The Edgewood Gallery’s current show Diversity provides space for wide-open exploration of Jim Ridlon’s artworks. It shifts from collages and short poems to prints and paintings, from mixed-media pieces to a backyard installation consisting of hundreds of items. Most of all, the show focuses on Ridlon’s penchant for reusing and adapting household items and objects from nature.
In a mixed-media construction, he’s turned out a small suitcase and surrounded it with postage stamps and images of people on torn-out pieces of paper. The work speaks to travel, various interactions, even stages of life. It’s accompanied by a brief poem: “Living the life of one-act plays leaves little time for extended stays.”
“Audience,” a small mixed-media assemblage, evokes a performance as a door opens, affording a glimpse of a woman on a balcony. It’s easy to of think of her as an opera singer.
Other works demonstrate the artist’s ability to subtly use found objects. “Offering” centers on a toy-like hand holding a marble, yet it suggests a larger narrative.
“Tideline I,” a mixed-media construction, works around eight pieces of wood displayed parallel to each other. In the spaces between them, Ridlon has stuffed seashells, pieces of cloth and a tiny metal wheel.
His inventiveness also emerges in “Double Date,” with its assembling of small wood objects in a cabinet. For “Global Conference,” a larger mixed-media construction, Ridlon has placed 23 pieces of wood against a wood background. The work is subject to interpretation but seems to convey rows of seats.
The artist’s interest in making things moves to a large-scale format in the yard behind the gallery. The installation “Nature’s Market” presents dozens of objects, intended to evoke an outdoor market. Pieces of branches are tied by string and hang from a metal rack, suggesting chickens on view at a market. The installation also encompasses small segments of wood shaped like bread and placed into a basket, pine cones in another basket, and objects placed on a rocking chair.
Walking around the yard, viewers will see lots more, including branches cut up, shaped and positioned upright like a tripod, and seashells, charcoal and other items atop a Venetian blind. The installation sprawls but is in no way random. Clearly, Ridlon thought about a setup that would remind viewers of stalls at an outdoor market.
The exhibition’s display of multiple media is very consistent with an artistic career that spans more than 50 years. Ridlon has completed dozens of projects: paintings depicting his garden; a sculpture for the Outland Trophy awarded to the top lineman in college football; and Walls, a series of 48 large-scale paintings. Diversity documents a flexible approach, an ability to work precisely and a capacity for generating much creative energy.
The gallery also presents jewelry by Donna Smith, who uses metalsmith techniques to create contemporary heirloom pieces. She incorporates antique photos, vintage glass and various found objects into her jewelry.
Diversity is on display through Nov. 11 at the Edgewood Gallery, 216 Tecumseh Road. The venue is open Tuesdays through Fridays, 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more information, call 445-8111.
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