birdloft is having an art party, with five simultaneous openings!
please join us, Saturday May 18th from 4pm to 8pm
jazz is from 5 to 7 pm
Art by Kate Blairstone and Tony Stinson
Artist Tony Stinson, with beckoning figure
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!
Kate Blairstone, War Helmet
Kate Blairstone is a master of vibratory visual, a-aural jazz. Her language is color and pattern translated through flowers. Do we need more flowers. There was already a Georgia O’Keeffe. A Beverly Hallam. Plenty of flower hunters among us all along and still. But Blairstone’s work is new, relentless, at times radical, at times oddly cool-ly vintage. She somehow manages to be more current than timeless while describing flowers. She starts with brushes then loads the hand-printed line work into her laptop and begins layering more digital on top. Some of her Instagram posts spell out her process in hypnotic, quick repeating constructions.
Kate Blairstone has only began working in her current media in earnest, full-time, for a few years now. Already, as of earlier this spring, her work is side-by-side with that of Kyler Martz and Shepard Fairey, at the State Hotel in Seattle. She recently did the cover art for the inaugural issue of Kitchen Table Magazine, nailing in blues, maroons and golds the Pacific palette. She designed everything from the menu illustrations to the entry tile mosaics at Solo Club in Portland, the recent reincarnation of the former Wildwood Restaurant, an early miner of Pacific Northwest ingredients.
Ethos and ambiance underpinning rigorous composition. Structural weightlessness. Plain unfettered delight. If you are not unhinged momentarily in the smallest good way by her work – well, you might just be stuck in winter. Come get un-stuck at birdloft this Saturday. That is the only risk in trying her first gallery art show. Kate Blairstone’s flowers are amazing, inspiring, beyond sound. She’ll be showing less than a dozen images, each a signed hyper-limited edition print run of ten. One run will be printed on three-foot by three-foot silk – try a one-ounce scarf.
Tacoma’s own local, Post Defiance, was kind enough to print some thoughts had while off duty from the shop. Maybe the idea is that sometimes we find elements of the dreamed city – we begin to spell out its bones – via its backwater avenues, de Chirico style.
There’s more here: