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Cowboy and Cowgirl Culture

“The West” and other art at Minka

“Digital Mesh” print by Guy Hundred. Photo courtesy Minka

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I hardly know where to start. There is so much art crammed into this little space -- basically three shows in one -- that I need at least a thousand words to simply describe it, much less evaluate it. I shall do my best to consolidate it. 

"The West" is a show of photography and artwork by S. Surface and Lisa Kinoshita offering a unique look at cowboy and cowgirl culture. It is two shows in one: "The First Frontiers," rodeo photographs by Surface, and Kinoshita's "The Shape-Shifting West," conceptual documentary photography and mixed-media sculpture in the main gallery.  

A third show is "Inflatable Mountain" by Texas artist Guy Hundere in the downstairs shop. It is a mind-bending group of colorful abstract landscape prints that has traveled the country to land in Tacoma for an extended stay (probably throughout the summer). The works are abstract with hints of astronomical photographs, densely congested with textural patterns. They demand close attention.

In the little upstairs gallery, Surface and Kinoshita bring a particular perspective to their views of the West. Both are Japanese-Americans born and raised in rural areas near Tacoma. Surface is a former bull rider.

Surface's photographs are the most traditional work in the show. Most of the action shots of cowboys riding bulls are shot from odd angles and often in close-up. There's one, for instance, of a cowboy being bucked off a bull, but the viewpoint is such that all we see is part of one pantleg and the underside of his boot as he is being thrown to the ground behind the bull. Others appear to have been shot from standing atop the pens just before the bulls and riders are let into the arena.  

There is also a group of three portraits of young women -- glamour shots, it might seem, of pretty girls who follow the rodeo. But each is titled "After the Ride" followed by the name of a rodeo. Their legs are heavily bruised.

Kinoshita's metalsmithing and leatherwork, including a collaboration with prison inmates in Montana, highlight the material culture of the western frontier.

The most provocative piece might be the found-material sculpture of an American flag draped over an antique ironing board. Provocative because anything dealing with the flag these days tends to be a political hot potato. This flag is ancient, probably 48 stars but not countable due to the way it is folded. It is worn and dirty, the white parts turning brown. There is an old iron sitting on it, and it is burnt through in places. We may each interpret the meaning in our own way. 

Another piece of hers is a beauty called "Grandfather." It is an upright cabinet made of dark wood with a top section like a grandfather clock but missing the clock face. The middle section is offset as if swiveled outward, and there is a large piece of quartz on the base. It is quietly attractive.  

Also quite beautiful and stately is a horse bridle draped and wound over a wooden stand. This piece is sensuous in form and rich in color. It was created in collaboration with inmates at Montana State Prison. 

"THE WEST,"noon to 5 p.m., Thursday-Sunday, and by appointment, through June 30, Minka (formerly Moss + Mineral), 821 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.961.5220

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