Recent local blog posts

"Stick Your Neck Out to Create Change—Why and How," with John Graham

OlyBlog Home Page - Mon, 04/25/2016 - 1:22pm
Event:  Wed, 04/27/2016 - 11:00am - 12:15pm

Evergreen is hosting a series of lectures on thinking about the Anthropocene - the idea that our effects on the planet are changing it so profoundly that we're entering a new geological era. The next one is this Wednesday at 11:00 AM in the Communications Building at Evergreen. (Earlier talks in the series, and other recent talks at the college , are now available on YouTube.)

Stick Your Neck Out to Create Change—Why and How, John Graham

 ”The main reason why important challenges such as climate change don’t get met as they should is not that people lack ideas or ideals. There are plenty of smart people with fine ideals. But becoming an agent of change can be scary and too many people hesitate to put the ideas and ideals they have into action. ” So says John Graham, a Director of the Giraffe Heroes Project, a global NGO that for more than 30 years has been inspiring and training people to stick their necks out to help solve tough public problems, from climate change to inner city violence to crimes against women. He’ll share with you what he’s learned about sticking your own neck out for what you believe in–lessons from the more than 1300 brave activists honored by the Giraffe Heroes Project so far–and from his own lifetime as a risk-taking adventurer, helping people the world over take on the problems that test our times.”

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Adopt-A-Pet Dog of the Week

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/25/2016 - 8:04am

ThurstonTalk

Submitted by Adopt-A-Pet of Shelton My name is Spice and I am a 1 year old Female Lab/Pit Mix/something else. Check out my great ears and try to guess what other breed is in my DNA?? I am a very sweet girl, who has been on her own trying to survive for a while. The

Rebuilding Together Thurston County Continues to Help Change Lives

Thurston Talk - Mon, 04/25/2016 - 6:00am

ThurstonTalk

You can see the emotion on Lane Sater’s face as he repeats a heart-wrenching story of a woman who has been the victim of domestic violence. For the past five years, more than 2,000 times, she has entered an unsafe house. There are holes in the walls, the carpet has been ripped out, the windows

Shivas “Used to Being Cool”

K Records - Mon, 04/25/2016 - 1:34am
  If the Shivas aren’t used to being cool, they better adapt quickly. The world won’t be changing its mind any time soon.   K Song of the Day: Shivas “Used to Being Cool” from their album You Know What to Do [KLP252]. The Shivas album You Know What to Do [KLP252] is available now […]
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Expanding truth behind why Ritchie Brothers moved to Napavine

Olympia Time - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 8:30pm


One of the best-loved tales about the Thurston County commission is how they "chased" Ritchie Brothers, an auction business dealing in large equipment (cranes, tractors and such) out of the county a few years ago.

I've poked around before looking for evidence of this, but I never really came up with anything. But, the story keeps getting repeated (without much, if any, citation), so I thought I'd dig down into it.

But, what I've yet to find is any sort of smoking gun, any sort of specific example that anyone can point to as the axle upon which this County Commission vs. Ritchie Brothers narrative can turn.

There's not expansion proposed that the county shuts down because of environmental protections. There's no new expensive sewer system. Nothing.

So, let's take a look back where this all begins when the Ritchie Brothers company starts talking about a possible move from Thurston County.

Centralia Chronicle in 2009:
Even with a stumbling economy, businesses and people still show up by the thousands to place their bids. If anything, Cunningham thinks the recession has helped business. "Instead of buying new equipment, more people are looking to buy used equipment," she said. Things have picked up so much for the auction company at their location off of exit 95 in South Thurston County that they're potentially mulling an expansion to Lewis County, due to some of the possibilities along Interstate 5. Unsure of when or where the auction will move to, Giroux is absolutely certain more space is needed than the current location offers. "It's not nearly enough room here," Giroux said. "We're bursting at the seams, and we're definitely interested in finding a much larger parcel. But whether we go north or south depends on the property availability." And the price, he added.In the Olympian, a few years later:
Co-founder Dave Ritchie was on hand for Thursday’s grand opening as was current president Rob Mackay. Mackay said the company simply had outgrown the Thurston County site.Given the opportunity to throw shade, the Ritchie Brothers' folks did not. At every turn when asked, they'd respond: we don't have enough room, we want something larger. While there were likely parcels in Thurston County that could've been big enough, combining one that would've been appropriate for a commercial operation and near Interstate 5 was likely a hard find.

