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Visual Edge: Found Photographs at Tacoma Community College

This is one art show you'll need to read the descriptions

"And then what happened?" acrylic and pastel by Robert Koch hangs at Tacoma Community College. Photo courtesy of Tacoma Community College

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Who doesn't enjoy browsing through old photographs from days gone by? In addition to the enjoyment that is inevitable when looking at vintage photos, the "Found Photographs" exhibition in the Gallery at Tacoma Community College is filled with creative expression in a variety of media from photos to paintings and drawings inspired by found photos, to sculpture, assemblage and collage incorporating old photos. There are stories behind many of the images that are included on wall labels along with copies of the original found photos.

Behind the counter as you enter are three acrylic and pastels by Robert Koch taken from old photographs of unknown families. The drawing is loose and emphatic with faces and figures rendered in a cartoonish style. There is a dynamic interplay between sketchy lines and modulated color areas. The line quality and especially the agitated background in "And then what happened?" looks like a de Kooning painting. This painting depicts a group of people, presumably friends or family members, chatting with great animation. Both the title and the facial expressions indicate they're gossiping.

Becky Frehse is showing three photos that are colorized or otherwise manipulated and mounted in unique boxes such as a photo of uniformed theater ushers in a hard-case coin purse with a mirror. The Frehse photo I most enjoyed was "Luncheon on the Grass," a lampoon or homage to Manet's famous painting of the same title (but alas, without the nudes). It is a group of friends picnicking on the grass circa 1940s in front of a vintage car with trunk and door opened. The photo was found in an antique store.

I also thought Jennifer Chushcoff's "Seasons, Winter, Summer" parts one and two were terrific little pieces. Each features a photo of a woman standing in her back yard in winter (heavy coat, snow on ground) mounted on a translucent acrylic box. Each image has little window "cut-outs" through which you can see the same woman in summer.

In Sara Waldo's large painting with mounted photos we see three identical images of an aeronautical engineer holding a model of a rocket he designed. Bursting from each image is a "rocket-blast" splash of bright color, red, yellow and orange, poured onto raw canvas.

Sharon Styers' group of five photo-collages are eerie or perhaps funny surrealism (depending on your point of view). In "The Morgan Bridge Explosion" we see a group of people in colorful contemporary dress lined up to watch a ballet in the air of men in business suits, actually many differently sized images of the same man walking in air above the bridge at night with floating bubbles above his head. We see the man walking in air as in time-lapse photography. In her "The Over Examined Life" we see a logger sawing a woman in half. These, along with Koch's three paintings, are among my favorites in a show that features a lot of excellent art. OK, maybe they're not all excellent art, but they all feature intriguing images. Most of the pieces can be appreciated in multiple ways, as visual structures with imaginatively interpreted stories, and as nostalgia - so many of these images are bound to stir memories. Beyond appreciation of art, they provide the fun of speculating about what the people in the pictures might have been doing and what might have happened next.

Be sure to take time to read the accompanying wall labels and study the art carefully. You'll be glad you did.

"FOUND PHOTOGRAPHS," noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, through March 20, Gallery at Tacoma Community College, Building 5A, entrance off South 12th Street between Pearl and Mildred, Tacoma, visitor parking in Lot G, 253.566.5000

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