Sunday, September 12, 2010

M-Space: A Fire in the Belly of an Old Brewery

M-Space: A Fire in the Belly of an Old Brewery            

by M.J. Franich             

Art needs a place, a space to grow and become more than the simple sum of parts and material. The light on the brick walls, the dust on the floor and the unmistakable roar of the furnace, the sliver, interior sheet metal that would be as comfortable on a barn, this space, this warm and welcoming workshop creates a mood that becomes an essential part of what is born from a glowing glob of glass.

Both outside and in, bricks form the walls of a hundred year old building, bricks from Clay City, in the valley where the hops once grew. Rough hands mixed the mortar keeping pace with the mason’s trowel, settling each one in place, checking with a line for level as they went up impossibly high. Other hands mixed the hops with barley malt. When beer became illegal, liquid soap flowed into molds, the way glass might today, all in the presence of an ancient, tomb-like quiet. There is no gallery at M-Space, only stairs to a storage area, a perch for pictures. The forms evolve, shaped on a bench, exposed to flames and paddles, all in the presence of historical efforts from a former time, work that made a space for art.An artist can imagine being alone. The truth of the matter is more complex, this sense of being dependent and together at the same time with so many others, in present and recent times, time that when examined closely would begin with native settlements and forests. From the past to the present hands transformed the land, moved rivers and produced unknown numbers of board feet lumber. The sticky, slippery clay became the walls of brick, warm on a winter day as if still cooling from the fire, the beams of the roof overhead all clear fir. Much later came the fabrication, the pipes of natural gas, the crucible. The place where art is born reaches back through time, searching for some meaning in all the labor that produced a protected, fragile space in time for art. Everything connects to something else, like long chains of holding hands, there are no accidents in the present. The vibrations along the chain ripple in the hands that form the glass. In a way, this makes everyone an artist and connects art to life, in the same way life is a little less, without the art, the way the valley forest is a little less in a sea of tilt up buildings, cranes along the waterfront where a village once lived. Art remembers and tells the story in a way no cement building ever will.

Big Leaf Maples rise and fall in fifty year cycles, rotting out from the core. It is the same with a glass furnace, born to die from the first day, fighting off corrosion like a pickup truck on an ocean beach. Someone needs to watch over the fire brick, feed the spruce pine, the soda lime, melting individual crystals that combine in a pool of glowing glass, orange hot, waiting for the doors to open, the dance on the floor of the shop to begin. Careful measurements produce a bench, a table and the tools required to work the glass. The same equipment might be used on a cruise ship off the Florida Coast, constructed in the same way, identical material, put to a similar use, and yet, even there, something of the past reaches across the water, moving in a watery, wave like way through the space. The world of elemental parts is connected by the art these materials produce. Being alone is the illusion, the reality is so much different and complex.

So many hands work the glass, in so many different ways. How to measure art, define and contain what slowly cools in the dark becomes another preoccupation. How is a delicate cup so different from the level lines of brick along the wall? How often do both become invisible in the hours of a day, that imagined time alone in the world. Seeing requires a process of stepping beyond, between, approaching objects as a landscape. A space for art should be open, welcoming like a friend with high expectations and encouraging words. There is at all times the balance of a budget to keep in mind, an awareness so like the foundations that hold the walls in place, a piece and a part of a larger whole. But an even larger sense is the work itself, extended over time and generations. The work continues and connects to the world outside the walls and because of this, the world is a different place, as are those who live in the world.

2514 S. Holgate
Tacoma, WA 98402

Contact: Joe Miller

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