Art show celebrates surface textures of ships at Foss Waterway Seaport

“47ºN122ºW-20,” mixed media, 2015, by Shon Frostad.

Foss Waterway Seaport is hosting “47 º North, 122 º West,” an exhibition of paintings by Tacoma-based artist Shon Frostad, now through Jan. 19, 2018. An artist reception is scheduled for Thurs., Nov. 16, 5-8 p.m., at 705 Dock St. on Tacoma’s waterfront. The event is free and light refreshments will be served.

The sea and the universal language employed to navigate its vastness are the subject of this show. Picture a shipping vessel at sea: on its side appears a system of letters and numbers that maritime operators can read at a distance; while to the uninitiated, they withhold their meaning. Frostad abstracts this code in large, mixed-media canvases whose layered and textured surfaces appear aged by the effects of time, weather and salt-water submersion, mimicking the side of a ship.

“The symbols on the ship’s hull indicate such things as a vessel’s ‘draft’, or depth in the water, what the allowable draft is for that vessel depending on the season, and even the particular ocean the ship may be traveling in,” says Frostad. “One circular symbol indicates the insurer of the vessel; another where a tugboat may or may not contact the ship’s hull. Yet others show where a ship’s inner bulkheads or compartments are.” These symbols describe the anatomy and other important aspects of each unique vessel. The works in this show are brushed on large (up to 4-feet x8-feet) wood panels, made to echo the weathered skin of a container ship. “This body of work gives a close-up view of the aging process of steel-hulled marine vessels resulting from time, sun, salt and the living sea.”

Frostad is a Washington native, “Raised in the ‘inland empire’ of eastern Washington, where one isn’t exposed to the marine world. Growing up, however, I frequently visited family in the Puget Sound area and loved the sea, the ocean, and this cool, wet environment that was so much different from my home.”

He has also lived in Japan and on the island of Kuaui, environments that have influenced his painting. Now based in Tacoma, “I’m inspired by the way that the light, water and sky of the Northwest act together in changing color tones and intensities.  My color palette is derived from the light-affected colors found in the natural world, as well as the manmade objects within it that are constantly transforming through the organic processes of rusting and decay.”

The title of this show, “47 º North, 122 º West,” refers to the geographic coordinates for Tacoma but it also suggests a broader metaphysical map, one where humans forever seek to identify their bearings on the sea of place, chance and destiny.

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