Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mother and daughter

Baskets, drawings and prints at Sandpiper

Published in the Weekly Volcano, Nov. 12,2009
Pictured: Ink drawing by Erica Nordfords Applewhite and Sepia Bowl, 6" high X 14" diameter, hog casings- dyed and stitched, vine rattan, by Jill Nordfors Clark.

With classical forms and an almost revolutionary approach to media, Jill Nordfors Clark has become synonymous with Northwest basketry. Her work can be seen alongside drawings and prints by her daughter, Erica Nordfords Applewhite, in a new show at Sandpiper Gallery in Old Town.

Clark is well established on the national scene as a recognized basket maker. Her work has been shown in major galleries across the country. Applewhite is less well known but has previously shown in the Tacoma area. This is her first show at Sandpiper.

Using her signature material, hog casings (aka hog gut) and other materials such as bamboo, twigs, thread and parachute cord, Clark creates baskets in classical forms such as tall cylinders and rectangular shapes like modern skyscrapers with open-weave surfaces. She uses a technique borrowed from needle lace embroidery over molds with materials that are stiff but look lacey — as if they should not be able to stand on their own. It is the simultaneous contrast and unity of form and material that makes her baskets so fascinating. That and the aesthetic properties of the hog casings, which can look like translucent parchment or slick and shiny threads in woven patterns that more often than not look like fishnet stockings except for the ivory color.

In "From the Weaver’s Hand" a pattern of bamboo twigs and parachute cords is woven over an irregular sheet of hog gut that looks like the membrane of some kind of underwater creature. Delicate twigs and leaves are embedded within this parchment-like membrane. The overall form is a tall cylinder.

"Collaboration III" is a rectangular tower reminiscent of the World Trade Center and similar skyscrapers made of hog casings and matchstick bamboo. It is perfectly symmetrical. The hog casings are stitched together in a fishnet pattern, and the bamboo is a crosswork of up-and-down patterns with every stick perfectly straight.

These very classical and simple forms dominate, but there are a few vessels that are less severe in form with a more open weave at top, and some are more bowl-shaped. Plus, there are a few in which she uses dyes to add a touch of color not found in her more natural materials. One piece in a window setting has some brilliant purples and reds.

Applewhite is showing a few small and decorative prints and a group of sketchbook drawings of people on the ferry. I was not very impressed with the prints, which look a lot like rubber stamp images of common household items, animals, leaves and so forth. I like the sketches more. They’re contour drawings with a lot of white space combined with areas of dense crosshatch shading. They have a casual and personal feel and capture the essence of people on the Bremerton-Seattle run. These are the equivalent in drawing of candid shots with a camera — people caught off guard and unaware, or uncaring, that they are being captured in pen and ink.

These are unpretentious and delightful little drawings.

[The Sandpiper Gallery], Monday-Saturday, noon. to 5 p.m. and by appointment, through Nov. 30, 2221 N. 30th St, Old Town Tacoma, 253 627-6667]

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