I don't understand why Tacoma Art Museum seems to be on a glass art jag lately. Their newest show is "The Marioni Family: Radical Experimentation in Glass and Jewelry" (watch for my review in this week's Volcano). The adjacent gallery in the museum is a Dale Chihuly show. I respect Chihuly and even like some of his stuff, and I think the Marioni family show is great. But just how much glass art does Tacoma need?
Hasn't anyone told the TAM curators that the Museum of Glass is just a stone's throw away?
We're inundated with glass. It's everywhere - everywhere but the Traver Gallery, which specialized in glass art but recently closed. There's the bridge of glass and the Chihuly works in Union Station and the glass blowing school in the same neighborhood, and more Chihuly in the lobby of The News Tribune building, and doesn't he have a studio or warehouse - or two or three - somewhere in Tacoma?
And of course there's the new Chihuly Garden and Glass Museum a mere 35 miles north at the Seattle Center. Oh, and I forgot: they have reinstalled Chihuly's glass floats at TAM.
It would be great if Tacoma and the Pacific Northwest could be known as a hub for great art. But I don't want the area to be known as a glass art center. Being singled out as a glass art center as opposed to simply an art center is like being called a great woman painter instead of a great painter.
Paul Marioni, a truly great artist who happens to work with glass, said it best. His words are printed on the walls of the Tacoma Art Museum. He said, "I am not a glass artist. I am an artist..." I love him for that. He gets the difference.
Singling out an artist based on media lessens the value of the artist's work. I mean who wants to be the best bridge painter or the best rose painter? It's like when I hear wannabe artists all the time saying I want to learn watercolor painting or I want to learn acrylic painting, when they should be saying I want to learn painting. Painting is painting; art is art. Separating by media is, at best, an old fashioned idea. It was fashionable when I was in college 50 years ago. Art majors - at least in the backwards college I attended - were required to take watercolor classes. I hated them. Painting is about line, color, shape and idea no matter whether it is watercolor or oil or finger paint. And art is art whether it is in glass or paint or shaped from wood and steel.
So, even though I love the Marioni show, I'm really sick and tired of all this glass. I'm tempted to say maybe somebody should throw some stones, but I can't advocate destruction, even if it's only metaphorical.