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University of Puget Sound Art Department Exhibit
by Don and Peggy Doman

University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington.


Peg and I met while students at the University of Puget Sound. I was a fine arts major (painting & drawing) and she was a German/Literature major. We fell in love as we discussed music, theatre, feature films, books, and art. Each time we return to the beautiful campus it usually centers around one of those original interests. This time back it was to view Show and Tell, a art department faculty exhibit.

John McCuistion sculpture at the University of Puget Sound Art Department Exhibit in Tacoma, Washington.Upon entering the gallery the first object I saw was the googlie-eyed statue by John McCuistion. I don't think I've ever met him, but his wife is a member of Peg's book club.

He has been working as an artist, using clay as the primary medium of expression, for over thirty years. John has been teaching at the University of Puget Sound since 1976 and holds the rank of full Professor.

At first I thought the pieces of art were constructions finished off with acrylic paint, but no they are ceramics (plus additional elements?). John says, "These sculptures, part of my G.I. Series, were inspired by what I felt was disingenuous information on the part of the U.S. government. Designing these figures I made them to be frail, standing at attention and looking as if they could be placed in a coffin. They have no arms—they are helpless and defenseless."


John McCuistion sculpture at the University of Puget Sound Art Department Exhibit in Tacoma, Washington.One of the most intriguing of the sculptures is one that stands in the corner. It could be that it is Commie Prick with some add-ons. It looks like it is wearing a dunce cap. In addition it sports a mask. But is it really a mask or a counterfactual face. On a white background the features from the nose up are drawn in. Could this be the Lone Ranger in reverse?

The sculpture also displays a semi-erect tiny penis. What does this mean? Lack of gumption? Ineffectual? Size matters? It boggles the mind.

The trademark of good art are pieces that not only direct the eye to points of interest, but they also provoke the brain with questions and leaps of imagination. McCuistion's images in ceramic do both.

Here is John's viewpoint on the individual within and the artist without, "I have a small voice as one person, but my voice is somewhat larger with what I contribute as an artist. Through my work I am able to contribute to the long tradition of the artist as teacher, recorder, and seer."

John also has created a series of masks, and platters. That a look at his website NW Ceramics. My favorite mask resembles a pear . . . which of course begs the question, "A pear of what?"


Elise Richman painting at the University of Puget Sound Art Department Exhibit in Tacoma, Washington.I really enjoyed the colors and composition of the paintings by Elise Richman. She is an Associate Professor of Art, Painting. She joined the faculty at the University of Puget Sound in 2005. She received a B.F.A. from the University of Washington in 1995 and an M.F.A. from American University in 2001.

Richman explains her art, "My paintings explore the relationships between engaging in an artistic process, evoking a sense of place, and expressing time’s passage. I pool, stack, scrape, scrub, pour, stain, drip, collage, and fuse oil, acrylic, and encaustic paint, engaging in processes that reflect forces of nature and capture a state of flux."

Her framed paintings show not only the surface of the piece of work, but the stretched canvas on the sides with drips and blotches. Is this bad framing or a conscious device to make you wonder? I wonder?


Elise Richman painting at the University of Puget Sound Art Department Exhibit in Tacoma, Washington.On Richman's canvases I enjoyed the techniques she employed. Her images rose off the canvas in relief. When I first glanced at these paintings I thought she was using color pegs from Lite-Bright by Hasbro and children's toy from decades ago or even her own version with electric diodes, but instead she uses a combination of applications.

With her acrylic on paper series she relies on color and form alone to evoke the senses and memories. Elise explains, "Color is an important part of my works’ expressive content. It is applied as a palpable, optical element, as a substance that can be felt as well as seen. I use color for its inherent perceptual power and to reference ecological and visceral systems. The fluid nature of the water-based paint and inks I apply determines my paintings’ compositional structure."


Becky Frehse composition at the University of Puget Sound Art Department Exhibit in Tacoma, Washington.Peg and I have seen art by Becky Frehse many times. I love her compositions. She experiments with memorabilia, reclaimed artifacts, and almost antique objects to construct stories about human interaction with the natural world.

Becky has been teaching in the Art Department at Puget Sound since 2007. She received her B.F.A. in Painting from Arizona State University and her M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing from Central Washington University, Ellensburg in 1984.

She has received grants from the Tacoma Artists Initiative Project, Northwest Women’s Caucus for Art, and Artist Trust. Her work can be found in public collections in Tacoma, Seattle, and in private collections in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Becky maintains her professional studio practice in the F.S. Harmon building in Tacoma. She is married to PLU Music Professor and Composer Gregory Youtz. They have two daughters Katie and Clara. Being married to a music teacher and composer probably explains the musical connection to many of her works of art.

I lover her piece Col Legno Battuto, which resembles a violin or viola, but features what appears to be a glass side storage tray, a musical score, and dominoes. I enjoy the movement the eye employs as it follows the dots in the dominoes in and around the musical notes in the musical composition.


The largest artwork in the gallery is Becky's Learning to Read Music featuring acrylic with violin bows on canvas. It is sixty-five inches square. I like how it screams music. The painting is simple and yet complex . . . just like music.

Becky Frehse painting at the University of Puget Sound Art Department Exhibit in Tacoma, Washington.


There is much more art at the Kittredge Gallery to see than what I have mentioned and shown. We are blessed in the Pacific Northwest with artists, and colleges/universities that teach art and exhibit art . . . in most cases free. We have an almost constant opportunity to view the art of teachers, students, and both professional and amateur artists. Good art is always an adventure of the mind.

Kittredge Hall at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington

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