950 Gallery exhibit draws upon lunar imagery

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(left) one of Raven Juarez’s floral paintings is set beside one of Asia Tail’s iconic lunar paintings. Photo courtesy of 950 Gallery

With the coming of a new year, there have been several changes to Spaceworks Gallery, the first of which is that it is no longer called Spaceworks Gallery. Instead, the space at 950 Pacific Ave. shall henceforth be known as the 950 Gallery. Another change is that the gallery is only open on Thursdays, 1-5 p.m. and 1-9 p.m. on Third Thursdays. (Formerly the space was open five days a week).  It is also open “by appointment” and the folks who run the gallery are very accommodating to opening the space at times convenient to those who wish to visit the exhibits. (Call (253) 627-2175 to make an appointment.)

950 Gallery’s new show, “Moon Moan: New Works by Raven Juarez and Asia Tail,” is an exhibit by two lifelong friends whose works are blended together throughout the gallery space. The two women use the moon as a symbol of the feminine to explore themes of womanhood and the lunar pull that we are all subject to.

Tail, who has become very active on the Tacoma art scene over the past several years, is showing a series of paintings and mixed media compositions done on circular surfaces — meant to represent the moon. These come in two sizes. The smaller size, called the “Moon Moan Collage Series,” combines print imagery with other effects. Many feature images of statues from antiquity and other elements, such as a collage of watch faces.

The larger circular wood panels are mostly symbolic, mandala-like paintings done in gray-tones and they appear to be iconic images derived from their playful titles, all of which consist of humorous or paradoxical couples of words: “Swarm Form” (a face in silhouette surrounded by moths or butterflies — the whole thing is superimposed by a spider web); “Hound Bound” (a double face in which a dog and a woman share a single eye); “Strange Change” and “Bird Heard” are a few examples (the last breaks the strict use of grey by including a golden ear on its surface).

There is something almost heraldic about the precision of the imagery used on these lunar paintings. They could almost be the shields of knights engaged in an enigmatic quest.

Juarez, by comparison, has a much more organic style. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, where she concentrated on child psychology and the visual arts, Juarez is now an early education teacher in Seattle.

Juarez’s work can approach surrealist dimensions, as with a portrait of a woman who has two sets of eyes. The effect is at once alluring and disconcerting. Elsewhere, Juarez depicts night skies filled with dazzling stars and heavenly bodies. What I find most captivating are Juarez’s dense forest scenes. She depicts landscapes packed with otherworldly vegetation. These vignettes of verdant abundance seem to urge viewers to cast their eyes to the wonders of insurgent nature, which is as intent upon surging up out of the ground with irrepressible willfulness. These scenes could as easily be a growth of wild plants taking over a vacant lot as of the trees whose spirits wish to crowd together in a great forest. Juarez often adds three-dimensional elements like yarn or satellite objects to her work.

“Moon Moan” runs through Feb. 17. For further information visit www.spaceworkstacoma.com/gallery.

Spaceworks Tacoma is currently accepting applications from Pacific Northwest artists and curators to host an exhibition in the 950 Gallery. The deadline to apply is March 29. Interested parties can apply online at the above web address.

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