At least from the company itself, you can't find the narrative that Thurston County government was being mean and chased them out.

Once you start looking down in Lewis County after the auction company moved south, you start to see a new narrative form.

Centralia Chronicle, 2012:
“We love Lewis County so far,” Mills said. The company moved to the new site right off Interstate 5’s exit 68 from its previous location at Maytown in Thurston County. The new 200-acre facility quadruples the size of the Thurston County site. “The county worked with Ritchie Bros. to get them to come here,” said Lewis County Commissioner Ron Averill of Centralia. “We worked hard to make sure we weren’t posing any unnecessary restrictions on them.” The county had to rezone the property for commercial use because it sat on agricultural resource land. Ritchie Bros. will now hold five auctions a year in Lewis County. Averill said Ritchie Bros. brought about $1 million a year to Thurston County “When you consider the county gets one percent sales tax, that’s significant,” Averill said.Still the Ritchie Brothers company itself is consistent, there was more room (four times the room) for them to operate near Napavine. Being that it's Lewis County too, the land was likely cheaper while still being right next to I-5.

What you do see is a Lewis County Commissioner throw shade north, at least indirectly. Lewis County wanted to make sure they had a smooth landing, see? But, even there, he's not referencing any specific problem Ritchie Brothers had with Thurston County.

If anything, it was the Ritchie Brothers company that hurt the economic possibility of their old site. When they moved on, they placed a deed restriction on the parcels to ensure another auction company wouldn't move in behind them.

From the same 2012 Olympian story:
The Thurston County buyers won’t be offering auction services on the property because of a deed restriction placed on it by RitchieBros., said Troy Dana of Olympia-based Dana Commercial Real Estate. He said his client, which offered auction services but does not compete with Ritchie Bros., declined to bid after learning about the deed restriction. “It took away part of the business model,” Dana said. He said his client, an undisclosed out-of-state business, was prepared to bid up to $2.5 million for the three parcels. Instead, the property sold for $1.47 million. “That’s the impact of the deed restriction,” Dana said.But, despite the deed restriction that limited the use of the property, it sold anyway. And, again it became a going concern, pumping money into the Thurston County economy.

And, this is where the entire County Commission vs. Good Business thread falls apart. When you take a drive down I-5 to what was the old Ritchie Brothers site. Instead of laying empty the site is now occupied by a very similar business, Valley Freightliners. While Ritchie Brothers held periodic auctions for used large equipment, Valley Freightliners is a regular dealer in new and used semi-trailer trucks.

If it were true that the Thurston County commissioners were chasing retail large equipment sales out of the county, they were doing a really bad job of it if Freigtliner was ready to move right back in.

Thurston County EDC in 2012:
Initially VFI was searching for land when broker Don Moody of CBRE brought this high visibility site to their attention. Previously owned by Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers, VFI purchased a 34 acre parcel along with the existing high bay structures.

"It presented a great location on I-5 with an existing infrastructure that aligns with our needs," said Bernasconi. The location has good access and visibility, along with ample parking. It also has an existing facility that fits the truck dealership model.

Some minor remodeling and basic updates will be done to optimize its use. "We're hoping to get permit approval from the county in the next couple weeks," shared Bernasconi.I had one one last place to look for a smoking gun. I thought since permitting and land use records are available online, I'd find some sort of file of correspondence between Ritchie Brothers and the county.

Going through the permits and paperwork online at Thurston County, I was only able to find one active project around that same time. Ritchie Brothers was working on a permit for a septic system for a ten person office building and auction yard. You can search through the documents here (use the tax parcel number 12605330400).

From my reading of the permit file of the parcel, activity seems to drop off as Ritchie Brothers start exploring new opportunities in 2009 and then it picks back up when Valley Freightliners moves in three years later.

