“The commonplaces of America are to me the richest subjects in art.”
     — Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell's painting, Happy Birthday Miss Jones

Some books about Norman Rockwell and his art

 “I guess I have a bad case of the American nostalgia for the clean, simple country life as opposed to the complicated world of the city.”
     — Norman Rockwell

The Tacoma Art Museum is currently exhibiting American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell.  Rockwell is well known for his iconic portraits that graced the covers of The Saturday Evening Post, more than 300 covers over a span of 47 years.  The exhibit featured many of the original paintings that became covers, as well as a range of his other art.

Rockwell was gifted at telling a story within each of his paintings, and many had a humorous twist.  They seem to project nostalgia for decency and wholesomeness, an idealized portrait of ordinary people in universal situations . . . neighbors playing cards, kids playing leap frog or marbles, a family outing, etc.  When I was growing up, we said grace before meals, dressed up in hats and gloves for church, and played kick-the-can and tag, so I can appreciate Rockwell’s art.  But at the same time, I know that his vignettes are too rosy and uncomplicated to reflect real life, just as The Cosby Show and Leave It to Beaver depict idealized families that are quite dissimilar to mine.

Norman Rockwell's The Marble Champion

The Tacoma Art Museum exhibit includes a roomful of Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers, and it is an amazing body of work.  One of my great uncles lived a bachelor’s life on a remote ranch on the Salmon River in Idaho, and he papered one of his walls with old Post covers.  So Rockwell’s influence extended even to my family in a small way.

My Great Uncle's staircase papered in Saturday Evening Post covers

Sounder Commuter Train between Tacoma and Seattle

On Thursday my friend Carol and I went to the Tacoma Art Museum and decided to make the journey more adventuresome by using only public transportation.  The Sounder Commuter Train runs twice in the morning and twice in late afternoon, during peak commuting times, between Seattle and Tacoma.  We didn’t want to spend too many hours in Tacoma during the middle of the day, so we decided to take the 594 bus from downtown Seattle to Tacoma ($3.00 fare), and then return on the Sounder.  This turned out to be a good plan for a fun day trip.

The 594 bus dropped us off on Pacific Avenue in Tacoma within a block of the Tacoma Art Museum.  The museum had a special 75-cent admission on Thursday in celebration of its 75th anniversary.  It is a gem of a museum, and the current exhibits featured Japanese woodblock prints, some Impressionist paintings, and “Mighty Tacoma:  A Photographic Portrait,” in addition to an ongoing exhibit of Dale Chihuly glass baskets.

Dale Chihuly's 40 Niijima glass floats on Stone Wave by Richard Rhodes, Tacoma Art Museum

Detail of one of Dale Chihuly's glass baskets

One of my favorite Japanese woodcut prints, Night Rain at Oyama by Tokokuni II, Tacoma Art Museum

Special photographic exhibit, Tacoma Art Museum

Mighty Tacoma: Photographic Portrait, Tacoma Art Museum

Interactive exhibit. The museum's photographer-in-residence took pictures of patrons to add to the Mighty Tacoma exhibit.

Picture Yourself Here, interactive exhibit, Tacoma Art Museum

A Tacoma artist-in-residence takes photographs of patrons for the exhibit.

After a delightful museum visit, Carol and I ate a leisurely lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant, walked through the University of Washington Tacoma campus, and then caught the free link (light rail) from the museum district to the Tacoma Dome Station.  There we walked across the street to the Sounder station where we caught the commuter train back to Seattle ($4.75 fare).  We enjoyed a relaxed ride with the recurring sound of the train whistle reminding us that this was quite a different journey than driving down I-5.

The Sounder approaches the Tacoma depot.

Interior of the Sounder Commuter Train (free wi-fi, bathrooms, luggage racks)