Thursday, August 18, 2011

Trees and bodies

Vladimir Shakov and Chris Wooten at Sandpiper Gallery

Silver gelatin print from the Drawing Room series by Vladimir Shakov Photo courtesy Sandpiper Gallery

You get the feeling husband and wife artists Vladimir Shakov and Chris Wooten inspire and influence each other - even though their artworks have nothing in common. In their joint exhibition at Sandpiper Gallery, Shakov shows shimmering photos of nudes wrapped in semi-transparent fabrics complemented by Wooten's wire tree sculptures.

As pure art this show is not as impressive as, say, the Mark Bennion show at Traver or the Virna Haffer show at Tacoma Art Museum. It's a different kind of art that needs to be judged by different criteria. Wooten's sculptures are more in the line of decorative craft objects (and viewed as such are very well done), but do not stand up as pure sculpture. Shakov's photos fall more in the line of pure art. In fact, they compare favorably with some of Haffer's more experimental works as well as in comparison with other contemporary photographers. After seeing five or six of them, however, you begin to think, "OK, I get it" and you want to see something more.

By wrapping his models in shimmering materials and printing the photos with an equally radiant silver gelatin process, Shakov gives his figures an otherworldly and futuristic look. We get the feeling we're looking at naked alien women emerging from death into life on some distant planet. The metallic material distorts the figure in fascinating ways while the slight transparency allows the viewer to see it's still human.

Shakov draws into many of his photographs, juxtaposing drawn figures with photographed figures. In the best of these the drawn figures reflect without actually mimicking the poses of the photographed models. The strongest of the ones without the addition of drawing are "Chic in Sheets #2" and its companion piece on the opposite wall, "Chic in Sheets #4." The placement of the figures, the balance of figure and ground, and the strong and simple vertical composition in these are very nice.

Wooten's sculptures are of trees - made of twisted wire, beads, shells, feathers and other materials. She writes that each recalls a specific time, place or tree "of personal significance."

Many of Wooten's sculptures are tree people with faces that are not noticeable at first glance and branches and leaves sprouting out of shoulders and heads. The most person-like of all is "Memory of Trees," featuring beautiful iridescent blue, purple and green leaves made from beetle wings. Another piece I like a lot is "Tropical Canopy Tree," which has parrot feathers for leaves. The color choices on this one are very nice.

Vladimir Shakov and Chris Wooten

Through Sept. 3, noon to 5 p.m. Monday-Saturday or by appointment
Sandpiper Gallery, 2221 N. 30th St., Old Town Tacoma

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