Two Artists at DIVA
Mixed media, glass
The Wonderful Wiz
Great costumes, sets and talent add up to a wicked show.
The Gift of Wine
Stuff your beloved’s stocking.
Two Artists at DIVA
Mixed media, glass
BY SYLVIE PEDERSON
The title: Frozen in Time, mixed media by LiDoña Wagner (through Friday, Dec. 3), may not quite do justice to her work’s vibrant colors and dynamic shape interaction. With their intense ochre, sienna and terra-cotta colors often contrasting with blue accents, a number of the pieces conjure the southwestern desert. Collaged over a painted Bristol ground, torn fragments of painted tissue, watercolor and printmaking papers create a slight bas-relief and evoke the shape, texture and fissures of rock formations. Lines drawn with Conté or watercolor crayons provide a further layer.
|Rock Memories, mixed media by LiDoña Wagner|
“Indirectly, my work is built upon 30 years of working with the poor in inner cities and in Africa and Asia,” Wagner said. “The layering is so important to me in my work because ours is not a flat world but a richly-textured world. I’m always drawn to the archaic in the countries I visit. Layers and layers of meaning is what I see wherever I go.”
After graduating from college in 1962 in Texas, Wagner became active in the civil rights movement, then worked in grassroots empowerment projects in developing countries for nearly 30 years. In 1991, she moved to western Canada where she wrote and started taking art classes, studying watercolor, cedar-bark brush painting, life drawing and mandala art.
Encrustations of Time is one of the more abstract pieces in the desert series, but anyone who has looked at rocks — from a tiny mottled agate to a large lichen-encrusted rock — will recognize the source of Wagner’s inspiration in this richly textured work. Ballad of Shard and Bone celebrates archaeology to the rhythm of loosely Miró-like black lines and marks.
In Rock Memories, however, a rocky landscape is clearly evoked, with cliffs crested by dark bluish pines, the complementary blue of the sky and bright ochre of the earth playing off each other. Though somewhat more abstract, Ice Age Cliff Dwellings is beautifully evocative of the architectural intricacies time and erosion have carved into a vertical rock formation.
Sometimes, the artist introduces a narrative element. In Shaman Invoking Wisdom, owls appear within a complex golden shape that lights up a cave. The shape may represent the shaman himself and not just his invocation. Meanwhile, in Bear Medicine, outlines of stylized bear shapes over the painted surface playfully subvert the impression of depth created by the landscape of boulders and stone arches. Paw prints as large as the bears defy any sense of scale. Bear Greets the Sun is perhaps less successful. Only the colors may be said to fit loosely with the title, while the overall composition denies the possibility of a figurative interpretation.
Pieces outside the desert series are less tightly linked. Many are purely abstract compositions. Particularly successful is Wisdom Marks with its counterpoint of flowing dark lines and colored shapes. Inside Out relies on a structure of window-like squares of different sizes, beyond the largest of which a turbulent sunset sky may be imagined. To carry its message, Forest Dilemma uses a number of newsprint fragments over a background reminiscent of a barren earth viewed from an airplane. In I Hate Violence, against a wall of splattered blood, a single news fragment begins with the very words in the title.
Other pieces seem loosely connected by the theme of passage and change: Threshold; Transition is Good; Metamorphosis; Maiden, Mother, Crone; and even the aquatic world of Coral Crossroads with its chromatic tension between the reds, oranges and yellows of corals and the deep blues of the ocean.
Wagner’s palette is mostly warm and remains vibrant even when cool. In this exhibit, she seems particularly drawn to the energy of the complementary duo of blue and orange.
“Kandinsky is a big influence on me,” Wagner said. “The whole understanding of the spiritual dimension of art, in particular his idea of colors being like piano keys, each note speaking to a different part of the personality or the spirit. The spiritual dimension of art is what draws me.”
Environmentally conscious and aware of the toxicity of pigment binders, Wagner has devised ways of painting that minimize adverse impact on the environment which she described in an article published this month in American Artist. As intended, Wagner’s work resonates at many levels. Her rich textures invite close scrutiny, and her overall compositions call for the viewer to step back to gain perspective.
