Galleries : Heaven and earth at NYE
West Tisbury artist Lucy Mitchell's recent works made of wood are lean and tall, reaching from four to nine feet high. Still, it wasn't until gallery owner Kim Nye suggested featuring the work in a show that the pieces were mounted to stand vertically. The result is "Of Sea and Land," opening this weekend at the NYE Gallery in Oak Bluffs: Ms. Mitchell's dramatic graceful landscape of free-standing sculpture, and Peigi Cole -Jolliffe's paintings of night skies.
"Until now, I've been working on collections of small pieces of wood and stone - some in shadow box frames and others on open shelves," Ms. Mitchell says.
The artist, who creates three-dimensional multi-media, explains that while the idea of creating an installation of larger standing pieces excited her, finding the right pedestals presented a problem. Then she saw exhibits of Louise Bourgois and David Smith in New York. "When I saw that I could use concrete chimney flu blocks or metal mounts with rods that allow the pieces to rotate, the whole idea of installation came together."
Reminiscent of ancient standing stones, the pieces have a powerful presence. Ms. Mitchell says, "It is about taking things that are on land and giving them meaning."
She uses pieces of driftwood from the north shore and discarded pieces of lumber from Gannon and Benjamin's boatyard, and finding the forms naturally beautiful, does not alter their shapes.
"I sometimes lightly sand the rough edges, but the manipulation is in the next step," she says.
Each form is covered in thin paper that Ms. Mitchell designs and paints especially for the piece. On close inspection, the paper wrapping each form is artwork in itself. "Designs come from stylized versions of natural patterns," she says, "the way lichen or moss grows or worms work through the wood."
Nature in any form is Lucy Mitchell's inspiration. "I went to art school in Devon, England, where the act of walking in nature was encouraged. That's where I started using leaves for collage and fabric-dying and saw marvelous stone sites." A Vineyard native (wife of artist Rez Williams), she has sought out natural artifacts, including a 9-foot, 5-inch cedar tree trunk with knobs where branches grew. It is now a papered totem that greets gallery visitors.