One of the great things about living in this area is that no matter how well you think you know each neighborhood, district, highway and block, there are always new discoveries that turn up -- literally -- right in your own back yard. It could be a quaint little tavern or donut shop filled with salt-of-the-earth folks, a gorgeous park you've never seen before, or in the case of TWIN TOTEMS GALLERY north of Spokane, a sophisticated art space just off Highway 2 in a stand of ponderosa pine.

Owned by Melanie and Rick Rudd, Twin Totems has a little bit of everything, from Chihuly glass to Amy Burnett's inventive, neo-deco works. In the summer, the gallery is even skirted by a whimsical sculpture garden.

Currently, the gallery is exhibiting bronze sculptor Tim Holmes. Many of the works in the show come from his 1993 solo exhibition at the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, and others. China Peace, for instance, was commissioned for world peace and human rights organizations. In an interview from his home and studio in Helena, Mont., Holmes talks about the honor of being one of the handful of Western artists to exhibit in Russia.

"I am still just amazed. I think I'll never be able to understand what an honor this is," he says. "One of the reasons I think they chose my work is that it has this quality of reaching into the despairing part and addressing it with joy. The Russian people have had one disaster after another, and as a result, they are a people with incredible resilience."

While Holmes (who is also a member of the Montana Logging and Ballet Company, a regular guest on National Public Radio) is well aware of the power of art to transmit meaning and embody philosophy, his passion is tempered by reality.

"What I'm trying to do is reach one person at a time. Twenty years ago, my plan was to make really good art that would speak to the world, but aging decrepitude has vanquished youth and enthusiasm," Holmes laughs. "If I can bring one person to a little bit more of an understanding of life, then I will have become more successful."

Holmes's sculptural works at Twin Totems are not terribly large -- most are under two feet tall -- but their power is undeniable. Returning the Nails, with its subtext of crucifixion, is a study in grief and dignity, and Who Gives All Gifts is the spirit of agape made manifest. China Peace is one of the most interesting, not only for the structural challenges it posed, but its role in shaping history.

"The China Information Center was formed right after the Tiananmen Square massacre, and they needed to get the information into the interior of China because the people were being lied to by their government," explains Holmes. "It was a pretty difficult assignment. They were asking me to create a symbol to memorialize a really horrible event, which would be auctioned off to wealthy Americans to create funds to reach the Chinese people. What they did with the funds is a remarkable thing. They wrote a narrative, which included a photo of massacre and then faxed it into random numbers all over China. The government couldn't prosecute, and it was the biggest fax revolution in history."

Tim Holmes's work is at Twin Totems, 5117 E. Greenbluff Road, Colbert, Wash., through Winter 2001. Call: 238-6353.

Renaissance man

There are few things DAN DEMING can't do. He's been a merchant marine, a hard rock miner, a test car driver for General Motors, a roughneck on an oil rig off the coast of northern B.C. and a D.C. cab driver. He's been a cook, a foreman and a mechanic. He's also been the subject of articles in Art in America, a veteran of more than 400 art shows, and the painter of more than 1,000 paintings.

"I lived in Baltimore for a while in the late '80s, and I broke my leg pretty bad. I was within an hour or two drive from all the great art museums," explains Deming from his home and studio on the Okanagan River outside of Omak. "I saw every exhibit that came through town during that period. What I would do is go to a museum and even though it was hard to walk, I wouldn't leave until I discovered something new about art. And then I'd go home and start working on it on my own, working it into my own style."

While Deming is largely self-taught, he did attend art school -- briefly.

"I went to art school for one semester, and what I experienced there was bone-numbing boredom. It was the Philadelphia College of Art, one of the best art schools on the East Coast, but it was really boring. I said, 'Man, I gotta find out the meaning of life.' "

Deming's influences range from Van Gogh to Jackson Pollock. While he has been a painter on canvas for most of his artistic career, he's recently turned to a much more durable medium. When he saw a fellow artist's abstract work on plates, he realized porcelain was the way to go.

"The effect that you have with the glazes, the way you work with palette knives, I said, 'What the hell am I doing the paintings for?' Painting on the tiles is much better, it's more prominent and it's fine art that's permanent. You can hang it over your sink or take one and bury it in the yard. Hundreds of years from now, it will still be there."

Dan Deming's work can be viewed at Call: (509) 826-5805.

Spokane Justice for Tyre Nichols @ North Bank Park

Sat., Feb. 4, 3:30-5:15 p.m.
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