The Fussy Eye: The Origin of Species

Maki Tamura's wallpaper exotica.

A long holiday break interrupted Maki Tamura's new show (simply called "New Works"), and you should see it before the circus leaves town. In her animal-filled watercolors, elephants and bears cavort as if in a Victorian exhibition. The bunting and cages are festive; it's a cheerful, fanciful bestiary devoid of modern guilt and notions of animal welfare. But wait—do horses really have wings? Do monkeys really wear red Shriner caps? The animal medallions in her burnt-edged wallpapers aren't meant to be real or historical. They're more like the old mariners' maps dotted with dragons and mermaids, a hazy meeting between natural science and ancient mythology. Paper chains dangle from the ceiling, suspending other creatures both plausible and dubious. The Japanese-born Tamura, based in Seattle since the mid-'90s, suggests a decorative, bygone world that met with sudden extinction. Blame Darwin for that, or the mechanical reproduction that rendered such eccentric handmade creations obsolete. 

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