Also at a gallery in DIVA, Olga Volchkova’s Glass & Inspirations is on exhibit through Mon. Dec. 31. Though she started working with glass only three years ago, Volchkova, a professional icon-painter and restorer, is already proving herself a most promising emerging artist in the art of glass-casting and the lost-wax process. This show documents her notable beginnings in this demanding technique.
|Before Meiji, kiln-cast glass in lost-wax technique by Olga Volchkova|
Born in Tver, a Russian city by the Volga, Volchkova was trained in music, chemistry, icon painting and painting restoration in her native country. She left Russia in 1996. After settling in Eugene in 2000, she took UO classes in ceramics and figure sculpture, the latter with Matthew Buckner.
“When you understand the human shape,” Volchkova said, “you see everything in a different way. It’s a resource for me even when I do abstract art.”
Reading books about glass fusing led Volchkova to taking a cast-glass workshop at Pilchuck Glass School with Susan Holland in 2001. Hooked, she acquired the necessary equipment for a home studio and worked on her own until the following summer, when she returned to Pilchuck for a class with Tessa Clegg, a renowned British cast-glass artist. Two of Volchkova’s pieces were selected for Pilchuck’s live fundraising auctions that very year, a distinction received only by a handful of emerging artists.
Casting glass using the lost-wax technique is a labor-intensive process. After preparatory sketches, the artist creates the piece in clay, plaster or wax. A series of negative and positive molds are then made from that initial piece, from a plaster to a wax to a refractory-mold that will go in the kiln and receive the melting glass. Firing may last from one day to two weeks, depending on the thickness of the piece. The process ends with grinding and polishing.
Volchkova’s earlier pieces from the years 2001-2002 consist of single-unit forms, usually flower-shaped vases carved with floral motifs, such as Flower #1, whose icy tulip petals appear to emerge from a still-frosted earth in early spring, the crocus-like Yellow Vase, or the more complex Bouquet of dark green inflorescences over deep amber leaves and stems. Trio is shaped out of three pale petals enclosing a purple pistil. White translucent petals crowning dark snake-skinned sepals make Before Meiji a particularly lovely piece. Jazz seems to belong to the sea, half-plant, half-creature, moving to the rhythm of the current.
Clegg’s conceptual influence makes itself felt in Volchkova’s later works from 2003-2004. Each piece pairs two forms contrasting in size, shape, color, texture and degree of opacity. Clegg’s interlocking forms are precise, geometric, highly polished and controlled, but Volchkova’s remain organic, if equally sculptural and minimalist.
The Bottles from the Autumn Series evoke exotic island fruit and tempt our imagination into creating matching flora and fauna. Skipping Stone #1, a black pock-marked pebble with a white blossom rising from a depression is particularly successful, as is #3, an elegant gray-green stone standing upright and blooming white like a species of sea-cactus.
“The key to anything in art is observation,” Volchkova noted. “I think a lot about the shape of found objects like river pebbles. The more I look, the more I understand the shape, how it’s so balanced. It’s the same with colors. I’m taking a lot of my images and inspirations from my surroundings: shapes, colors, sounds…” Volchkova’s photographs of reflections on water, lichen on stone, pebbles, rocks, sand and clouds reveal some of her sources of inspiration.
While her two latest pieces, Wizard Island and Autumn Essence, retain texture and organic characteristics in their accent element, they also stand out for the marked abstraction, simplification of form and high polish of their main body.
“Glass,” Volchkova explained, “looks like a frozen liquid. I wanted to keep the idea of a liquid poured into a vessel in the end-result.” Volchkova’s 2004 works also indicate a further degree of refinement in technical skills.
Volchkova’s previous three-dimensional work, done in clay, was wide-ranging. It included folksy and whimsical pieces with a lovely attention to detail, as well as works that relied on sober minimalism, elegance of form, classic figurative sculpture and strongly-textured organic forms. In shifting her focus to the more demanding lost-wax technique and glass medium, Volchkova has raised the bar higher for herself. Many sculptors are happy to limit themselves to a preliminary sculpture in clay or wax and to let a specialist do the rest. Volchkova decided to do the entire process herself. That she mastered so much in so short a time is remarkable and her exhibit deserves careful viewing.
