In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit to some confusion upon receiving this week’s Metal-Urge story assignment. Doesn’t my editor realize there are far better people than I to write about music? And doesn’t he realize that I am a bit more disposed toward classical music — despite my brief fling with metal in ’84 or so when I discovered Def Leppard contained hotties with English accents?
Duh. Turns out my editor was talking about Metal-Urge, the massive celebration of all things metal-art forged by 100 artists holding firm in 24 venues all around Tacoma through the month of June and beyond. Tacoma Arts Administrator Amy McBride created the event, her first large-scale project for the cultural tourism program, nearly a decade ago.
Then, as now, the event has always centered around the major exhibition — Ornament as Art: Avant Garde Jewelry from the Helen Williams Drutt Collection (opens June 6 at the Tacoma Art Museum) — and carries the theme through to galleries, which will show off pieces brought forward in a call-to-artists several months ago.
With a “well, duh, Jess,” I realized that Metal-Urge is taken more from metallurgy than from a burning desire to listen to Judas Priest. You know, metallurgy. According to my Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, circa 1941 (because such a cool word deserves old-school treatment), metallurgy is “the science and art of extracting metals from their ores, refining them, and preparing them for use.”
So does that mean there’ll be crusty prospecting types wandering the streets of our fine town sifting through the water at Tollefson Plaza and Broadway? Not hardly.
Today’s metallurgists are cool cats who create exciting, fun, and even — dare I say it — sexy work. Some works provoke thought; some invite wearing; some of the works — some of my favorite pieces — cry out to be used in the home. These artists-in-metal (and some mixed media) make and will show items as varied as Fred Conlon’s relatively literal Gnome-Be-Gone in The Gnome-Be-Gone War II at BKB & Company, down to the various artists’ renditions of chastity belts at Mineral.
And of course, the artists themselves will be around for a variety of cool-as-steel events happening through July. For starters, there will be an opening reception at Fulcrum set for June 4 from 6 to 10 p.m. with artists Molly Epstein, Chris McMullen, Joseph Miller, Mick Newham, and James Porter presenting The Heavens Reflect Our Labor. Rock, Paper, Scissors — another group show (natch!) — happening at The Grand Impromptu Gallery will offer up an opening reception June 5 from 5 to 8 p.m. Yet another group show opening reception, featuring metal artist Catherine Grisez, who creates sinuous, succulent — yes, succulent! — work that defies the medium, takes place at Traver Gallery June 13 from 5 to 8 p.m. Showing with Grisez are Laurie Hall, Ron Ho, Nancy Worden and Ada Rosman. This will be followed by another group show at Tacoma Art Place on June 18 (Third Thursday ArtWalk). Shore up your art-appreciating energy on that day since the Gnome-Be-Gone War II exhibit reception will take place at BKB & Company along with a group show reception at the Handforth Gallery. Justin Hahn, Steve Barnard, and Marsha Glaziere will be the artists at Handforth. If you’re all meet-and-greeted out by that point, you can enjoy a free short film at the Grand Cinema, Cirque Calder, about a guy who created a circus from wire and other random household items. Or, you can watch metallurgy in action up close at the Bronze Pour at The Bronze Works. If that seems like way too much to do in one night, you can wait to hang out and party with the bronze pourers on June 20 from noon to 9 p.m., when they team up with the Robert Daniel Gallery for a Metal-Urge Block Party (because nothing says metal quite like food, wine, beer garden and karaoke — where you can pretend to sport big hair and flash that air guitar).
Naturally, the big guys — Tacoma Art Museum and Museum of Glass — will get in on the metal action, culminating (but not ending) July 31, with a figurative hunk o’ metal — with the Iron Artist challenge at 6 p.m., which will feature teams pitted against each other creating wearable art for models, at 6 p.m. The metal action will even heat up Tollefson Plaza, where for a nominal fee, you can create your own aluminum scratch block and cast an aluminum tile.
Of course, this is just scratching the surface of all the different events and artists bringing non-head-banging action to our fair city throughout the summer.
For more events, workshops, and information, go to www.tacomaculture.org/arts/MetalUrge.asp or keep your eye on the Weekly Volcano to spew molten metal goodness in the coming months.