Tag Archives: bowerybird

Tony Stinson’s Inside Art


Artist Tony Stinson, with beckoning figure

Tony Stinson, Inside Art    opens Saturday, May 18      from 4pm to 8pm at birdloft 2915 South 12th Street, Tacoma, WA 98405

When you arrive at Tony Stinson’s Conway compound – off Interstate 5 on the way to tulip country – there’s a sense of overwhelming energy and production. It is hard to imagine that the person at work among the stacks of materials ever sleeps. Surrounded by agricultural fields, a country western bar and an antique shop, he builds wild, intricate works from the vestigal remains of human enterprise. He is a confounder and an entertainer, an absurdist, humorist and at the same time incredibly earnest, seeking one more chance at enlightenment through a dumptruck load of bottle caps. It is out there! He just has to conjure it somehow.

To be clear, Tony runs a salvage operation, cOnway Salvage Arts. As he only partly jokes, he invites junk to come to him. It is the raw material of his art. Boatloads of it. Which he sifts through, diverts from the landfill, finds buyers for, etc. I am amazed at his restraint, how little of the salvage makes it into his art. Because in the yard around his old house, the scale of art is heroic, massive. Some of it could loosely be said to be Outsider art, a field he studies, is well-read in. He also uses the term un-art. He exists in his own creative space, with barely a schedule, no website, just making, working, being. But he is also part bowery bird. He sees his work and his place as an elaborate nest, as an invitation to company, to coffee, to conversation, with perfect strangers.   

So, if you are lucky enough to be invited inside, as many of us shutterbugs and daytrippers are, you tiptoe into a bright, unexpectedly quiet, orderly house. Unless a train is going by, and the house shakes slightly, in synch with the earth-twitching machine. It is beautiful. A fire might be going. Coffee on. There will for sure be stories. Something he is working on currently. Something he is reading and excited about, or hunting after, dreaming about. You are out in the country. Conway, as Tony says, is “on the way” to somewhere else. So it is an unexpected visit to a cozy, unexpected place, a bonus stop on a Sunday adventure, something wild and unknown, immediate, but delicate and remote, and you don’t want to ruin the magic, whatever it might be.

His art is deft, subtle. Much of it is assemblages from found objects. Clever works that, to put it simply – Don’t try this at home. Or do try. But most likely frustration will be the result. He just has a light, exact touch, an ability to compose things and transform them into something new. Sometimes, too, he is patient. He has unresolved, partly finished works that are beautiful in their own right, waiting for another return.

For this show, there are several couples, or sculptural pairs, a theme that makes sense for an artist who is part bowery bird. Mostly they are the type of couples where you might say opposites attract. Or that – it is in our differences that we are most alike. Come find something that you can’t be without. Tony, like us, like anyone with a winnowing vocation, doesn’t get out much. And he’ll be here, in Tacoma!

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