finding your way in the woods

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I ran in to Gallery Joe today to see Winifred Lutz‘s new work before it comes down this weekend. I’ve long admired the artist and Tyler professor’s nature with a twist sculpture. The new body of work is a nice continuation of themes I’ve seen before, themes about nature’s more quiet side and its sometimes wacky and appealing shapes.

The 27 new pieces in “findings” show Lutz as a kind of scientist cum wizard of the woods, or in today’s world I suppose she’s a nature make-over artist –giving the sticks and rocks a new look.

As with the last show, there’s humor and whimsy and in a few pieces, a kind of Grimms’ fairy tale affect. (image is detail of “untitled (land shoe and Leviathan)” a piece that looks like a giant’s foot dangling in the vault. On the floor nearby is another shoe-like form. The materials are bark and paper.)

Lutz takes sticks and rocks very seriously but she’s having fun, too, crafting them into hybrid arrangements with her beautiful handmade or other papers. As with other shows, she has attached some of her stick and paper objects to the wall so they jut out perpendicularly like improbable wall barnacles.

Lutz has a great eye for the marvelous piece of bark. And some of her choices here are so gnarly and evocative they’re monstrous. And attaching them to the wall gives them a kind of shamanistic power. (image is “untitled (reverse elephant trunk with flare)” and “untitled (lump on a perch)”)

 

Lutz is always working with relationships –this stick to that rock, this paper to that bark. A few pieces are tied to each other via cable using a kind of cantilever system. Of course the most obvious, but never stated, relationship running through the body of works is that of the artist with nature (and by our identification with the artist, the viewer and nature).

The artist has an intense and intensely personal relationship with the natural world. Would that we all were as respectful of the humble rocks and trees. We’d all be better off.

As with her great outdoor Reclamation Garden at Abington Art Center, the artist is organizing and tidying and playing, but here it’s on a more intimate scale.

Some of the pieces are less marked by the woods than others. Mostly these works involved handmade paper hung in layers and stretched over an armature that is not a found stick. Of this work, “untitled (green box viewfinder)” (shown) is the most playful.

The viewfinder changes depending on how you view it. From directly in front, it appears a beautiful green box with a dark oval inside it. In a way it reminded me of a kiwi fruit. But as you walk away from dead center what becomes visible is a kind of small rectangle that’s a seemingly transparent hole revealing a little of what’s in the box. The piece is mysterious — and amusing. Like many things in nature, it’s a changeling, but an artist-made one, and its spirit of mystical wonder is the same that imbues all the artist’s works.

The large exhibit occupies the entire front gallery and the vault. I recommend a visit (show’s up through Oct. 30). And if you haven’t been to her Reclamation Garden at Abington, that’s a must, too.

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