Either way, if they were looking to get out of the sewer/septic business by heading south, it looks like they're out of luck.

Longview Daily News:
Two multimillion-dollar auctions that were cause for celebration last year now are the cause of a pricey renovation for Ritchie Bros. Auctioneers at its freeway site between Napavine and Winlock. The state Department of Health is mandating that the heavy equipment auction company upgrade its onsite sewage system, which could cost up to $70,000. During two auctions last year, the 3,500-gallon septic tank — the size usually used by small commercial businesses — was overwhelmed, said Denise Lahmann, the program and reclaimed water supervisor for the Office of Shellfish and Water Protection at the Department of Health. For Lewis County, the costly mistake could become a lucrative new business venture — if the Richie Bros. goes along.According to the Lewis County Commissioners, Ritchie Bros. has expressed interest in partnering to build a commercial-level sewage system — one the county could use to encourage further development around Exit 68, where Interstate 5 and state Route 12 meet.And, a letter to the editor in the Centralia Chronicle:
I read your article, in last Saturday’s issue, regarding problems that Ritchie Bros. are having with the State of Washington regarding its current septic sewer system. I have been aware, for quite some time, that Lewis County was wasting time and valuable taxpayer funds in an effort to justify a separate and additional “wastewater system” to benefit not only Ritchie Bros., but “potential” development of “new restaurants and hotels” in the Exit 68 area. Excuse me, but Ritchie Bros. is in the city of Napavine service area, and service to that facility is within Napavine’s State of Washington approved comprehensive, water and sewer plans. Additionally, Napavine has sufficient capacity within its water and wastewater facilities to service the entire Exit 68 area as is indicated in our water and wastewater plans.
It seems to me that Lewis County, rather than working with the city of Napavine, is participating in a naked power grab in the guise of “helping” Ritchie Bros. And, lastly, if not for some mysterious sewer debacle that has been left unmentioned, what about the impact of Ritchie Brothers leaving Thurston County. Even if the county commissioners did not wage an open war against large scale heavy equipment auction houses, certainly them leaving tanked the county's sale tax receipts.

Maybe even the appearance of Valley Freightliners didn't save the day for the county economy.

But, if you spread out taxable activity in Thurston County from 1995 to 2014 (the most recent annual data available) the Ritchie Brothers impact in nearly invisible. Here's the data I'm working from and here is the source.

But, this chart I think speaks for itself. It tracks taxable sales activity in unincorporated Thurston County by units and total taxable.


Certainly you do see a dip in taxable activity from 2011 to 2012, and possibly that is the time when Ritchie Brothers was wrapping up and Valley Freightliners was coming online. But, there is no blip in the units line, which consistently shoots upwards.

What this chart does show is a steep increase in taxable activity in unincorporated Thurston County since 2008. That's when Sandra Romero was elected. Just in case you're still tracking me.

Prairie in Bloom

Bees, Birds & Butterflies - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 12:42pm
Text and photos by Nancy Partlow © Every year, I  keep trying to see the prairies at the peak of bloom, but never manage to time it just right.  This year, serendipitously, I finally did.  A few days ago I was driving along  Delphi Road when I noticed that the grounds of the Old Delphi Schoolhouse were a gorgeous carpet of blue camas lilies.   Wow!  What a knockout sight.  This told me that the prairies must be in full flower as well.

So yesterday I drove to the Mima  Preserve trail to check out the show.  But when I got there, I was kind of disappointed.   The bloom was nice, but not what I was hoping for.
 
