Thursday, January 22, 2009

Guts and jewels

Catherine Gresiz at Traver Gallery

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Jan. 22, 2009
Pictured: "transmutation a, b, c" copper, stainless steel, cubic zirconium, garnet, coral, moonstone, pink opal, cherry quartz, by Catherine Grisez, 14"h x 26.5"w x 6"d

Catherine Grisez’s sculptures at William Traver are grotesqueries with jewel-like beauty. Her latest works investigate ideas of birth, growth and regeneration in animal and plant life. She is showing a series of small sculptural vessels in a variety of media, mostly various metals. They look like seed pods that are broken open to reveal inside clusters of seed-like semi-precious stones or other pod-like forms with cancerous growths on their skins.

In some ways looking at her sculptures is like watching surgery on some TV doctor show like "House" or "ER." They are disturbingly organic. But they are also very lovely to look at. The contrasts of colors and materials are particularly interesting.

These pod forms are one of two distinct series of works in this show. The other is a group of metal trees with gnarled and curvilinear branches that hang upside-down in the gallery windows and drip diamond-encrusted stalagmites on the floor. The trees look real. Only extremely close inspection reveals that they are made of metal and that the diamonds that are piled on the floor are glass or glass-like stones. They look like crystals that have been dripping for ages. Many of these glass crystals are glued to the lower limbs of the trees and look like icicles. The sparkly piles on the floor are lighted from within, thus making them even more sparkly. These works are quite lovely in a delicate, filigree sort of way like a stage set for a fantasy winter scene. Interestingly, despite the theatricality of these works and their larger size, they do not carry any of the philosophical weight or visual punch of the seedpod sculptures.

Probably the best piece in the show is the one used on the show announcement: "transmutation, a,b,c" made of stainless steel, cubic zirconium, and various semi-precious stones. Three bladder bags hang side-by-side on the wall attached by large flathead spikes. The outside appears to be shiny copper. The seeds inside are embedded in dull brown material and encrusted with jewels.

Another particularly nice piece is called "the opposite of fairy tale pink." Made of painted copper and white turquoise, it is a simple dark brown shell of a bowl with a pink interior and a circle of stones.

And the strangest of all, "detach," is a circular blob tangled in rope with red cancerous growths on the skin and two big gashes sewn up with stitches about as clumsy as those on a Frankenstein monster. This piece more than any other verges on the grotesque.

“My current body of work focuses on my search for personal and spiritual growth through an excavation of past events,” Grisez writes. “I’m experimenting with imagery based on specimens of physical root systems and the creatures that live among them. These natural objects are dissected in order to find the meaning beneath and how it relates to ongoing personal growth.”

[William Traver Gallery, Tuesday-Sat 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m., through Feb. 8, 1821 East Dock St., Tacoma, 253.383.3685]

No comments: