Collins Library is pleased to bestow the 2017 Senior Art Award to Katharine Etsell for her screen-print series that highlights the Port of Tacoma.
The selection committee offers these remarks associated with her work:
We selected an artist whose work celebrates our local community and brings forth two central concepts: local pride and global connections. Katharine’s work focuses on a cornerstone of Tacoma that may often be overlooked and underappreciated by the modern community surrounding it. The images highlight structures of industry surrounded by an unsurpassed natural beauty. The prints evoke a sense of history and nostalgia reminding the viewer of the unique location and geography of Tacoma and the part it has played and continues to play in the global economy. Katharine’s screen-print series invites us to look anew at this integral part of Tacoma’s history, landscape and present day economy. Her decision to use screen print, a technique that requires careful attention to detail, planning and patience, persuasively reinforces the craft and expertise required to build and maintain an industrial infrastructure.
We are proud to have these prints grace the walls of the Collins Library and share the pride we all have in our local community.
This screenprint series highlights the Port of Tacoma, an area that represents a significant piece of both a local and global economy. Though vital, it often remains viewed at a distance by community members and passersby alike. The Port is a massive swath of concrete land; by focusing on its infrastructure up close, the series points out the repeated entities that bring life and movement to
a seemingly static area—large ships bearing containers of goods from faraway places, the waters of the Sound that they travel through, and the cranes that lift shipping containers up and onto land, to be distributed by car and rail.
Each color of the print was applied singularly. Layering the image methodically
and slowly embraces a relatively analog process in today’s digital age; my
process parallels the antiquated feelings of a bygone age that one finds at the
Port of Tacoma. The rusting truss bridges and miles of old railroad that intersect
the Port are reminiscent of a forgotten industrial age, and yet they are still part of
a relevant and vital economy. In building each layer, keen attention was given to
the choices of form and color. By working with a limited palette for each
respective image, a distinct mood is created to evoke a unique sense of Tacoma.
Each composition is a window into a small part of the Port, showing up close the
structures and waters normally seen only from far away, and giving a greater
sense of proximity to the global economy.
There is nostalgia in focusing solely on the Port as landmark of Tacoma. It
exudes a sense of place and time, geographically and historically. While today its
dominant neighbor to the north, Seattle, often overshadows Tacoma, originally it
was a true “city of destiny” for railroad activity and shipping, as it was chosen as
the western stopping point for the first Transcontinental Railroad in the 19th
Century. This particular part of Tacoma shapes both its economy and its
landscape, and has roots in both history and the present. By highlighting the
Port, I hope to engender a sense of pride and awe at an institution that will
celebrate its hundredth birthday in 2018, and will undoubtedly continue to play a
considerable role in this area in the future to come.