Knowing that farther south on Mima Road near Bordeaux  the camas fields are more robust, I headed there instead.   Upon arrival, I was not disappointed.  The roadsides were thick with blue stars and the prairie itself  an undulating patchwork of  azure lilies and yellow lomatiam.     As I soaked in the beauty of the scene, the naturalist in me wondered if the  unseasonably hot weather earlier in the week  had brought on a sudden and intense flowering that usually takes place over a longer period of time. I also pondered whether climate change will eventually cause spring-emerging insects that rely on native flowers for food to miss an ever-earlier bloom period.    Queen Bombus vosnesenskii bumble bee gathering nectar
and pollen from a camas lily
Such gloomy thoughts aside, I also remembered my great-grandmother Cynthia, who lived with us while I was growing up.  Cynthia was born and raised on the Camas Prairie in Idaho in the late 1800's.  Sights such as this must have been very familiar to her. In researching this story, I learned that the camas prairie she knew is now gone.  This makes me grateful that at least some of ours have been preserved.  Long may they flower.
Categories: Local Environment

Science of Hope Comes to Thurston County

Thurston Talk - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 8:50am

ThurstonTalk

Submitted by The Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office In collaboration with TOGETHER!, Family Support Center of South Sound, Thurston Thrives, and the United Way of Thurston County, the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is excited to announce The Science of Hope workshops with Dr. Chan Hellman, a nationally recognized researcher in Hope theory and research.

Lawn Boys Owner Brin Hanson Takes Pride in a Job Well Done

Thurston Talk - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 6:00am

ThurstonTalk

A lot of high school students I know are focused on just getting through their last year of school, their most pressing concerns usually being grades and perhaps prom.  But this year I met Brin Hansen, the owner and general manager of Lawn Boys, a local lawn service and landscaping company.  It’s an aptly named

Rainier’s Jonny Hansen Eyeing State Track Meet, Army in June

Thurston Talk - Sun, 04/24/2016 - 6:00am

ThurstonTalk

While many high school seniors wrestle with the dilemma of what the next stage of their lives will look like following graduation, Rainier’s Jonny Hansen already has the answer. It’s something he’s actually known for quite some time. Last summer, when his classmates were prepping for their senior year, Hansen, one of the state’s top

Samba OlyWa Closes Out Procession of the Species 2016

Thurston Talk - Sat, 04/23/2016 - 7:43pm

ThurstonTalk

Thank you Samba OlyWa for your beautiful finish to Procession of the Species 2016. Photo credit: Shanna Paxton Photography.

Procession of the Species Photos 2016

Thurston Talk - Sat, 04/23/2016 - 7:38pm

ThurstonTalk

With only a few sprinkling showers, Procession of the Species 2016 rolled through the streets of downtown Olympia.  Experience the sights and relive the Procession through these images.  For a complete set of images from Samba OlyWa’s performance, click here. Photo credit: Shanna Paxton Photography.

I just put down The Prince of Tides

South Sound Arts - Sat, 04/23/2016 - 10:28am
Warning: self-promotion
One of the most treasured things ever written about one of my books was the title of an amazon.com review of The Backside of Nowhere written by Linda Linguvic, a reviewer from New York City: “Move over Pat Conroy. There’s a new Southern writer in town.”

I just finished reading Conroy’s The Prince of Tides, and I am stunned. The emotional impact of that book is akin to what I imagine someone might feel after electroshock or after recovering lost memories.
I have enjoyed the three books of Conroy’s that I have read, but not uncritically. His humor can be wonderful, but sometimes a tad slick. His descriptive passages are often marvelous and lyrical, but he is overly verbose (is that redundant?). As a fellow Southerner (I’m an ex-pat Southernerner; he has mostly stayed there), I am blown away by how deeply he loves the South while being horrified by its racism and small-mindedness and stupidity. The thing that bothers me the most about Conroy is that he seems to be full of himself. Each of his books that I have read—Beach Music, The Prince of Tides, and South of Broad—is written in the first person by a protagonist I can’t help but see as Conroy himself, and while his narrator/protagonists are extremely self-critical, their self-criticism comes across as prideful. This I do not like about his books, and yet . . . and yet, not since reading Steinbeck’s East of Eden have I read such a powerful novel as Prince of Tides
When I finally reached the epilogue on page 554, I could hardly wait to find out how he was going to wrap things up, but at the same time I dreaded reaching the last page. What could I do then? Find another Conroy book to read? Go back to page one and start over?
I am flattered that the critic chose to compare me favorably to Conroy, but I cannot help but feel inadequate in comparison. I certainly do not have his gift of language, nor do I have the guts to open myself up in the way he does. I don’t think I could ever express in writing the kind of passion his characters express, because I have never felt such passion.
So thank you, Linda Linguvic for your kind review. I hope I can live up to it in future books. Here is her review of The Backside of Nowhere:

