“This project “Meta-tinations 2013″ draws a parallel to Spaceworks. Recycling the retail space in downtown Tacoma adds a vibrancy to the urban area as does Meta-tinations 2013. By using recycled decorative tins, brads, and wood, this represents a rebirth of iconic images into new reborn concepts and visuals.”

Streetside Artscape:
Brett Carlson  / Meta-tinations

1102 A Street – Tacoma Post Office Building Lobby Display Cases
Sept. 2 – Dec. 20, 2013


If walls could speak, Tacoma’s storied Old Post Office (OPO) would weave a tale that starts more than 100 years ago. Built in 1910, the grand edifice has served as more than the city’s postal headquarters: during World War I, it was a United Way volunteer center, and during the Cold War its thick walls provided a fallout shelter. Over the decades, the four-story building has housed the IRS, the FBI, customs, the U.S. Marshals, and the forestry service. In 1993, its wood-lined courtrooms appeared in the Harrison Ford movie, The Fugitive. And last year, Tacoma’s School of the Arts (SOTA) moved into the second floor, where some 500 students walk the halls during the school year.

All this, and a working post office, too.

This month, a new chapter unfolds: in conjunction with Spaceworks Tacoma, the OPO is hosting two art exhibitions in the grand lobby, by Brett Carlson and Scott Scoggin. Both shows open September 19 for the Third Thursday gallery walk.

According to property manager John Hunt of Power Property Consultants, the Spaceworks alliance is part of an innovative effort to bring professional artists and creative entrepreneurs (including restauranteurs, music producers, filmmakers and retailers) as tenants into the privately owned, mixed-use building. “We felt there was a need for flexible-use space for artists, entrepreneurs, non-profits and creative enterprise,” he says. “In our opinion, there was a glut of supply of more traditional office space in the downtown core and we felt there was a real shortage of the type of space the post office has to offer.”

Through Spaceworks, the OPO is offering vetted artists free exhibition and/or studio space for three to six month periods. “We like our tenant mix because it brings a real sense of community to the building,” he adds. With “the potential to become an artistic and entrepreneurial hub for the City.” Photographer and Spaceworks Creative Enterprise recipient Jason Ganwich currently occupies a spacious first-floor studio. The goal of the program is to activate vacant downtown retail space and create a synergistic relationship between property owners and artists who may ultimately become paying tenants (or attract others interested in leasing).

In the two current art exhibits, Scoggin and Carlson take over large wall display cases normally reserved for the postal service’s “Wanted” posters, and objects from the philatelic museum that once occupied the main floor.

“Amanda Knox Recycled” by Brett Carlson. Photo: Gabriel Brown

In Meta-tinations 2013, Carlson, a metal artist, continues his meticulous exploration of hand-cut tin, piecing together strips of metal reclaimed from diverse sources to create new images. The Meta-tinations series “presents visual images and messages utilizing recycled decorative containers in a collage-style format,” he writes in an artist statement. “By using recycled decorative tins, brads and wood, this represents a rebirth of iconic images into new concepts and visuals.”

“A Day in the Life” by Brett Carlson. Photo: Gabriel Brown

Each piece is composed of abstract shapes sheared from recycled tins, hammered together with approximately 250 brads “used to give a more contemporary style,” and mounted onto a plywood board. Recognizable and disparate images from cookie cans and random signage float through the newly created figurative work, spurring free association. In Amanda Knox Recycled, prim Victorian roses cover the face of the Seattle woman accused and acquitted of a lurid sex murder overseas, suggesting how the media – or Knox – may manipulate the defendant’s image. In A Day in the Life, a rendering of the cover of the Beatles’ Abbey Road album is superimposed with snippets from French Impressionist paintings, in a time-traveling continuum of psychedelia.

Carlson credits the development of his labor-intensive style to “having lived overseas for a third of my life and experiencing artists in other societies who devote so much time to a single project – something that is not always seen here in American society.” He has worked in 22 countries in Asia, and gives special significance to time spent in Bali, India, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Burma. In some of these countries, recycled tin (much of it from American products) is also a medium for folk art.

“The recycled part comes with a personal strong concern (shared by many) that we are consuming far too much and need to become as efficient as possible as our planet Earth population grows in excess of 7 billion,” he says. Inside the wall cases, beneath the artwork displayed, Carlson has also inserted mounds of cast-off tin, an effective way of showing his tools of the trade, while reminding viewers of the tremendous waste produced by over consumption.