Back to Arts

“Make/Do” at History Museum

A history of creative reuse

“Ed Kienholz (Younger),” cardboard, glue, screws and pigment, by Scott Fife. Photo credit: Mark Davison, courtesy of the artist

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

"Make/Do" at the Washington State History Museum is an exhibition of fine and utilitarian art made with found and previously used items from the 1700s to contemporary works by local and regional artists including Marita Dingus, Pat Tassoni and Jean Mandeberg.

There are 180 items on display from children's toys made from scrap material to insulated walls made from old magazine covers to crazy quilts and clothing to contemporary art that is, in the words of the museum, "upcycling, downcycling and recycling."

"Upcycling's taken on new life in recent years with a renewed focus on reuse. However, there was once a time when upcycling wasn't just a hobby, it was a way of life. The Historical Society's collections are full of examples of creative ‘making do' -- flour sack clothes, stacking toys made from tin cans, that sort of thing," said lead curator Gwen Whiting.

The first room in the gallery is a timeline of making do with "upcycling" in the form of collage and drawings on cardboard by Tacoma's R.R. Anderson of Tinkertopia, spread around the room like pages in a graphic novel. It is fascinating, and I do hope viewers will take time to read it all.

Tacoma art lovers are aware of the sculptural work of Scott Fife, creator of the "Big Dog" at Tacoma Art Museum. In this exhibition, he is represented by a sculpted head of the artist Ed Kienholz, made of cardboard and screws and pigment. The cardboard is attached with glue and screws and painted a dull gray to emulate slabs of clay. In this rendition, Kienholz has an intense and mesmerizing look in his eyes.

Who would have thought of using police tape to fashion a dress? Contemporary artist Nancy Judd of Rycycled Runway's "Caution Tape Dress" is made of caution tape recovered from the side of the road and sewn onto a vintage sundress. To be worn only by the daring.

"TrashWall," made this year by students in the Washington State University School of Design and Construction, is a four-by-three-foot panel of alternating patterns that is not only attractive as art but is meant to be used as insulation. It is constructed with recycled magazine pages. This and two other wall panels from the same group are on display. They also made durable bricks out of recycled drywall waste, which can be seen in this show.

There is a delightful toy dog and an equally delightful toy robot made by Graham Schodda out of such materials as a vintage vacuum cleaner, hair dryer, ice cream scoops, jigsaw, baseball glove, toasters, and kitchen utensils. They're fun to look at and probably should be viewed more as art than as toys.

There is a "basket" by Jan Hopkins made from dried orange peels, wood, paper and thread. The stitched-together swirl patterns look like leather or clay. I put the term "basket" in quotes because it looks more like a pot than a basket. But whatever it is, it's very attractive.

There is a wondrous amount of fascinating history and art in this exhibition. A museum worker said the show is not getting as many visitors as they expected. I hope reading this will encourage more of you to see it.

"MAKE/DO," 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Third Thursday, through Dec. 6, free for members; $14 adults, $11 seniors, students, and active-duty and retired military, $40 per family, free for children younger than 5, patrons with a Washington Quest card or with a Washington Foster Parent license (and ID), $1 per person or $2 per family, free Third Thursday, Washington State History Museum, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma,

Read next close


Music’s direct line

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search