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For the people

Creating for public consumption

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Jennevieve Schlemmer’s trowel is more like a palette knife, and she works on the mosaic in patches, sort of working a mini puzzle on a piece of Hardibacker that will be part of a bigger puzzle when put together with the other mosaic pieces.

All together, they will form a statement about the action of baseball, which she considers ironic since baseball is a sport with much anticipation and not so much action.

She works in her garage studio with KUOW on in the background, (“I’m an NPR junkie,” she explains) surrounded by her work in progress — the baseball bat, ball, and Batman-like action starbursts that will become a public art installation at Cheney Stadium — as well as past work. There are the partially mosaic-ed bowling pins and slug with delicate scroll pattern on his side, the sculptured eggs with wings on a long stick that had been part of a large installation, the painting of the Seattle skyline as seen heading North on I-5 (potentially an homage to her days spent commuting to that city after she purchased her home in Tacoma) and, outside the garage as she leads me into her house, there’s the Zeit-bike with recycled-tie “feathers” that bustle down over the back wheel like a resplendent Goodwill peacock.

In her home, a bucket filled with tissue paper flowers catches my attention, and she laughs that those were going to be the Zeit-bike before she changed her mind and used the ties, which were originally supposed to be part of a different project.

Schlemmer’s home shows that she displays all the traits expected of an artist, with brightly colored walls, a collection of masks, and a bamboo-painted wall; missing are some of the paintings I had seen in my last visit to her home: those now hang at Tempest Lounge where her work hangs in lieu of a “formal gallery” show.

And while she’s still awaiting that elusive show that embraces paintings expressing some of her political viewpoints, she’s content with creating public art, which she studied and degreed in at the University of Washington.

“With public art, people have no problem expressing their opinions,” she explains, and adds another benefit to creating public art: community. While her projects at the police substation on North 26th Street, as well as the tidepool project restoration on Ruston Way have Schlemmer interacting with different communities than she had back in her days as a tile-shop working Seattle commuter, she finds being a non-commuting resident also has benefits.  “As soon as I stopped commuting, I found the community was a lot more open and friendly,” she explains.

[Tempest Lounge, 913 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Tacoma, 253.272.4904]

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