Local museums offer taste of Northwest art

Local museums offer taste of Northwest art

“Wow!”  That, said Stephanie Stebich, is the number one word visitors use when they first enter the Dale Chihuly’s Northwest exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum.  Stebich, the museum’s director was there to talk about the man she considers America’s most recognized contemporary artist.  That man, Dale Chihuly, is one of just a few Tacoma natives being shown this month at two of the areas largest museums.  Works by glass artist, Dale Chihuly and photographer Virna Haffer fill two of the Tacoma Art Museum’s exhibition rooms.  For a third Tacoma native, read Maggie Kelly’s article about Peter Serko on page 7.  Serko’s work is being shown across the Chihuly Bridge of Glass at the Museum of Glass.

Chihuly is indisputably one of the leaders in the school of glass but native baskets, trade blankets and Edward S. Curtis’s photographs of North American Indians influenced much of his work and collections of these artifacts breathe warmth and meditative calm into this exhibition.  Overhead, two amazing Day Island Willits canoes punctuate the exhibit.  Chihuly called them, “Some of the most beautiful canoes ever made.”

Chihuly grew up in Tacoma, attended Stadium High School and graduated from Wilson High School.  “I love Tacoma.  It’s my hometown.  It’s where I was raised.”

“I’m so proud of Tacoma for building three museums in three years,” said Chihuly.  He’s been a major supporter of Tacoma’s art scene.  So much so that Stebich said, “If you really love Dale’s work, you want to see more of it and that means you have to come to Tacoma.”[singlepic id=22 w=320 h=240 float=right]

Just down the hall from the Chihuly exhibit is the work of Virna Haffer.  Haffer has largely slipped from the American consciousness but her work spanned six decades beginning in the 20s.  A prolific photographer, she also found success as a printmaker, painter, musician, sculptor and published writer.  The sheer scope of her work is breathtaking.  Etchings share space with photograms, which share space with portraits and on and on it seems to go.  Museum staff sorted through 30,000 images at the Washington State Historical Society and Tacoma Public Library’s Special Collections to create the exhibit.

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“A Turbulent Lens: The Photographic Art of Virna Haffer” runs July 2 through Oct. 16, 2011.

“Dale Chihuly’s Northwest” runs through Sept. 25, 2011.