For a summertime exhibit that features three artists who work in different media but are connected with the natural work, check out Natural Abstractions, on display at the Edgewood Gallery. The show presents pieces by David Harper, who creates many of his sculptures by cutting and carving branches and other woods; by Fernando Llosa, who uses stones found in creeks and by lakes in some of his works; and by Carol Ackles, whose ceramic bead jewelry reflects her appreciation of nature.
Harper’s sculptures largely center on variations on a theme: woodworks that reference books. “Yellow Pages,” for example, suggests the familiar section from a phone directory, while “Dogeared,” made from wood and locust, shows a book that’s misused. “Spine Tingler Trilogy” has three parts, each consisting of a small piece from a deer’s vetebrae on top of wood.
That’s just a sampler of Harper’s inventive approach. In “Beech Reading,” he combines beechwood and kelp, stone and bone. “Scroll Up” plays with brass, paper and an actual book.
In addition, he’s created a series of larger sculptures displayed in the yard right behind the gallery. One work, made from branches, presents a human figure lying on the ground and holding a book. Another portrays a female figure, with a crown of twigs, with a book in hand while standing under a tree. And a third sculpture has books on a block, atop wooden wheels.
The sculptures clearly document Harper’s imagination and ability to work from nature-based materials. They also hint at larger themes, touching on our relationship with books and a sense of books both as physical entities and as a medium for conveying ideas.
Llosa works in various media including oil paintings, sumi ink drawings and stone assemblages. The oil-on-masonite works like “Fiat Lux” or “The Self Is Nothing” are non-figurative, non-linear pieces. The artist dips his fingers into paint and then applies it to a surface, creating what seems to be a series of waves. There’s a sense not of chaos but of rhythm, of things coming together.
He creates his photographic prints in a process where he mixes sumi ink with water, pushes the mixture across and around a glass surface and lets the mixture dry. Later, he digitizes the final creation and prints it. The best of the prints, “What You Are Looking For,” blends shapes, shades and shadows.
Yet Llosa’s most interesting artworks position stone, metal or wood on canvas, linen and other surfaces. “Donna Flor and Her Two Husbands” has three figures, two small and one large. In “Pendulum,” Llosa works with a light switch and various stones. “Scepter for the Powerless” features a wood shaft with ragged edges set against a stone background. The work seems to reference the notion of a scepter, a staff or mace symbolizing a monarch’s power and state authority. Llosa’s staff, frayed and fragile, is clearly in decline.
Ackles has had a long career as a ceramicist, having created pottery, tiles and liturgical sculptures, among other artworks. That background very much influences her creation of ceramic bead jewelry. Her beads are distinctive, done mostly in earth colors and often suggestive of objects seen in nature.
Natural Abstractions has several positive elements, including the unifying theme of a link to nature, each artist’s particular approach, and the interface between the artists’ materials. In Llosa’s assemblages, stone and metal complement and contrast with each other. Finally, by extending out into the back yard, the exhibit offers possibilities for future Edgewood shows. Even within its small space, the gallery has long done a nice job of hanging exhibitions. Now, at least in fair weather, there’s one more option for staging shows.
The exhibit continues through Sept. 7 at Edgewood, 216 Tecumseh Road.
The gallery is open Tuesdays through Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.,
and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 445-8111.