The Wonderful Wiz
Great costumes, sets and talent add up to a wicked show.
BY SHARLEEN NELSON
As a child growing up in the ’60s, each year I looked forward to watching that beloved perennial, The Wizard of Oz, on TV. I can still picture myself on the living room floor trying to hide from my parents and sibs, the tears streaming down my cheeks when the Wicked Witch of the West locked Dorothy in the tower. Later in bed, visions of those creepy flying monkeys took center stage in my nightmares. Although the Actors Cabaret (ACE) production didn’t provoke any tears this time, the flying monkeys were still pretty creepy.
Adapted from L. Frank Baum’s venerated children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1900), Oz is the story of a Kansas farm girl who dreams of a better place, somewhere over the rainbow, where she can’t get into trouble and her little dog Toto will be safe from a hateful neighbor. She decides to run away but is caught in a twister that transports her to the faraway land of Oz where she must endure hardships and learn a valuable lesson before she can return home. A timeless tale that continues to resonate from one generation to the next, its images, dialogue and music — from “Follow the Yellow Brick Road” to “There’s no place like home” – have become indelibly stamped in the American lexicon.
Director Joe Zingo successfully brings Oz to life with an energetic and musically talented cast, impressive sets and exceptional costumes. When it comes to scene changes, ACE has it down to a science. Making good use of every square inch of a limited production area, their wonderful rotating walls seamlessly transform Dorothy’s Kansas farmhouse into the vivid, Technicolor land of Oz. Creative lighting techniques cast long shadows in the haunted forest, and special effects are used for sparks and to create a convincing “great and powerful” Oz, complete with glowing eyes and moving mouth. Hats off to the costume department for a rich array of imaginative touches including the Tin Man’s silver suit, Good Witch Glinda’s spectacular gown and the innovative method of making the Munchkins appear small.
Ashley Apelzin is a delightful Dorothy. Although petite, her personality and strong vocals belie her small frame and spill from the stage. Colin Gray, Tyler Blaser, and Greg Mathans compose Dorothy’s trio of sidekicks – Scarecrow, Tim Man and Cowardly Lion, respectively – who each make the play their own by injecting a bit of well-placed contemporary humor into the story. Mathans is particularly adorable as the lion. In the film version the song “If I Were King of the Forest” was my least favorite tune, but Mathans’ rendition was a pleasant surprise.
Showing off her flair for fiendish shrieking infused with a touch of humor, Erica Jean makes quite a quirky Wicked Witch of the West. Rounding out the cast is John Elliot as the Wizard, Michelle Sellers as Glinda, Kathy Bowman as Aunt Em, Dale Flynn as Uncle Henry, Mark Innocenti as the Emerald City Guard, Matt Bonham as Hunk and the talented ensemble cast who make up Emerald City’s residents, Winkies, and Munchkins, and, of course, those creepy monkeys.
The Gift of Wine
Stuff your beloved’s stocking.
BY LANCE SPARKS
A wright, it’s time to deck the halls with Boston Charlie, hang the mistletoe and get all jarly while the mimsy borogroves are tucked up in their beds with mussels and oysters dancing in their heads.
See why nobody invites me to go a-caroling? It’s a trick anyone can learn; leaves me plenty of time to concentrate deeply on the sweet magic of this, the most important merchandising season of the year. It’s mere minutes, people, until the Holy Morning of Present Opening, barely enough time to join in the Merry Mall Mosh, run enough heat up on the ol’ Visa to make it limp as Nu-Skin.
Which brings us, naturally, to the gift of wine. First, though, let’s recall that the gift of wine is steeped in ancient tradition, going back to before even the founding fathers, or the mid-1980s, your choice. And those who know the REAL story of the birth in the manger will remember fondly that the fourth wise man, Domini Perignonior, brought the gift, not of frankincense or myrrh, but a Methuselah of vintage krug (only to have this magnificent gift confiscated by the evil early prohibitionist, Demon Spawn and Great Abstainor, Georgi Bushazar, a cautionary tale still hidden in the deeply secret archives of Cardinal Roberto Mondavi). The point, as all wine lovers know, is that wine makes a wonderful gift.
