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‘To Sing of Beauty’

Celebrating Black beauty at Tacoma Art Museum

“Black is the Color,” still from looped video, salvaged televisions, and cords by Paul Stephen Benjamin, Artist proof from an edition of 5. Photo courtesy of the artist

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In case you haven't noticed, Tacoma's art scene is no longer provincial. The City of Destiny is now a center of grown-up art, art that is socially and politically hip, that comments on current issues that can dare to be innovative and risky. Part of it might be an influx of artists from our northern neighbor who can no longer afford to live and work in the Emerald City. It probably began when Tacoma Art Museum moved from an old bank building into its present location and with the coming of Museum of glass. But Tacoma art's growing up can also be attributed to such innovative programs as Art Space and its revolving shows and events throughout the city, and to new innovative galleries such as Feast Arts Center.

But the crown jewel is Tacoma Art Museum thanks to shows like Hide/Seek, the big gay art show in 2012; Art AIDS America in 2015, America's first exhibition by and about the AIDS epidemic; and 30 Americans, the exhibition of Black American artists with the likes of Kehinde Wiley and Jean-Michel Basquiat in 2017. And now TAM is showing another Black-focus exhibition, "To Sing of Beauty," with video installations by C. David Ingram and Paul Stephen Benjamin.

"We are thrilled to exhibit our new acquisition of David Ingram's video," said TAM Executive Director David F. Setford. "'To Sing of Beauty' brings together our exhibition and collection goals of representing our vital and diverse communities. Artists like Ingram and Benjamin demonstrate the highest accomplishments of regional artists."

Both Ingram and Benjamin celebrate Black women artists in their new work. Ingram's video diptych The Deeps: Go Away from My Window, features her collaborators, composer and vocalist Hanna Benn and actress Rachael Ferguson. She pairs this with Procession, the other half of the diptych, which conjures a sense of the African-American Northern Migration via railway with the shifting landscape of contemporary Seattle. (Art lovers will recall Jacob Lawrence's migration series.) In Procession, Ingram brought together her circle of artists and performers to enact dream-like scenes filmed in Seattle's King Street Station.

Benjamin generates a musical round by reworking footage of Nina Simone's rendition of the traditional song, "Black Is the Color of My True Love's Hair" and inserting a subtle audio shift to change Simone's phrasing into "black is a color" that highlights the essence of Blackness. Simone wears a black dress with black boots and plays a black piano while sitting on a black bench.

"Through the pairing of Ingram and Benjamin, we are able to illuminate the richness of these artists' visions and experiences and open the possibility for exciting new experiences in our galleries," said Deputy Director and Chief Curator Rock Hushka. "These artists deftly employ strategies to activate the power of music, history, and personal experience."

"TO SING OF BEAUTY," 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday, through Sept. 30, $15 adults, $13 students and seniors, free for military and children 5 and younger, free Third Thursday from 5-8 p.m., Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 253.272.4258,

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