Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Birds of a Feather

Chris Maynard’s feather creations at Childhood’s End
By Alec Clayton

All photos by Chris Maynard, courtesy Childhood’s End Gallery

"Morning Crow 6" turkey and small parrot feather
Chris Maynard’s feather art at Childhood’s End begs the questions, how do you distinguish between art and craft, and when does cleverness become trickery? Bev Doolittle’s famous paintings of horses hidden in trees because the spots on their coats match the spots on trees in snow are clever gimmicks. But her oeuvre becomes a one-trick pony through repetition, and thus her painting’s value as art are lessened. Maurits Cornelis Escher employs similar tricks in his paintings of flocks of birds that morph into schools of fish and negative spaces that become positive and paintings of buildings with disorienting architecture, yet his work is generally considered greater art than Doolittle’s paintings. The difference might be hard to quantify. It has to do with the greater variety in Escher’s work and his larger vision.
"Swallow's World" turkey feather

'Pluck 2" argus pheasant feather
Maynard’s feather art has a lot in common with both Doolittle and Escher. He even blatantly borrows from Escher with repetitive images of birds becoming fish or stars and vice versus. But his vision is unique to him and conveys a deep love for the world of nature he depicts. And as in Escher’s work, there is a lot of variety in his imagery.
Maynard cuts images out of feathers and mounts them under glass. He cuts out the shapes of birds and fish and mounts them along with the feathers with the negative shapes he has cut out to create inventive worlds of his imagination — literally in the case of one piece called “Swallow’s World,” in which he created an entire world, including a globe made of turkey feathers.
In these pictures he employs many fine art elements such as unity created through repetition and a sophisticated interplay of positive and negative shapes.
In “Pluck 2,” an eagle hovers in attack more at the top of a feather, and as the eye travels down we see schools of fish. As in many of his pictures, the feather from which the pictures are made becomes a part of the picture.
Also on display are wire and metal sculptures of animals by Colleen Cotty. These are created by twisting wire into animal shapes and mounting them on driftwood and stone and other materials from nature. The most interesting one of these one called “The Becoming,” which is a mass of twisted and overlapping wire inside a shell form made from a bent sheet of brass. Only upon close inspection does it become clear that the tangled wire is in the form of a horse lying on its back with its legs in the air. It is most interesting when seen as a purely abstract shape playing off the contrasts between the brass shell and the twisted wire.
Also showing are pastel landscapes by Mary Denning.

10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, through Nov. 11, Childhood’s End Gallery, 222 Fourth Ave. W, Olympia, 360.943.3724.

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