Now you might well wonder if wine, as a gift, might not be, well, a bit ephemeral, lasting about as long as it takes to find a corkscrew and a glass, just slightly longer than a kid’s new toy. Of course, that’s not at all how real wine lovers respond to the gift of a fine bottle; many are capable of stashing fine vino for hours, even weeks. For instance, right now in my own “cellar,” I have a bottle of Broadley 2001 Pinot Noir Claudia’s Choice brought over by artist pal Michael Backus almost a month ago. Wait: quick post-Dan Rather-fact-check. Ooops. Anyway, sometimes good wines can be saved for quite a long while, all the time reminding giftee of giftor’s love and generosity (unless the gift is, say, Three-Buck Guck, which bears about the same relation to good wine as a Twinkie does to Milka Babich’s Boccone Dolce, might remember, too, that the shelf-life of Guck is about equal to that of fresh bread).
But not only can the gift of wine endure in giftee’s cellar, but its consumption will create memories that can, in real wine lovers’ minds, last long after they have forgotten their children’s names. Remember who gave you those great argyle socks last year? I recall in high-definition detail the moment my dear friend Ray Walsh extended the box that contained King Estate 2001 Pinot Noir Estate. The wine was profound, richly complex, flavors lingering like a lover’s kiss; we drank it with a grilled flank steak, on an early summer’s evening …. See how wine works?
First thoughts on wine giftee: Known tastes — reds/whites, sweet/dry, domestic/import? Status as drinker — novice, drink-anything, passionate newbie, known fiend, etc. Status relative to giftor: recent acquaintance, pal, close chum, distant auntie, boss-with-major-suckup-juice …. Review critical points, make notes, check second thoughts.
Second thoughts: Budget. Wine-buying theorem: There’s almost no upper limit on how much one can pay for wine. Example I: Zachys (wine auctioneers) and Wally’s (LA wine humps) combined this year to sell a single bottle of 1847 Chateau d’Yquem (top-scale dessert white) for $71K and change, three bottles of 1941 Inglenook (Calif.) Cabernet Sauvignon for $75K and coins. Current vintage of top-shelf Burgundy (pinot noir) runs about $900/btl. Get it? Course if you’re super-rich, a red-state Ranger or other sort of crook, you’re probably reading this column just to find out what the po’ folks are drinking and can ignore the following common-folks suggestions:
The crabs’re-a-comin’: When the fresh Dungeness land on our humble shores, it’s time for crispy white wines, even in dead of winter, time, in short, for viognier (vee-o-nyay), a grape at home in France’s Rhone Valley but now thriving in new worlds. One of the best comes from gifted winemaker Joe Dobbes, late of Willamette Valley Vineyards, now growin’ his own: Dobbes Family Estate 2002 Viognier, Rogue Valley, Sundown Vineyard runs around $30, big ticket but truly outstanding: ripe and round, with floral/citrus/mineral notes, leaps in the mouth, cries for crab, will raise huge grins. More modest but quite tasty is Yalumba 2004 Viognier South Australia ($10), not as complex as Dobbes, but pretty, zesty, firesale bargain.
Mario, Madman of Sundance Cellars, asks, “Why do the French do everything better than us?” Provocative, no? But he has evidence, to wit: Joseph Drouhin 2003 Saint-Veran ($11), a modest chardonnay, no California oak-bomb, merely charming, mouth-filling with tropical fruit, vanilla hints, flawless balance. Deep Freanch red? Commanderie de la Bargemone 2001 Coteaux d’Aix en Provence ($13), again quite modest, just rich, dark blend of Rhone grapes, smooth and juicy, pas mal.
Hate to say it, but Californicans can craft bubbles. Stuff a beloved’s stocking with Domaine Chandon Etoile Sparkling Rosé ($40), stiff tab but rich, full-flavored sparkler with pin-prick bubbles that tingle softly in the mouth, could make even this new year less grim.
OK, happy holly daze, roasting chestnuts on your open pyre, with silent knights bearing lovely whites, dancing and prancing with bubbles jolly in your head, a luffly time of year. Joy.