Half-full or half empty, hot or cold, glass defines Tacoma

By Morf Morford
Tacoma Daily Index

A series of fortuitous accidents have drawn Tacoma into the small, but expanding world of glass-based art.

At first, the thought of Tacoma being a locus of art – let alone glass art – might seem strange – or at least it would have a decade or two ago.

Tacoma, after all, has a reputation for timber, grit and hard work.

Glass, the product of fire and passion, the material delicate and strong, born equally of art and industry,  breath and fire, captures – or expresses – Tacoma like no other element.

When it comes to art, as the staff of TAM pointed out in a press tour of the Benaroya Wing, “it all comes back to Dale.”

That would be Dale Chihuly, of course. And yes, Dale is the putative nexus of the glass art scene in Tacoma, but he is far from alone.

When many of us weren’t looking, in fact when many people gave up on Tacoma as the center of inspiration of creativity, that very atmosphere of neglect gave us the space – and for many artists, the affordability to pursue projects not even close to possible in a place like Seattle.

Studio/creative space is still available in Tacoma. It is not as affordable or available as it used to be, but it – and the ever-growing audience for the previously unlikely or even impossible just a few years ago, is now the unexpectedly fruitful terrain for art and artists no tone could have imagined just a few years ago.

Tacoma, as always, takes few cues from anyone else. We create from steel and glass, wood and heat, objects large and small, with finesse or brute strength and fierce heat, pieces of art of fragility and endurance, vivid colors or earth tones.

Photo by Morf Morford

Photo by Morf Morford

Our art reflects who – and where – we are. And what better material than glass to reflect and embody our solidity, our fragility, our fluid moods, our shifting nuances of hope, determination and cynicism in response to the ever-shifting light – a thousand shades of gray and light bounding off the sea and sky.

You might think it would be wood that would define Tacoma, and for decades it did -and in many ways it always will, but glass, translucent, solid and fluid, hot, or cold, colorful or clear, somehow catches Tacoma not for what it is, but what it is becoming.

Glass and wood, solid and clear, like a window framed, open yet sealed, solid yet opaque, visible but not always accessible, this combination sums up the Tacoma I know and love  – and barely know and sometimes don’t love.