Collectors of Wood Art Forum

The Collectors of Wood Art (CWA) held their annual forum in Scottsdale this weekend, and I was able to drive up for some of the Saturday sessions.

I first got to see a panel discussion chaired by sculptor Connie Mississippi, with sculptor-carver Susan Hagen, turner Merryll Saylan, turner Virginia Dotson, and furniture maker and artist Wendy Maruyama. The theme was place, and each artist presented images of places and work inspired or informed by those places.

Susan Hagen focused on a series of ten dioramas (Recollection Tableaux) she created for the Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, depicting aspects of life in the prison throughout its history.

Merryll Saylan talked about home and community as place. Some of her pieces had domestic themes; some were more broadly influenced by her environment (e.g., changing color palettes), neighborhood (urban, industrial), and community (family, friends).

Virginia Dotson focused on the geology and cultures of the American Southwest, showing images primarily from Canyon de Chelly. As a desert dweller myself, I have always loved her geologic layered work, and I was interested to see that her new work incorporates painted petroglyph and petrograph motifs.

Wendy Maruyama touched on the World War II Japanese-American internment camps in the United States but focused mainly on inspirations from visits to Japan and China. Her incorporations of hentai images from Japanese pornographic comics and iconic images of Godzilla were particularly amusing. She has also begun using digital video in her work, such as a video of an Asian woman (her sister) applying “dragon lady” makeup, seen through a two-way mirror in a piece.

After a break, the forum continued with digital-image or slide presentations by various artists, emphasizing future work.

I first discovered the exquisite naturalistic carvings of Janel Jacobson this summer in the collection of Fleur Bresler. Janel showed the progression of her work from relief carving in clay to the fully dimensional wood carvings she now does, and she shared some of her specific techniques. The detail in her work is astonishing.

Turner Dewey Garrett’s work always interests me. He is always exploring fresh ideas, informed by his background as an engineer. He has now built himself an ornamental-turning system, but he’s not content to stick with traditional rose engine patterns; he has written software for himself that enables him to create patterns on the fly.

Sculptor Michael Peterson is continuing to explore organic shapes and textures in his work. I find his work irresistible.

Sculptor Jack Slentz is playing with Swiss cross and gear and star shapes, and complementary pieces combining positive and negative shapes. He is also using new materials: stitched rubber and street signs.

Kerry Vesper, furniture maker and sculptor, is carving wave or flying-banner forms and blossom forms in plywood. He is also playing with collaborations with glass artist Alisha Volotzky.

Todd Hoyer and Hayley Smith say they haven’t been making a lot of art recently, because for the last three years they have been engaged in building their studios and a house. Their joint presentation was about just that process. It was particularly interesting to see how the process reflects their approach as artists; for example, the floor of Hayley’s studio is essentially a sample board of colors and textures they were testing for use in floors in their house.

After the presentations, I spent a couple of hours savoring the del Mano Gallery exhibition set up in the conference center. They had multiple pieces from some four or five dozen artists. I haven’t taken so many photos since the ITE. I would share some with you, but I think del Mano would prefer that I not. You can see a lot of work at their web site, however, so check it out.

Going to the forum also gave me the chance to say hello to some friendly faces I met through the ITE this summer: Elisabeth Agro, Albert and Tina LeCoff, Steve Keeble and Karen Depew, Arthur Mason, Joe Seltzer. Brief though my visit to the forum was, it really makes me want to get back to the work I’ve been distracted from by moving and shows and holidays and new toys. I have so many pieces just begun or even just sketched out that draw and build on my ITE experience. That’s the work that excites me most, but, alas, it must yet wait for another few weeks, until after my next show. It must wait because it requires space, psychic space, birthing space. In the meantime, I think about it, dream about it, plan it, work out the details. It gestates in me.