 Set in a Gulf Coast town, this novel does more than just give us a story typical of the region. Yes, it includes high school romances, a competitive football game, corrupt political leaders and a devastating hurricane. And yes, it deals with the endemic racism inherent in such towns. But yet the story is so engrossing that I could not put the book down. I loved the characters, including a Hollywood star who comes home to visit his ailing father. Naturally, he meets up with his old-time girlfriend and they reignite their high school romance. We learn about his parents' background and his adopted sister with a secret. Then there is his sister who loves her hard drinking husband no matter how much he strays. All these characters came across as very real and there is a slight comic nature to the book which made it even more interesting to me and kept the story moving.

Frankly, I loved this book and actually found it better than Pat Conroy's latest, "South of Broad" because the characters seemed more real and not just stereotypes. Alec Clayton hit the mark perfectly, held my interest throughout and even surprised me at the end. Bravo! This is a really good book. - Linda Linguvic (New York City), amazon.com
Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Improving Gary Edwards' math

Olympia Time - Sat, 04/23/2016 - 10:09am

A few weeks ago I took a shot at Gary Edwards' fuzzy math on population change in Thurston County. In this post I wanted to take a closer look at the deeper assumptions in what he's trying to get at.

His point (basically) was that although the population has increased in Thurston County, the number of deputies has stayed the same. The problem was that the population has increased (in unincorporated Thurston County) only half the amount he claimed. Which is okay, from his point of view, I suppose because population still went up while the number of deputies stayed flat.

But, that statement seems to assume a result, such as an increase in crime. So, let's take a look.

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1995 Most recent Difference Lacey 50.00 64.60 14.60 Olympia 67.80 86.30 18.50 Yelm 75.90 78.00 2.10 Tenino 86.00 42.00 -44.00 Tumwater 75.30 84.20 8.90 Thurston unincorporated 32.90 36.30 3.40
So, what it looks like here is that the crime rate did go up in Thurston County, but not nearly the rate that it increased in Lacey and Olympia. If we have a problem with an increase in crime, its in the urban areas, not in rural Thurston County with its stable level of policing.

Also, let's take a look at another metric, the total number of police in each Thurston County city and the ratio of police to population:

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1995 total 2015 total Change 1995 ratio 2015 ratio Change Lacey 38 50 12 1.51 1.08 -0.43 Olympia 67 68 1 1.8 1.33 -0.47 Yelm 9 12 3 4.3 1.47 -2.83 Tenino 5 2 -3 2.38 0.87 -1.51 Rainier 4 0 -4 2.78 0 -2.78 Tumwater 20 22 2 1.93 1.41 -0.52 Thurston unincorporated 79 80 1 0.72 0.57 -0.15
Every police department has seen a decrease in the number of police on patrol compared to the population. By this metric, the ratio of police per person has dropped the least in the Thurston County sheriff's office than anywhere else locally.

So, while Edwards is still right that population went up and the level of policing stayed stable, he's implying a connection that really isn't there. The Thurston County sheriff's department saw a stable cop to resident ratio (compared to other local law enforcement departments) and this did not result in an increase in crime. 

Also, here's the spreadsheet (plus references) I was working from all along, just in case you want to check my math.

Spring Arts Walk Photos 2016

Thurston Talk - Sat, 04/23/2016 - 7:01am

ThurstonTalk

Spring Arts Walk is an adored event in downtown Olympia that attracts families, couples, and people of all ages.  Visitors meander through the streets of downtown Olympia, stopping to watch street performers and stepping into shops to see the artists on display.  Spring Arts Walk continues today, Saturday, April 23 until 4:00 p.m. Photo credit: Shanna

Luminary Procession Photos 2016

Thurston Talk - Sat, 04/23/2016 - 6:47am

ThurstonTalk

The Luminary Procession kicks off an arts-filled weekend in downtown Olympia.  Participants created luminaries during two workshops and then filed into the streets of downtown Olympia on Friday, April 22, 2016 (Earth Day).  The Procession of the Species is slated for 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 23.  Find a map of the Procession route here.

