Amazing art at Tacoma Art Museum

Immigrant Artists and Native Portraiture

By Alec Clayton on November 1, 2018

I visited Tacoma Art Museum with the intention of reviewing Sun, Shadow, Stone: The Photography of Terry Toedtemeier and Familiar Faces & New Voices: Surveying Northwest Art. After spending time with these two shows, I decided to wander into the Haub Family Collection to see what was there, and I was so astounded by some of the art that I had to change my plans about what to review.

But first, a few words about Toedtemeier, a Northwest photographer known for dramatic black and white photographs of the Columbia River Gorge, Oregon coastline and southeastern Oregon. He worked almost exclusively in black and white photography, but there are a couple of color photos in the show. His photographs are of majestic scenes, vast horizons, craggy rocks and mountains, mist and shadows. They are mostly high contrast images with dramatic lighting and framing (and by framing I do not mean the mats and frames, but rather the placement and selection of images within the pictures).

Familiar Faces & New Voices is a collection of Northwest artists from the famous to the newly emerging, with works as old as Vincent Colyer's "Home of the Yakamas," 1875, to Patti Warashina's "Amazed," 1984, and other contemporary works. I will review this show for another issue. But now, on to the Western art in the Haub Collection.

I was expecting to see more of the cowboy and Indian art I had seen many times, but then I came upon Dustin Yellin's "Migration in Four Parts," and I was flabbergasted and intrigued. This mixed-media sculpture in glass, collage, acrylic and steel is a narrative of immigration moving across the Western landscape left to right like wagon trains headed westward, with a series of tiny figures and animals cut out and suspended between sheets of glass. There must be close to a thousand figures, and I don't know how many layers of glass there are, but it must be close to a dozen. Imagine if you will, Jackson Pollock's drip paintings printed on multiple sheets of layered glass with each drip and splatter and lacy skein of paint being a person or an animal or a mountain or tree, and that might begin to give you a mental picture of Yellin's sculpture. A person could spend days looking at it. It's like searching for Waldo, and Waldo is lost in the vast American wilderness.

The other piece that knocked me out was Rick Bartow's "Old Time Picture 1." From the wall label for this painting: "Bartow is known for his powerful, vibrant and expressive images of people and animals. His work is honest and provocative depicting emotions that set it apart from stereotypical representations of Native people and culture." It is a portrait of a man that somehow mixes comedy with fierceness. The big head and tiny hands are drawn with rough, expressive strokes. He is shouting and wearing on his head what can be interpreted as a feather head-dress or a crown of thorns. The emotional impact of this painting is impossible to ignore.

These are but two of many impressive works in this show, including a lovely little abstract painting by Georgia O'Keefe.

Immigrant Artists and the American West, Native Portraiture: Power and Perception, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday-Sunday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Thursday; Native Portraiture through Feb. 10, Immigrant Artists through June 14, Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, $15 adults, $13 students and seniors, free for military and children 5 and younger, free Third Thursday from 5-8 p.m., 253.272.4258,