With a title like “Global Perspectives,” you’d expect the latest show at The Gallery at Tacoma Community College to range over a wide subject area. But with 34 local artists covering every stage from student to amateur to established professional, and media from photography to paint to sculpture to mixed media, “Global Perspectives” goes way beyond geography in giving a world outlook that’s sometimes bland but often breathtakingly thought-provoking.
Gallery director Jennifer Olson-Rudenko has done a sterling job in organizing such an eclectic show, with such a diverse range of artistic skill. Separating by media and genre, she’s showcased sumi-e and black-and-white photography in the entry, painting and photography in the center gallery and more contemporary three-dimensional in the back. The system works, broadening your view out from focused to wide like a camera pull-back.
In front, the sumi-e is a beautiful selection of some of Tacoma’s best artists. Bill Colby combines brush with woodcut in “Wave,” a fascinating juxtaposition of swirly, stylized pale-blue water with massing ink rain clouds that’s both Japanese in style and American in directness. In “Beach Rocks” he uses ink to translate twisted driftwood, eddying ripples and hunkering boulders into wafting strokes. Sarah Waldo also melds cultural aesthetics, combining Japanese ink and sparse composition with angular, modernist European lines in “Mountain View.” Fumiko Kimura, meanwhile, uses straight calligraphic technique to meditate on environmental issues like logging; a dead tree-trunk gazes on a flat stump like a thin, astonished grandfather with spindly arms.
Complimenting these is a series of black-and-white photo-portraits by Karen Benveniste that captures, with a stunning eye, the presence of the world right here in Tacoma. Apart from one emotional moment on a New Orleans streetcar, every photograph is local – yet they speak of Asian shipworkers on a dirty dock, cascading piles of trash in Lakewood, a hunched, Eastern-European grandmother shuffling past a convenience store.
More reality photography from Becky Frehse, who with her “Salt” series captures the world of a salt factory in Sichuan province, China. With blurred edges pastelled and Photoshopped over the prints, you can feel the heat, the steam, the crusty white salt coating every surface. William Mitchell positions some astonishingly skillful street paintings in Buenos Aires into powerful compositions: two naked giants reaching down as if to pluck up pedestrians are given a reality-inducing railing behind them, a trompe l’oeil of marching activists are centered between buildings as if stepping right out of the wall.
Other photographs aren’t so compositionally adept but still tell good stories. Wendy Fein’s “Global Grandmothers” sparkle color; Daniel Rice gets close-up on triangular wooden fox head messages at a Shinto shrine, whimsically cartooned. Other pieces go overboard in emotional energy: JoAnn Geron’s overwrought, large-scale charcoal drawings, Juan La Torre’s somewhat unfinished-looking white-on-black oil portraits of Third World faces.
And not all works are completely clear about their global message: Gail Kelly’s giant clay barnacles, ridged in white and cross-hatched in blue, are sculpturally elegant but a little abstract; Chris Nokes’ tower of clothespin people garbed in ethnic fabric is a clever idea but not that meaningful. Cara Thompson’s show-specific installation of rolled maps projecting out from the wall with a convex mirror at their far end works well in simplicity, though – our own faces reflected at the ends of the earth.
As a show that was designed to get TCC students to think hard about their place in a world that’s increasingly globalized, condensed, corrupted and divided, “Global Perspectives” goes further, showing us our own place in that world and how our own vision affects it.
Join the panel discussion on Jan. 22 to hear more of the backgrounds behind the works.
Open noon-5 p.m. Monday-Friday through Mar. 21. Reception 4-7 p.m. Jan. 13, panel discussion 4-5:30 p.m. Jan. 22. Free. The Gallery, Tacoma Community College, S. 12th and Mildred Streets, Tacoma. 253-460-4306, tacomacc.edu/campuslife/thegallery