David Macaulay at the Tacoma Art Museum

Even though I’ve been in Seattle for nearly three years, I’ve never visited the city with which it shares an airport: Tacoma. I’ve driven though Tacoma on the way to California, but that hardly counts. I’ve always thought of Tacoma as relating to Seattle in the same way that Providence, RI relates to Boston: either could have become the prime location in the region, but the loser was doomed to play second fiddle. Both Tacoma and Providence are interesting, but neither really compares to its northern neighbour.
The idea to visit Tacoma was spurred by coming across an ad for an exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum on the work of David Macaulay. I’ve been a huge fan of his, ever since his first book “Cathedral“. The exhibit is absolutely first-class, and includes many working drawings, outlines, paper models, and drafts for reworked projects. A large number of the pieces were simply thumb-tacked to the wall, just as if they were in the artist’s studio. The exhibit also included the video of Macaulay’s talk at TED about his Rome project, which helped to put many of the working drawings into perspective. Hmm – “perspective”. Bad choice of word. If you watch the TED talk, you’ll understand why.
The Tacoma Art Museum is small, but the exhibits were first class. I loved the series of Salvador Dali etchings in an exhibition on the evolution of surrealism; some seemed close to early Picasso, which surprised me. A collection called Speaking Parts included a quite outstanding piece by Dennis Evans called “Writing Lessons”. If there’s a downside, it’s the over-exposure of Dale Chihuly glass, which is frankly not to my taste. (There’s a dedicated museum of glass just down the road; why couldn’t all of his overwrought neon whorls and orgasmic sea anemones be kept down there?)
We didn’t stay long; after a quick lunch, we had to head back up to Seattle. But I suspect that we’ll be returning soon.