A Subtle Presence of Light

Forest of Souls, by Monika Proffitt

Monika Proffitt’s light installation in Tollefson Plaza, Forest of Souls, is a tribute to the region’s earliest inhabitants. This quiet work shines from the plaza’s reflecting pools at the busy downtown intersection of South 17th and Pacific Avenue, where a Puyallup Indian village once stood.

Tacoma's "Welcome Figure" overlooks Tollefson Plaza

Forest of Souls is best seen after the sun sets and darkness provides a backdrop for the slender bunches of fiber-optic cables that rise up from the terraced pools. Nestled in clusters under a concrete overhang, the pink and green stalks, each topped by a small “head”, glow softly, unobtrusively, their reflections seeming to pulsate on the water’s rippling surface. Though easy to overlook initially, once spotted, this work seems to extend an invitation to slow down and ponder the site’s history, and that of the Puyallup Indians who inhabited this area for thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers in the 19th century. “I wanted the light installation to give them voice in some silent, yet understood way,” says Proffitt. (One wishes there were a plaque to explain the site’s historal importance.)

Proffitt is a busy artist on several fronts. She recently inaugurated an artists’ residency program, Starry Night Retreat, in the hotsprings town of Truth or Consequences, NM, south of Albuquerque. She owns the property, which she discovered in 2000 while completing a research project for her undergraduate degree at the Evergreen Tacoma campus. “The town is really artsy and eccentric,” and has a high ratio of artists per capita, she says. “Everyone is an artist there, and I decided that artists from all over would really enjoy a chance to create in such a secluded, eccentric environment. So far it has turned out that I was right.” She says the residency program offers artists the opportunity “to make work, engage with local artists and the public, and show their work in [storefront] spaces” along the main street of downtown.

Proffitt also recently opened The Living Room, a bar on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Forest of Souls, at Tollefson Plaza, South 17th and Pacific Avenue, December 21, 2010 – March 20, 2011. www.monikaproffitt.com.

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