing a colorful ethnic outfit that he designed and made himself the night before. Strickland sits next to him with hands folded on rather prim knees and an ambiguous Mona Lisa expression.
“Some photographers ask you to smile for the camera,” Strickland explained. “He deliberately asked us to sit with our normal expression.”
Wilkins, who also acted as one of Bey’s assistants during the project, describes Bey’s process as quick, involving a Polaroid check before multiple shots on film – just four minutes for each shoot.
“It was a really intimate setting,” he says. “I felt pretty comfortable.”
Wilkins, who got involved through his school photography class, says he also learned a lot about studio lighting, film photography and other technical aspects.
And was Strickland happy with the portrait?
“Absolutely,” says the mayor.
The UWT’s Dawoud Bey portrait installation will be unveiled 4-6 p.m. Nov. 2. Free. Power House, Snoqualmie Library, University of Washington Tacoma, 1900 Commerce St., Tacoma. Registration required: tacoma.uw.edu/dawoudbey
Tacoma Opera gets piratical
If you know Gilbert and Sullivan, you’ll know how hilariously clever “Pirates of Penzance” is. If not, you’re in for a treat, as Tacoma Opera stages its first-ever production of this 19th-century comic opera about a dashing hero, trilling heroine, bumbling policemen, noble pirates and a very model Major General. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25, 2 p.m. Oct. 27. $28, $38, $48, $58, $68. Rialto Theater, 310 S. 9th St., Tacoma. 253-627-7789, tacomaopera.com; 253-591-5894, broadwaycenter.org
“Potted Potter” sums up the whole Hogwarts deal
If you’re ready for Harry Potter with a twist of humor, try “Potted Potter: The Unauthorized Harry Experience.” Two actors portray every imaginable character from Dumbledore to dragons, covering seven thick books in just 70 minutes. All ages. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 29, 30, 31; 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Nov. 1; 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 2; 3 p.m. Nov. 3. $38/$48/$59. Rialto Theater, 310 S. 9th St., Tacoma. 253-591-5894, broadwaycenter.org
Tacoma Symphony’s third candidate
Kevin Rhodes, the third candidate in the Tacoma Symphony’s musical director search, conducts the orchestra through a romantic program of William Schuman, Rachmaninoff and Bruch’s violin concerto (with Svend Rønning, violin). 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26. $19/$29/$45/$65/$77. Pantages Theater, 901 Broadway, Tacoma. 253-591-5894, tacomasymphony.org, broadwaycenter.org
Canonici sings “Freue Dich”
The vocal consort Canonici presents music of early 17th-century Germany for voice and organ in “Freue Dich,” with organist Joseph Adam. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25. $12.50 general/$8.50 seniors, military, students, faculty, staff/free for UPS students. Kilworth Memorial Chapel, University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. 18th St., Tacoma. 253-879-3555, tickets.pugetsound.edu, canonici.org
Barbara Lee Smith sale
Paint and fiber artist Barbara Lee Smith holds her annual sale at her Gig Harbor studio this weekend to benefit both Tacoma Community College Foundation and Bellevue Arts Museum. Painting, collaging and drawing with machine stitches, Smith creates light-filled landscapes. 3-8 p.m. Oct. 25, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 26, 1-5 p.m. Oct. 27. Contact 253-225-6848 or firstname.lastname@example.org for venue.
Cuban musicians at UPS
The Familia Valera Miranda bring music from the Oriente region of Cuba to the University of Puget Sound this Saturday night, playing son (precursor of salsa) in its traditional form. 7:30 p.m. Oct. 26. $12. Kilworth Memorial Chapel, University of Puget Sound, 1500 N. 18th St., Tacoma. 253-879-6013, tickets.pugetsound.edu
Just when the rainy season starts to get you down, along comes Art at Work month: the annual celebration organized by the City of Tacoma of everything arty in town. This year’s AAW includes the usual AMOCAT art awards, artist studio tour and a reworking of the symposium, but the kick-off party also kicks off something quite new – Tacoma’s first “love locks” bridge. Only it’s an underpass.
The romantic tradition of attaching a padlock – often inscribed – to a public bridge and throwing away the key as a symbol of love has been growing in recent years around the world. The most famous are in Paris, but there are many others from Rome to Tokyo to Seattle. Even University Place has a fledgling collection at the Chambers Bay Golf Course.
And now, so will Tacoma, thanks to Sound Transit, the City of Tacoma and artist Diane Hansen.
“I had been to see the locks at the Pont des Arts in Paris,” says Hansen, a glass and metal artist who is creating public art for the A Street underpass section of the new Sound Transit rail line, managed by the City of Tacoma arts commission. “It’s about expressing love and loyalty. It inspired me to create an artwork in Tacoma that would allow ownership, pride and loyalty to this city.”
The locks-based art will cover the large supporting pillars underneath the rail line on A Street between 26th and 25th Streets, near the Pink Elephant Car Wash. Since it is an ADA-accessible pedestrian underpass, Hansen wanted to create art that was pedestrian-scale and pedestrian-interactive. So she’s cast a series of giant metal keys and padlock-shaped hearts (with a T-shaped keyhole in the middle) to flank an architrave panel above the columns. Painted in a flaky-gold, coppery car enamel, they’ll shine brightly against the midnight-blue of the panel. Underneath, each pillar will be covered with metal mesh, which will allow passers-by to attach – you guessed it – padlocks of love, either for their romantic partner or for Tacoma itself.
“Tacoma is both whimsical and industrial,” explains Hansen, of her idea. “And I love it when people can become part of the work, feel some ownership in the piece.”
Though Hansen’s lock-art isn’t even up yet, people can start to feel some of the love at a lock-decorating event happening next Monday night at the Art at Work kick-off party. From 6-8:30 p.m. at the newly-renovated Foss Waterway Seaport building on Dock Street, party-goers can enjoy live music by Taxi Driver, dance from the Barefoot Collective, a molten iron pour by TCC, urban arts by Fab-5, poetry from Tacoma Poet Laureate Lucas Smiraldo, films by Kat Ogden and Carla Barragan and appetizers and dessert. They can applaud this year’s AMOCAT art award winners: patrons Erivan and Helga Haub, organization Puget Sound Book Artists and director David Domkoski.
They’ll also be able to decorate free locks with enamels and sharpies, ready to clamp onto the underpass art as soon as it’s installed in November.
After that, Art at Work month continues with the two-day, 39-venue studio tour on November 2 and 3, the Tacoma Arts Conference on November 16 and numerous performances and workshops.
Art at Work month kick-off party happens 6-8:30 p.m. Oct. 28. Free. Foss Waterway Seaport, 705 Dock St., Tacoma. For full details see artatworktacoma.com.
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