Explore Trail Running around Olympia

Thurston Talk - Sat, 04/23/2016 - 6:00am

ThurstonTalk

Olympia has a storied running history. In 1984, our city was home to the first Women’s U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, and we haven’t looked back. Daily, hundreds of local runners plod along Capitol Lake, taking in the sights while enjoying the exercise. Our community holds numerous road races and road running routes, but there are more

Summer Camps around Olympia for any Personality

Thurston Talk - Sat, 04/23/2016 - 6:00am

ThurstonTalk

Despite the recent stretch of hot weather, summer’s not quite here yet. But with school in its final weeks, sign the kids up for one of Thurston County’s many exciting summer camps to provide a smooth transition into their time off. Not only will they minimize summer brain drain, but the play time and social interactions

Noises Off

South Sound Arts - Fri, 04/22/2016 - 4:18pm


Out of Control Bedlam at Lakewood PlayhousePublished in the Weekly Volcano, April 21, 2016From left (back): Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson, Gary Chambers, Jim Rogers, Jennifer Davy, Jonathan Bill, Ana Bury, Nick Fitzsgerald and Diana George; on couch, Steve Tarry. Photo by Tim JohnsonThere is practically an entire genre of theater about theater, typically farces about bad theater companies doing bad theater. Often these are as bad as the plays they lampoon, but there is one exception — the mother of all farces about theater: Noises Off by Michael Frayn, now playing at Lakewood Playhouse.Ensemble cast. Photo by Tim JohnsonHere’s the thing I’ve noticed about farces: they usually don’t wear well. See one for the first time and it might be funny; see it again and it’s just stupid. But I’ve seen Noises Off three times as produced by three different companies, and every time I have laughed like a madman. At the opening performance at Lakewood Playhouse, the show ended with a standing ovation from a full house with screaming and whistling the likes of which I have never seen in that space.From left – Steve Tarry as Selsdon, Ana Bury as Poppy, Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson as Dotty, and Jim Rogers as Frederick. Photo by Tim Johnson.It’s the story of an inept theater company directed by a harried director named Lloyd (Jonathan Bill) who struggles to temper his urge to kill half his cast and who is having affairs with the assistant stage manager, Poppy (Ana Bury) and with one of the cast members, Brooke (Jennifer Davy), who pulls off a funny dumbfounded look, loses her dress in the first act and runs around in her underwear and stockings throughout the show. The director also has to contend with, among others, a drunken actor far past his prime (Steve Tarry as Selsdon Mowbray); an actor who has constant nose bleeds and is a walking disaster (Jim Rogers as Frederick Fellowes); and another, Dotty the housekeeper (Shelleigh-Mairi Ferguson), who never knows where she’s supposed to be or what to do with props.The play-within-a-play opens with a disastrous dress rehearsal less than 24 hours before opening night. The set, designed by Larry Hagerman and Dylan Twiner and built by Hagerman and Art Fick, is a two-story home with at least nine doors. It is a marvel of planning because it is almost too big for the little thrust stage space and has to turn completely around between acts — a great design. It’s a shame that the walls are of such dull unfinished wood, looking more like the interior of a barn than an upscale country home.The dress rehearsal is like a Marx Brothers movie on steroids, with props misplaced, forgotten lines, pratfalls, and wild improvisations. Playing out underneath the farce of a rehearsal are the rivalries and the love lives of the cast and crew, and the wild struggle to hide the whiskey from Selsdon.The second act takes place backstage during the opening night performance. Everything is done with silent gestures, since the cast and crew can’t make noise during the show. What we do here are the bungled lines of unseen actors on stage, while cast and crew run around backstage like chickens with their heads cut off, fighting with each other (even with an ax at one point), making fast costume changes, and entering through the wrong doors and windows.In the third act, the set is turned around again for the final performance of a play that has progressively worsened.The ensemble cast does a good job, and the real life director — not “Lloyd” but Lakewood Playhouse Artistic Director John Munn — has managed to do what “Lloyd” was unable to do: herd his troop of actors through almost three hours of beautifully choreographed chaos.Noises Off is a play everyone should see at least once. Performances are expected to sell out, so get tickets early.Noises Off, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through May 8,Lakewood Playhouse, 5729 Lakewood Towne Center Blvd., Lakewood, $25, $22 military, $21 seniors and $19 students/educators, pay what you can April 21, actors’ benefit April 28, 253.588.0042, www.lakewoodplayhouse.org


