The Curator's Eye

Ryan Molenkamp Finds His Place

73 Place, 2009, oil on panel, 37 x 48 inches

As seen in his Tacoma Public Library exhibit Sound Plans, Ryan Molenkamp is fascinated by landscapes and the various structures that spread across them – buildings, roads, power lines, streetlights – and by the elements that cause those landscapes to evolve. “My work is about a sense of place, examining where I am from and how that place is changing.” Does his work reference specific geography? Sometimes. But it is not a literal interpretation. His paintings are instinctual and emotional impressions culled from his memory, he explains.

Molenkamp’s ongoing exploration includes his Place series, begun in 2007. At first, Molenkamp recalls, this series was “mostly about gesture, and palette, and thick, messy brushwork – almost abstract expressionist.” As the work continued, he thought a lot about how much he enjoys drawing. That realization inspired him to try to capture that same “quality of line” by using finer brushwork in his oils.

In 73 Place, Molenkamp’s newest painting in the Place series and the piece chosen by David Domkoski for this month’s Curator’s Eye, the artist’s love of line is manifest. This painting was developed from a drawing in his sketchbook “that explores the buildup of structures around bodies of water.” When pressed for a more detailed description, Molenkamp says that the blue lake shapes have “something to do with Lake Stevens.” The brown lines along the shoreline are “pier-like or dock-like.”

Molenkamp, who grew up in Lake Stevens in the 1980s and ’90s, recalls how the area’s population tripled during that time and the woods of his childhood morphed into developments with cookie-cutter homes. Fearing this recollection might be misconstrued, he emphasizes that he has no intention of creating environmental propaganda art. He is paying attention to changes in the Pacific Northwest, but with the Place series he makes a concentrated effort to “maintain a certain sense of ambiguity in the work.”

Exhibit Details: Sound Plans, paintings by Ryan Molenkamp, includes work from the artist’s San Juan series and Place series. His work is featured in tandem with paintings by Katie Carnell, exhibiting her series Checkers. The work of both artists is currently on view in the Tacoma Public Library’s Handforth Gallery (1102 Tacoma Avenue South in downtown Tacoma). The exhibition continues through February 27.

Gallery hours are 9am to 9pm, Monday through Thursday, and 9am to 6pm, Friday and Saturday. More information is available at tacomapubliclibrary.org or 253.591.5666.



Age 32 

Nickname Molo 

Hometown Lake Stevens, Washington 

Education BFA from Western Washington University 

Day job Security services manager at the Frye Art Museum 

Places of interest Too many to name! Venice (it’s a feat of engineering), Iceland and New Zealand for dramatic landscapes.  

Favorite movie of 2009 The Hurt Locker

Currently listening to Explosions in the Sky

Web site ryanmolenkamp.com

Blog molosketchbook.blogspot.com


See more in the February 2010 issue   →