The Marta Hewitt Gallery always looks fresh. There’s something about the bling effect of glass and the space implied and manipulated by that medium. But Hewitt is taking this a giant step forward, lately, pulling in less famous, but equally good artists in other mediums. Currently three multi-dimensional artists, dealing in work-intensive materials are well described in the title: “ Devotion to Detail.” More than just pretty faces, these pieces are well-grounded in emotional involvement, transferring their vitality to the observer with integrity.
As beautiful as the art glass is in the front of the Annex of the Pendleton Street gallery, keep moving to find even more lavish creativity in the “back room”. That’s where the contemporary action really gains momentum. Ceramics by Lyndsey Fryman, found object and encaustic wall pieces by Raymond Papka and multi-layered cut paper constructions by Eric Standley push the envelope of these inadequate descriptions.
None of these artists stop at the obvious. Their materials are overflowing with more materials, all made to relate with other pieces perfectly and clearly.
Dealing with the flotsam and jetsam of found art can easily lead to chaos. Raymond Papka shows no signs of falling into the confusion from which he makes order. A recent discussion between myself and another artist brought up the value of encaustic; most noticeably, the medium lends a richness that few others do. Imagery and print seems to float beneath several surfaces in the two books , “I Saw Eternity the Other Night I”. and “I Saw Eternity the Other Night II”, melded with heavier unidentifiable metal objects acting as bindings and pop-out commentary. Papka claims himself as a self-taught artist who has pursued his passion for encaustic through workshops, both here and abroad. His B.S. degree in Zoology and Chemistry emerge in his mysterious, balanced designs of words and insect/animal imagery melded apparently into seemingly endless depths.
These are such distinctly different art forms that it requires a bit of double take to move among them. While Papka and Standley clearly work with fantastic detail, the shift from Papka’s encaustic time capsules to the myriad layers of lacy paper intricately cut and laid to form shaped circles and arches, about two inches deep and about 50 or more cuts arranged to form stained glass look-alikes (without the glass) requires some adjustment. The pieces are about two inches deep, mostly of cream-colored untinted paper, but occasionally shocking with a tiny dot or slash of color. “Poseidon” occupies a four-inch circle featuring discs of tiny round watery “oceans”, accompanied by a plethora of surrounding nearly microscopic dimensional designs. Its combination of depth and workmanship works the same kind of mystery that Papka’s foggy layers do.
The work of Lyndsey Fryman is of a completely different genre. These ceramic, pigment and oil paint sculptures are reflections of the life of the artist and her exceptional autistic son. As with many autistic children, he is especially interested in animals – and they in him. When he goes around his home, a farm in Kentucky, the chickens in particular flock to him. In fact they perch on his arms, shoulders, lap and follow him like sheep when he moves. Fryman has depicted the boy with beautiful ceramic feathers flowing about his head. Anyone who has worked with clay, even in its simplest forms, knows that making something as thin as feathers free-stand away from the main form is no mean task, yet Fryman makes them look as if they could easily float free at any moment. The figures are realistic, more so the longer time one spends with them. The faces are angry and bewildered, sometimes depicted as duets, as if the child feels he is two different people and both are frustrated.
The combination of excellent workmanship and superior modeling would be enough to make these pieces show-stoppers. None are taller than two feet, but the emotional impact is Gibralter-sized. Fryman has turned the intensity and devotion of her life into art.
This exhibit could plausibly be termed “craft”, but, as is often said, the dividing line is getting harder and harder to define. It seems to be another case of “I know it when I see it.”
Not part of this show, but on view in the gallery is more new exciting art on canvas by Jason Zickler. Zickler has painted and drawn in acrylic then covered it with resin. When the resin has cured, he layers another painting on top to reseal the canvas, repeating the layers until he feels it is finished. The result is like painting with lumps of glass. Seeing is believing. And the new show coming up at Marta Hewitt, glass by Kerrick Johnson, is a great excuse to drop by and be amazed.