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Local arts previews and interviews

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AMY JOHNSON: You know those things you have always been secretly terrified of? There are those who seek them out (and I’m not just talking about sneaking out in the dead of night to hunt mysterious, alien-esque life forms). These people are Brave. Or Crazy. But most likely Brave. You know how you’ve always been afraid of your heritage? This is why we should all go see Amy Johnson’s installation opening Feb. 6 at the Minnaert Center in Olympia. She will explore the tension between the myths and realities embedded in her Southern heritage and the cultural expectations for women.

[Minnaert Center, opening reception Friday, Feb. 6, 6-8 p.m., 2011 Mottman Road S.W., Olympia, 360.596.5501]

CHARLES DARWIN’S BIRTHDAY PARTY: Even after all these years, 200 to be exact, since Charles Darwin first sucked air and 150 since the publication of his On the Origin of Species, it is simply astounding: Evolution remains controversial. Is there any reasonable excuse for what a recent Gallup poll exposed? Do 43 percent of Americans really reject poor Darwin’s work altogether? Seriously?

With humanity suffering such apparent scientific dire straights, we are lucky someone somewhere is bent on mixing things up. Enter the Grand Impromptu Gallery, Tacoma’s nifty contemporary cooperative. These fine people, 46 actually, will reject the notion that giant nebulous aliens landed here in vagina-shaped spacecraft will introduced life via a pastry squirter, and interpret Darwin and/or his science through artistic endeavors all month long as Evolutionary Tales. Maybe you disagree. Certainly not enough to miss their Charles Drawin Birthday Party inside their gallery. Think about it.

[Grand Impromptu Gallery, through Feb. 28, birthday party Feb. 12, 5-8 p.m., 608 S. Fawcett, Tacoma, 253.572.9232.]    


Much of the world believes in ghosts. Or past lives. Or the paranormal. Or Chinese tunnels underneath Tacoma. Or all of the above. Many believe that ghosts and spirits, on some level and senses, in some deep part of their essence or perineum or subconscious, are absolutely freaking real.

The Washington State History Museum believes. No, really. It’s their job to channel the dead. For instance: Ghosts of the Great Hall: Pirates, Shipwrecks and Lost Treasures — their dramatic snippet this Saturday afternoon — will channel Washington’s infamous maritime dead. Some guy will dress up like D.B. Cooper — notorious dead airplane pirate — maybe fondle a few chicken bones, twirl some tea leaves, possibly even bounce the dried skull of a small Willow Goldfinch off his bicep, then attempt to communicate with very, very ancient Washington mariners Francis Drake, Alejandro Malaspina and ilk in order to discover lost fortune, and teach you a thing or two about this state’s history. Seriously. I’m not making this up. Well, not sure about the Goldfinch. Artifacts, historic photos, old crumbly documents, maybe even a disemboweled gourd and spooky black cat will enhance the show.

[Washington State History Museum, Saturday, Feb. 7, 1-3 p.m., $6-$8, 1911 Pacific Ave., Tacoma, 888.BE.THERE]

Rear of House

This is why you live here. This is one of those hidden gems of the South Sound. A sushi house with a conveyor belt, hanging local art because it adores local artists and helping charities and loving life and, of course, salmon roe. Artist, singer, actor Liza Brown will place her pop art at Sushi Revolution beginning Wednesday, Feb. 11, because Revolution owner Hannah Y. Pak wouldn’t have it any other way. Pak opens her walls to local artists. This is why there is hope for beauty and humankind in the face of CD gouging and Zoloft and printer cartridges and $3 bottled water.

I caught up with South Tacoma resident Brown — a painter for five years, a set designer, a bistro chalkboard artist, and moonlighter with the Led Zeppelin cover band Kashmir — who will cut the ribbon to her mural, Tacoma’s Tribute to Tokidoki, and many pop art pieces Wednesday at Pak’s Tacoma sushi joint.

WEEKLY VOLCANO: Please describe Tacoma’s Tribute to Tokidoki.

LIZA BROWN: The 6 by16-foot mural of cartoon characters inspired by Tokidoki is installed at various depths to create a diorama effect that accentuates the sushi conveyer belt that ties in the whole painting. Professional Robert Plant impersonator Terry George (formerly with No Quarter) built the canvases and installed the mural.

VOLCANO: What inspired you to create it?

BROWN: Hannah wanted some color and pop for her west wall where she used to rotate consignment pieces. She specifically wanted something urbane, fresh, and youthful. She has an incredible eye for composition and style. She also hoped to appeal to local tattoo artists and soldiers, which make up a lot of her clientele. I designed the general idea and layout of the mural. She chose her favorite characters and even designed some herself, with my artist’s hand simply carrying out her requests. I tell her it was a team effort. She laughs bashfully and denies that she is a natural designer.

VOLCANO:  What intrigues you about pop art?

BROWN: I am thrilled by the crisp lines and stark, dramatic contrast of pop art. I grew up drawing fashion designs and reading comic books in the Alaskan wilderness where there was no television, so drawing was everything to me.

VOLCANO: You are donating five percent of your profits from this show to Why Knot Me? Why?

BROWN: I am the community liason for Why Knot Me? It is an incredible nonprofit started by Nancy Savage. She is a survivor of domestic violence and wanted to find a way to prevent teens from growing up into abusers. She hoped to create a simple tool that would inform them of their alternatives.

VOLCANO: Are you concerned Sushi Revolution patrons will be glued to the conveyor belt of food rather than your art?

BROWN: I hope they love the food as much as I do! Actually, the sushi is the real art, it is so stimulating to all the senses, and my art comes in second place since you just can’t eat it.

VOLCANO: What is your favorite dish on the conveyor belt at Sushi Revolution?

BROWN: I’m a huge fan of the tuna (slightly seared) with wasabi mayo. It is light, tangy, and buttery with a subtle, spicy finish.

VOLCANO: Do you think a gallery that displays art on a conveyor belt would work in Tacoma?

BROWN: Cool! Now that would be novel, you know, it just might work. There might be injuries when it comes to wire sculpture.


P.S. Brown’s secret ambition is to cover South Tacoma Way with murals. She’s chatting up Pro Max and Metal Magic about various projects.

[Sushi Revolution, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 7 p.m., 5225 Tacoma Mall Blvd., Tacoma, 253.475.5559]

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