Mavi Contemporary Art opens with aplomb

Written by Matt Nagle, Tacoma Weekly.

The grand opening of Mavi Contemporary Art was a big hit with Art Walk patrons Aug. 19. Throughout the evening many people stopped by and stayed a while to check out the extreme makeover given to the gallery interior, and to see the collection of paintings and sculptures by the gallery’s inaugural artist William Quinn of Gig Harbor.

With its smooth white walls and sparse décor, Mavi gallery’s interior incorporates a minimalist aesthetic in order to give as much attention as possible to the art on display. Natural light flows in freely from the tall windows and lots of floor space makes it easy for art lovers to mingle and move around. Owners Mavi and her daughter, Elizabeth Ashe, have further plans for the street corner gallery’s exterior, including new awnings that will soon be installed, and a large, signature sculpture is planned for an eye-catching attraction near the entrance. Locals familiar with the gallery’s façade will notice the restored, polished copper molding around the outside windows, having been buried for a long time under layers of paint.

Inside, it’s all about the singular artist being featured through his collection titled “European Odyssey.” An abstract expressionist painter with a penchant for woodcarvings, Quinn’s art ranges from big paintings up to six feet tall to 12-inch tabletop figures he’s carved from wood. He has a few larger carved figures in the show as well, such as his redwood “Harliquinnese” that stands 75-inches tall. Using no power tools, Quinn applies hammer and chisel to his larger carved works, and smaller tools like Q-Tips and nail files for the smaller ones.

On the walls, his paintings are showcased in the main gallery and in the back anteroom. Most he painted while in Europe, where he lived for two decades before moving to Tacoma to be near family. From an early age Quinn was encouraged in his pursuit of art. As he grew older and lived his life, his artistic expression came to encompass his outlook on life and art, his American roots and his European experiences. He has exhibited his works around Europe and the Midwest for more than 40 years, winning accolades and many prizes in competitive exhibitions. His esteemed work also earning him a place in “Who’s Who in American Art,” the preeminent biographical directory of noteworthy visual artists in the United States. Mavi got to know Quinn after the two met in France; she said that showing his work to open her gallery is a dream come true.

Quinn’s paintings are bold and executed with a confident hand. His fearless use of color makes for sweet surprises for the viewer. With commanding brushstrokes, heavy dark lines and dramatic content, his works command attention, sometimes quietly and sometimes not so quietly. Some of his smaller works contain unexpected moments, such as the artist’s incorporation of rags he’s used to wipe his brush on, torn into strips and added to the painting to share with others the “happy accidents” that occur when pigment meets cloth and magically creates something special.

“European Odyssey” is on view through Sept. 12. While at the gallery, also check out exquisite handmade jewelry by Ilse and “fireblaze pottery” by Wanda Garrity. Mavi Contemporary Art is located on the bottom floor of the historic Merlino building at the corner of 6th Avenue and South Fawcett. Hours are 1-8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and by appointment: (253) 759-6233.