CULTURE

Published on May 15th, 2015 | by Katy Evans

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The secret lives of discarded ephemera; or the cool shit Isaac Olsen found at Value Village

Four years ago, artist and filmmaker Isaac Olsen worked at the Southend Value Village (now a Goodwill). Isaac had the unenviable job of digging through mystery trucks of donated items, sifting through literal garbage to find hidden treasures worth at least some small value worthy of resale.

It was drudgery, sure, but in the mass of trash were hundreds and hundreds of abandoned photographs,captured moments without context that once found, can’t help but stir the artistic spirit of a filmmaker.

So for the year and a half that Isaac dug through South Tacoma’s castoffs, avoiding a dead snake and innumerable used tampons, he also collected this ephemera, rescuing more than 4,000 photographs and artwork.

Just a small assortment of the photographs Isaac Olsen collected for "It Takes a Village."

Just a small assortment of the photographs Isaac Olsen collected for “It Takes a Village.”

This weekend, you can see what happens when a filmmaker reimagines abandoned histories, assumes conclusions and relationships, and honors mortality and humanity.

A photograph from Isaac Olsen's exhibit "It Takes a Village"

A photograph from Isaac Olsen’s exhibit “It Takes a Village”

That may sound a little overwrought but the show, It Takes a Village, certainly is not. Isaac connects these photographs and found art pieces with love and humor, not with pretense.

It Takes a Village is the triumph of a treasure hunt shared enthusiastically, as an invitation to get curious and imagine your own narratives.

A photograph from Isaac Olsen's exhibit "It Takes a Village"

A photograph from Isaac Olsen’s exhibit “It Takes a Village”

The show, on display in Isaac’s studio space (717 Tacoma Avenue South, Suite C), is curated in a series of rooms. The primary room, where you enter, features Isaac’s original photographs, chronicling his time working at Value Village. The oversize photographs give you a sense of Isaac’s perspective, his ability to ferret out a story in the inanimate.

From the main room, three adjacent, smaller spaces display Isaac’s treasures: series of candid photographs taken from the 1930s to the early 2000s, a choice selection of undeniably odd works created by forgotten artists, and a room dedicated to projecting hundreds of abandoned slides.

One of my favorite photographs from Isaac Olsen's exhibit "It Takes a Village"

One of my favorite photographs from Isaac Olsen’s exhibit “It Takes a Village”

One of my favorite series captures intimate moments in what must be the 1960s.

A conspicuously charismatic middle aged gentleman assumes a variety of contrived and spontaneous poses (in various states of undress) that leave the viewer with so many questions.

Who is taking these pictures? Did they do this photo shoot for fun? For titillation? As foreplay? Either way, he seems like a pretty great guy to party with: excellent fashion sense, quick to flirt, very few inhibitions. And this is just one of many glimpses into the past lives of Tacomans.

For $5, see the show on Saturday, May 16 and enjoy refreshments, special guests, and a junk installation to help convey the origins of this show. On Sunday, May 17 viewing is free.

It Takes A Village: a found photography and art exhibition

717 Tacoma Ave South, Suite C

May 16 & May 17, 2 – 9 pm

$5 cover charge May 16, free May 17

 

It takes a Village is supported by The Tacoma Arts Commission through Tacoma Artists Initiative Program. Exhibit space provided by Spaceworks Tacoma.

 

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About the Author

Founder and Co-Managing Editor at Post Defiance, Katy writes and fundraises for Tacoma. Follow her @katynicoud.



One Response to The secret lives of discarded ephemera; or the cool shit Isaac Olsen found at Value Village

  1. RR Anderson says:

    We call them “haunted photos” and people love them. Think replicants from blade runner with no past seeking out photos to feel some connection to their humanity.

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