A review for a show I have at the Handforth Gallery...
ends this Saturday, Nov. 28th.

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Mixed media maidens

Greenwood, Barker show new works at Handforth Gallery

Photo by Dawn Quinn

CUT PIECE. Artist Deborah Greenwood’s collage-based artist books and revamped postcards make up half of the exhibit currently up at Handforth Galley through Nov. 28.

The Tacoma Public Library’s main branch has a dual mixed media exhibit up now in its Handforth Gallery. Artists Deborah Greenwood and Mindy Barker are showing an array of unique handmade works highlighting each woman’s unique skills and careful eye.

Barker’s half of the exhibition is entitled “ReMix,” and Barker explains the purpose of her pieces in her artist statement.

“For those with minimal space but a gigantic need for art. Signed and numbered, each ‘ReMix’ is an individually hand-painted canvas or paper-covered compact disc.”

Taking utilitarianism to a whole new level, Barker takes an object that is present in almost every American household these days – compact discs – intersperses them with vinyl records and covers them in paint to form figures that appear to look like bones, veins, sinews, joints, letters, dolls and discolorations/exaggerations of all of them. She utilizes a strong palette of bold pinks, reds, blues, greens, yellows and blacks to highlight the images and also form words such as “razmataz,” “flea,” “state,” and “brim,” which leave the viewer with no idea what the artist is referring to.

Barker utilizes impressive shading techniques and makes interesting connections with her work that comes off as street art graffiti meets the human anatomy for inspiration and integration.

One of the most notable posed collections of “ReMix” is off to the left side of the gallery and hangs with Dolly Parton lyrics: “The way I see it if you want the rainbow you have to put up with the rain.” Each disc is situated in a way so that the lyrics read together and the bottom two discs read the musician’s first and last names.

Greenwood’s contribution to the show is in the form of artists’ books, which utilize photography, found objects, old books and collage to create unique works of art out of pieces that are more suitable on a pedestal than on a wall.

According to Greenwood’s artist statement, part of the appeal of using mixed media is that it is not nearly as dependable as traditional materials.

“The inspiration came from Roland Barthes’ book ‘Camera Lucida.’ He believes that some photographs by their nature are close to ‘haiku.’ It is by experiencing them over time that they reveal themselves with amusement or shock. I enjoy working with media that are not always predictable as they play on chance combinations and a feeling of the unexpected.”

Pedestals covered in Plexiglas fill up the center of the room at Handforth Gallery. Greenwood placed between three and four pieces together to exhibit in each, with no obvious theme bringing them together.

“Magic” and “Time Lady” are two recreated postcards that share space in the exhibit. The top of “Magic” has “Post Card” adorning it, and has varying shades of paper glued and pieced together revealing a young girl in an unusual coat, dress and shoes and the word “magic” is written overhead. Purple curtains make up the rest of the unique, almost circus sideshow character view. Real writing from aged postcards lines the edges of the piece like a frame.

In “Time Lady,” a woman’s hand is shown pouring a bottle of liquid into a flowing waterfall. The waterfall appears to be from an original postcard, but the hand and bottle were drawn onto the piece. Trees are lush in the background, writing from a past letter lines the piece vertically, and the edges of the piece seem faded, again giving away hints at its age.

The combination of mixed media, brightly adorned, modern pieces such as Barker’s, along with Greenwood’s lush, semi-surrealist artist books and postcards, make a worthy combination for viewing by anyone interested in seeing art that breaks the paint-on-canvas tradition.

Greenwood and Barker’s art is currently on display at Handforth Gallery inside of the main branch of the Tacoma Public Library through Nov. 28. The library is located at 1102 Tacoma Ave. S. and is open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, call (253) 591-5666 or visit