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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Please Give a Warm Welcome to the Helm Gallery

posted by on October 18 at 10:29 AM

by Jamey Braden
The new Tacoma venue surely wants to do the same for you. The gallery is warm both literally (soft white light, honey-brown wood floors, a seeming 80 degrees on the thermostat) and figuratively—the first show was called the The Kindness of Strangers and owed its existence to the charity of artists that co-owners Peter Lynn and Sean Alexander mostly did not know.

The artists were solicited by e-mail, for a donation of artwork to be shown and sold to benefit the gallery. They came from near and far. Painter Zach Marvick is rumored to live next door to the gallery, and much of the rest of the work is international. Sweden, Singapore, Paris, Moscow, Denmark, Japan, and Australia were represented in the show, which closed last Wednesday. Daniel Johnston even sent up some prints from Texas, with an invoice, scratched out and re-scrawled as “no charge.”

Kindly, Lynn held the show over for an evening so I could catch the packed salon-style show. On the drive home, my carful was pressed to find one preferred piece among the 200-plus works. I had a family of favorites: the reserved, minimal, and quietly emotional “line-scape” drawings by Jennifer Nazzaro; the lush and uncomfortably close ink portraits by Londoner Mitch Blunt; the faded acid-bright portraits by Xin that felt fractured and re-patched, as if the artist was lovingly remembering her friends as a collection of characteristics and sewing them together with memories.

The Helm has come a long way since its inception as a “let’s do it better” call-to-arms after Tacoma’s progressive art venture, Critical Line, closed up last winter after producing only four shows.

On one day in April, Lynn and Alexander gave birth to the concept for The Kindness of Strangersnot only an exhibition but a way to build a nest egg for the new space, especially since its directors have ambitious plans that include a residency program—and about five days later, Lynn recalls, he got the keys to an old lighting showroom in an area of downtown Tacoma known as Antique Row.

The excitement in an overnight (over-week?) decision like this carries over into the energy of the gallery. Lynn talked about the work with an unpretentious passion and expressed high, even rigid, ideals for the space. Shows will change every month, and Lynn insists on displaying work “people have never seen before,” in a balance of local, regional, national, and international artists. Viewers can regard The Kindness of Strangers as an epic trailer for the life the Helm would like to lead.

This Thursday, the Helm opens a show of brand new work by Seattle-based Chauney Peck and Whiting Tennis.

Peck’s work “draws inspiration from unconventional living situations in third-world countries,” the gallery’s web site describes. “Peck has created two-dimensional and sculptural work that imaginatively illustrates the lifestyles of the poor and downtrodden.”

Tennis, winner of this year’s Neddy Fellowship for painting, makes work that “explore(s) the spiritual nature of everyday objects and materials…and through painting and sculpture will display how the completely ordinary can be imbued with life by the simple act of observation.”
Or the simple act of making a decision and going with it.


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The Helm gives me hope for Tacoma's art scene. And music too -- they put on a show with Okay and the Elephants a couple of months ago. Maybe Tacoma can be cool after all.

Posted by dipper | October 18, 2007 10:37 AM

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