When I first entered this exhibit, I knew only bits and pieces of Whitten’s work - namely, his use of a “developer”, a handmade canvas-sized squeegee contraption that allowed him to make a painting in a manner of seconds. His developer paintings were on display, as were his homages, and sculpture from throughout his career.
Six Sculptors From Humboldt State University
Piante Gallery is the perfect place to house six contemporary sculptors’ work, with its high ceilings and old world charm, the nouveau elegance and provocative nature of their efforts is beautifully displayed. All 6 sculptors are professors on the faculty of Humboldt State University, each with a slightly different “story” to tell, but with a commonality that is apparent when under one high ceilinged roof.
Once a month, Arts Alive draws huge crowds in Eureka, Ca. but the congestion in the front room of the gallery with so many milling around, carefully so carefully, didn’t detract from the whimsical elegance of Jim Crawford’s pristine all white pieces or Louis Marak’s endangered species teapot sculptures. Crawford’s “Untitled Large Vase” is a huggable piece of work, suggesting an upside down Buddha with patchwork- like quilt indentations and his “Untitled Large Bowl”, dressed in white brocade, clay, that is, etched and diamond polished porcelain.
Louis Marak’s fired clay teapot sculptures are of a chilling nature. The teapots pour out double- edged stories of endangered species and human entanglement. “The Handled Bird Teapot”, is a merging of bird, tree, hands; the hands veering into tentacled root/ talons, a vice-like grip of steel surround the bird tree; interchangeable beak and leaves. A variation is “Worm with three hands”, a taunting hand with an out of reach worm, a disconnected bird eye at bottom of tree, watching. The heartbreaking “Water Bird Bowls” ,one frantic eye and beak are all that escape.
The next gallery is a lighter offering but not necessarily letting us off the hook. A Luscious polymer wall hanging of Shannon Sullivan: watery marine blue raindrops/tears dripping from unknown pink and red button clusters, ”Bucket” an off the wall mother nature motif: “Plot With Fertile Slope”, a grassy green patch of land with Easter candy pink and beige nubby protruberances of polymer fired clay and “Plot With Garden Ridge”, a variation.
In the same gallery, Nancy Frazier has shoes aplenty : spiky red mottled grey shoes entitled “Armorwear”; pinky beige nippled shoes with an apt title of “Sucklewear”; forest green matching king and queen shoes in bears paw cradle, ”Check/Mate”; red birds nesting in red shoes, ”Shelter”. Frazier runs the gammit with whimsy and meaning.
Kit Davenport provides the amorphous “Green Bunny” for all this nature business, with a smug green ceramic rabbit with one large white brocaded ear lopped over its bunny head and more breast-like knobs upon a white tree painted on its bunny side. Sharing the space is “Bones Bunny”, perhaps as much deer as rabbit; hanging antler mobile bunny with spine parts separate. Only one eerie rabbit eye is the tell-tale sign of its true rabbity self. Davenport also has the morphing “Diver”, a fish-like sculpture with one defined royal blue fin and a gaping aorta, also a little tree or lung in there. Perhaps not so far fetched if we don’t heed the environmental warning signs.
Sharing the 3rd gallery with Davenport is the moving work of Keith Schneider; his sculptures speak to the human (or dog) condition, posing the question of who’s in control here, man or beast? Schneider states, “ I like using the idea of the figure as a point of departure because it allows a broad range of interpretation. My characters seem anxious and overwhelmed some worried and perplexed, some quizzical and amused”; while working, Schneider says they speak to him about himself. Made of cloth, wood, wheels and clay, “Jocko and Edward” and “Sherman and Pete” are pieces done in 2009. Especially intriguing is the dog in both sculptures: he seems anxious, yearning, even though his wheel legs allow him to speed along at a fair clip, feel the wind whipping; in both pieces he wears a tattered jacket and scarf held together with twine and stitches while a nonchalant passenger in prison garb of black and white horizontal bars is being taken for a ride, his hands intriguingly covered in red and white horizontal bars. Both rider and carrier are wearing beanies adding a new leg or wheel to both stories or is it the same story but different names? which one is the prisoner? so many social implications . Also notable is Keith Schneider’s “Oscar”, a seated dog in tattered jacket, beanie and direct gaze with stick legs. Lots of room for interpretation and Schneider likes it like that.
The six sculptors are on the faculty of Humboldt State University and College of the Redwoods in Eureka, Ca.
Ceramics 2009 Invitational ended March 4th at Piante Gallery in Eureka, Ca
Sue Natzler is director of Piante and curator of the exhibit.