Categories: Arts & Entertainment

Edvard Munch and The Sea

South Sound Arts - Fri, 04/22/2016 - 4:06pm
 See Beyond the Scream at Tacoma Art MuseumPublished in the Weekly Volcano, April 22, 2016

“Neutralia (Girls Picking Apples)” 1915, color lithograph. Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester: Marian Stratton Gould Fund . © 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, courtesy Tacoma Art Museum.
“Summer Evening” 1895 aquatint and drypoint, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Rosenwald Collection, courtesy Tacoma Art Museum.Edvard Munch and The Sea at Tacoma Art Museum includes 25 prints and drawings and one oil painting by the Norwegian expressionist and symbolist master. Like most people, I have seen very little of Munch’s art other than the two or three pieces that habitually show up in art books, so I am grateful to TAM for pulling together this important exhibition.Not included are any of the four versions of Munch’s most famous work, “The Scream,” two oil paintings and two pastels. There is, however, a beautifully executed large silk- screen version by Andy Warhol, which is not a lampoon but rather a respectful homage.Munch was a methodical and masterful printmaker — drypoints, etchings, lithographs. He worked with a few simple and highly personal images including portraits and figures on the themes of love and death, nearly all of which were set on the coast of Norway. He did countless versions of these pictures, and this exhibition provides an excellent opportunity to compare prints of the same images with slight variations. For example, many of his pictures include a moon reflected in water, which in his treatment becomes an iconic lower case letter “i” with the moon as the dot and the stem of the “I” as the reflection. In some it is very bright, and in some almost invisible; often it looks like a Roman column, and in a few instances it becomes a crucifix.Another Munch trope that shows up in many of the prints is pictures of women with heavily shadowed eyes that look morbid or threatening. His wife of 20 years died young, as did a beloved sister, and he was known to have had tumultuous and tragic relationships with women, all of which shows in his complex depictions of women in his art.  Other stylistic devices that show up repeatedly are flowing hair that blendswith the flowing waves in the sea, and white figures or figures in white dresses next to white backgrounds and figures in black next to black backgrounds, so that figures and ground merge. His compositions are masterful in their balancing of dark and light for dramatic effect.Among the most powerful images in the show are two lithographs of the Madonna, one in black and white done in 1895, and the other in color from 1902. Other than the color, the images are identical. Each is of a nude with a stark white body and black hair. Heavy waving lines in the background follow the contour of her head and body. There is a frame with sperm swimming around it, and in the lower left corner a little skeleton that looks like the figure in “The Scream.”   This figure shows up in many guises in a number of his prints, perhaps most clearly in “Alpha’s Despair,” one of a group of images that illustrate the tragic myth of the love between “Alpha,” a woman, and “Omega,” her lover who murders her.Another strong image is “On the Waves of Love,” picturing the head and shoulders of a woman floating in water. Typical of Munch, the waves around her mimic the shape of her flowing hair. The woman looks like a corpse. If you study this print carefully, you’ll see that there is a man’s head on her shoulder. Such hidden images are not uncommon in his work.This is a most fascinating show that, once seen, should linger in your mind.
Edvard Munch and The Sea, Tuesday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., through July 17, $12-$14, Tacoma Art Museum, 1701 Pacific Ave. Tacoma, http://www.tacomaartmuseum.org/

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