Monday, May 6, 2019

Beyond craft

Carved Wood and Ceramics grace Childhood’s End
By Alec Clayton
“Octopus” carved wood by Sara Gettys, courtesy Childhood’s End Gallery
Sara Gettys’ art looks like etchings or woodblock prints. They’re relatively flat and hang on the wall like prints, but they are not prints. They are wood carvings: images carved into wood panels and inked so the raised portions are black and the recessed cuts and gouges are white (or in some instance the light tan of wood). In Gettys’ works, that method results in decorative images with strong contrasts.
There is a timeless quality to these images, as if they could have been made in 1840 or 1930 or 2018. Most of her images are of animals: birds, fish, octopi and jellyfish. Most are as realistic as one can expect of images with no modeling or modulation of gray tones and little to no illusion of depth. Some of the animals she pictures are placed in stylized environments that reference the animal’s natural habitat, and others are in front of purely abstract patterns.
The backgrounds do not always stay behind the figures. In one of her octopus pictures, for example, the background is made up of flowing lines representing waves. Some of these lines go behind the image of the octopus, and others cross over, while a few weave in and out of the tentacles and thus serve as unifying elements.
Pictures of a moth and of a beetle on the gallery’s back wall are square but presented in a diamond orientation. The creatures are centered in the space, and the backgrounds are abstract heraldic patterns. These two pictures have a strong impact when viewed from a distance because of the confrontational centering of the images and the diamond-shaped orientation.
With some 27 wood carvings around all three walls, Getty’s art tends to dominate, but there are many more artists’ works on display.
Megan MacClellan is showing porcelain and mixed-media pieces including a wall hanging in which three porcelain slabs are joined together with blue string, with each piece having its own title. It includes a map of Oregon’s Willamette River Reach mapping the path the river took as it moved across the floodplain, and a depiction of Olympia’s Budd Bay Inlet in blue (everything else is subtle white-on-white) surrounded by a map showing projected sea levels in 30 years. MacClellan’s map-based art is inventive and subtle, and offers glimpses into the history and current reality of our natural world.
Longtime Childhood’s End favorites, husband-and-wife team John and Robin Gumaelius, are featured with a large selection of collaboratively-made ceramic sculptures of imaginary hybrid animal people. One large piece is a sculpture of a strange little man riding the back of a mule that is, in turn, riding on some kind of box with arms that is riding on top of a wagon. Another is a funny human with a big head astraddle a large face, which looks very much like the rider’s face, all of which is on wheels. And there are birds galore, and alligators and many other funny but unidentifiable and beautifully crafted creatures.
More traditional and quite lovely to look at are colorfully glazed stoneware platters and trays with images of cartoonish animals by Julia Janeway. Also included in this themed show are carved porcelain works by Linda Heisserman and Richard Roth.
In recent decades the differences between art and craft have increasingly blurred. In Carved, Wood & Ceramics, we are presented with crafts that are art.
In a separate show at Childhood’s End, there is a group of images by Arts Walk cover artist Darcy Goedecke.
Carved, Wood & Ceramics, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, through May 30, Childhood’s End Gallery, 222 Fourth Ave. W, Olympia, 360.943.3724.

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