By Dave R. Davison
In our culture, many artists, being the sensitive people they are, play the role of seer. In tune with the currents flowing all around them, they can often discern the shape of coming events. In light of the racially-charged events that recently transpired in Charlottesville, some of the work in Clarissa Sligh’s new Kittredge Gallery show, “Am I Safe?” appears positively prescient.
Sligh is a nationally known artist who deals with issues of race, gender, politics and history using a wide range of media. The Kittredge show includes many great examples of Sligh’s photography, collage and written word. The soul of the show, however, is a series of hanging, mobile-type constructions that consist mostly of paper cranes.
It is said that in Japan, the folding of 1,000 origami paper cranes would make one’s wish come true. More recently, paper cranes have become a widespread symbol of hope and healing. It is in the spirit of hope and healing that Sligh sits folding her paper cranes, one by one. Sligh’s cranes, made of different kinds of paper, are arranged into patterns. There are gold and silver cranes. There are cranes made of brightly-hued foil. There are cranes folded from rustic, black paper, cranes made of maps and cranes made from the pages of books. The books chosen by Sligh are volumes of white supremacy literature. Close examination of the individual cranes soon yields evidence of this source material. They look innocent, yet they feel radioactive with words and ideas that possess a contaminating potential. Sligh hopes to tame them, yet some taint of malevolence hangs about them.
The show’s title piece, “Am I Safe?,” is a curtain of the paper cranes in black, gold and white (the white being those made from white supremacy book pages) that is hung in front of another piece called “The Men,” a series of black and white photo portraits of a variety of black men doing ordinary things that ordinary men do on ordinary days. The origami screen functions as a protective shield, yet it also forces the viewer to get close to the portraits in order to examine them in detail.
Sligh is also a book artist and some of her book art is currently on display in the Collins Memorial Library, not far from the Kittredge Gallery (on the wonderful campus of the University of Puget Sound).
Sligh will give two public talks. Admission is complimentary and refreshments will be served.
On Sept. 5, 6-7 p.m., the artist will give a book talk, along with partner Kim Purser, in Archives and Special Collections, second floor, Collins Memorial Library.
Sept. 6, 5-7 p.m., is the opening reception in the Kittredge Gallery, which will feature a talk by Sligh at 5:30 p.m.
“Am I Safe?” runs through Sept. 23. Sligh’s visit and exhibit are supported by the Catharine Gould Chism Fund for the Humanities and the Arts, Collins Memorial Library, Department of Art and Art History, Department of History, and African American Studies.
Fumiko Kimura: ‘One. Dot. Sumi’
In Kittredge’s second gallery are works by Tacoma-based artist Fumiko Kimura. Kimura’s sumi paintings range in scale from the intimate to large installations. Her works are based on Asian-influenced brush calligraphy. They include paintings of landscapes, flowers, insects, and birds, as well as mixed-media collages derived from an experimentation. The works relate to her experience as a biochemist and her more than 50 years as a visual artist.
Kimura’s brush work is dynamic and expressive of a wide range of moods, tones and emotions. Calligraphy is motion captured and preserved on paper. The expressive energy of an emotionally-charged moment is there for all time. Kimura’s work can be poetic and musical, but it is also infused with a spirit of restless exploration. New ideas seem continually to occur to the artist. In this wonderful show the viewer will encounter blind drawing, tea painting, diffused drippings of color, collage made with decorative paper or tree bark or even disks of wood that were sliced from a thick limb and painted with colorful people and animals that look almost like embroidered patches.
Kimura is a co-founder of Puget Sound Sumi Artists in Washington. She will give a public talk in Kittredge Gallery on Sept. 13, 5-6 p.m. Admission is complimentary.
For information on Kittredge Gallery visit pugetsound.edu/about/campus-the-northwest/places-spaces/kittredge-gallery. The website has not yet been updated for the current season, but presumably that will be remedied soon.