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Juried art exhibition at Tacoma Community College

“Spring Break” mixed media on drywall by Michael Huffman. Photo courtesy Tacoma Community College

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Juried art exhibitions inevitably include a few clunkers, a few so-so works, and -- if we're lucky -- some excellent art. Sometimes the inconsistency in quality is because there were not enough good entries to choose from, and sometimes it is because the juror feels compelled to include a variety of media and styles. And so it goes with the 15th Annual Juried Local Art Exhibition at Tacoma Community College.

The clunkers are mostly near the front of the gallery, in particular, the three pieces behind the front desk, which look like student work. There are some traditional figurative sculptures that are well executed but unexciting, and there are a couple of pieces by Paul T. Steuke, Sr. that almost hit the target smack-dab in the bullseye, but not quite. These are knockoffs of Renoir paintings that may or may not have been intended as lampoons. Finally, they just come across as slightly weak copies with none of the lushness of a Renoir.

Now for the good stuff. The good stuff is really, really good.

Michael Huffman's two paintings in mixed media on drywall are knockouts. "Spring Break" features cartoon-like figures in a style like that of Jean-MIchel Basquiat. There are funny-looking little creatures, one giving a middle-finger salute, painted with wildly exuberant brushstrokes and slung in circular sweeps like drawings by Dale Chihuly. His "Haiku on Floor" is a poem in hand-scribbled letters in gold, pink and black framed by rough, dark wood. Both of these have a raw emotive power that is hard to ignore.

Lynette Charters, a juror's award winner, has three paintings in the show, all from her "Muses" series. This series is based on famous paintings by old and modern masters done in plaster, acrylic and candy wrappers (usually gold or silver foil). They are copies of master paintings in which the central figure or figures, always women, are partly missing. Their shapes -- not their clothing, but only their faces and bodies -- are left as unpainted parts of the board cleverly placed so that the knotholes become nipples, eyes and navels. Each piece in the series is a biting comment on women's place in art history as empty bodies and faces with no humanity. They -- the paintings, not necessarily the women depicted in them -- are brilliant in concept and beautifully painted. They are homages to and criticisms of famous painters. Seen in this show are Charters' versions of "Rosetti's Museum Verticordia," "Klimt's Muse Judith" and "Tanoux's Muses in a Harem" - each a Charters version of the original.

Also outstanding is David W. Murdach's sculpture, "Night in Motion," lamp parts and glass knobs. This shiny, circular sculpture looks like a rococo steampunk ship's wheel or ferris wheel or playful whirligig. However you may describe it, it is joyful. I wanted to give it a spin, but it doesn't move.

Also worthy of note are three soft and elegant mixed media paintings by Laraine Wade that are sumi-like in their directness and simplicity; two abstract paintings based on landscape with bodies of water by Becky Knold, which are gutsier than her usual; and three dark and brooding pastels by the collaborative duo of Ric Hall and Ron Schmitt, which depict the underbelly of urban life with wonderfully rich colors.

There is much more to see in this show, including a lot of nice photography that I have not mentioned and works by such well-known area artists as Joe Batt, Lois Beck, Frank Dippolito, Mia Schute, Jason Sobottka and William Turner.

"15th Annual Juried Local Art Exhibition," noon-5 p.m., Monday-Thursday, through May 5, Tacoma Community College, Building 5A, entrance off S. 12th St. between Pearl and Mildred, Tacoma, visitor parking in Lot G, tacomacc.edu

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