“My fascination with small environments grows out of childhood play,” says Rachel Hibbard, an artist who stages dramatic vignettes using 4″-high paper cutouts. “A miniature possesses the dual qualities of being both mysterious and controllable.” In meyouus&them, her installation at 906 Broadway, Hibbard juxtaposes people from Tacoma’s past, her own lineage – and world history – in unexpected arrangements that unfold with a strange, beautiful, almost operatic vibrancy.
Laid out on a chessboard-like tile floor with photos of the solar system strung overhead and a single bulb for lighting, meyouus&them “points to how people categorize each other, and subdivide relationships,” says Hibbard (break down the title to get at the meaning, me-you-us-them). “In this work I explore the tendency to separate ourselves from others and the world that sustains us.” Her drama-in-miniature cordons the forces of history – war, religion, art, philosophy, industry – in an enclosed arena where they set off streams of associations in the mind of the viewer. The intimate scale enhances the eerie sense of a universe manipulated by an invisible hand.
Hibbard applies techniques of dada and surrealism to a form that takes its inspiration “from Christmas Crèches, model train landscapes and the battlefields that children and hobbyists construct.” During the three months of her Artscapes exhibit, the Portland-based painter and multimedia artist says she will add different elements drawn from both family history and Tacoma’s past, “remixing the perspective of the piece.” Her ancestor, James Mcallister, was a homesteader in the Nisqually Valley in the 1840s, and she grew up on stories of the Northwest pioneers. meyouus&them, 906 Broadway, through July 1, 2011.