Heights Arts exhibition explores artists' relationships with nature

Slate Log Book, by Jeanetta Ho.

Sticks and Stones opens Friday, June 15, at Heights Arts and will be on view through Sunday, July 29. This summer exhibition showcases the relationship between artist and nature. Contributors include Andy Curlowe, Ryan Dewey, Jeanetta Ho, Kevin Kautenburger, Steven Mastroianni, Freeland Southard and Olga Ziemska.

Curator Bill Schubert described his thought process: “Humankind’s relationship with sticks and stones is fundamental. Sticks and stones were our first tools, our first weapons, and the materials we built our first dwellings of. The history of art also begins with sticks and stones. The first known drawings were drawn on the stone walls of the Lascaux caves (1700–1500 B.C.). What did these ancient ancestors use to mark these stone walls? Sticks? The giant heads of Easter Island (1200–1499); the great totem poles of the native North Americans (1700s to present); and eventually the work of the Land Artists and Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (1970)—whether totally transformed, like the massive stone that Michelangelo turned into David (1501–04), or not transformed at all as with Andy Goldsworthy’s Oak Branches (1990), a piece that consists of painstakingly arranged branches that are otherwise unaltered, sticks and stones are the stuff of art. These seven great regional artists demonstrate that eternal truth.

When Curlowe was asked to describe his work, he spoke of his love of trees, especially those we enjoy here in Cleveland Heights: “We are fortunate to live in a city of mature trees. These trees provide a blanket of foliage in the spring and paint the city in emerald throughout the summer. The city comes to life through these trees; however, as trees age, branches break, and trunks succumb to disease." Curlowe salvages discarded branches and logs to warm his home in winter. “For this show," he said, "I’ve decided to focus on use and reuse as the main crux of both the medium and concept for the contributing works for the show . . . There is a cycle to everything. There is a cycle to the organic and the inorganic, both at the hands of people and without.”

Ho, a sculptural artist, describes her work as “themes of nature and the mysteries of the earth goddesses, often using local natural materials . . . sculptures are referential to the power of the feminine, the cosmic nurturers, each in her own way.” Ho’s works for the exhibition are abstract representations of books, utilizing natural elements and fibers as well as stone and wood. 

Kautenberger categorizes himself as “a maker, beekeeper, self-trained naturalist, and dreamer of botanical life." The beauty and the poetry that he reacts to in the natural world have a temporality to them, like an ephemeral vernal pool, and this is informing the direction of recent explorations—such as his hammered copper river stone templates, and cyanotype recordings of the curvature of trees.

Photographer Mastroianni said of his work, “These photograms [were made using] sticks and stones, while the compositions were inspired by an earlier series of drawings. The final pieces utilize the sticks and stones as lines and markings to create the drawings in the form of photograms. They also take inspiration from techniques of printmaking, where the marks or cuts become the negative space, like drawing in reverse; the materials create negative hashes, reading white on the black, exposed paper. The sticks and stones are shadows of themselves, reversed in the process of exposure and development.”

A related program: Ekphrastacy: Artists Talk + Poets Respond, will take place on Thursday, July 12, at 7 p.m. in the gallery. Cleveland Heights Poet Laureate Damien McClendon invites area poets to respond in verse to the works on view. 

Kristen McDowell

Kristen McDowell is the Heights Arts marketing coordinator.

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Volume 11, Issue 6, Posted 9:56 AM, 06.04.2018