Galleries : Many dimensions of art at Gossamer
For a building that Joan Merry calls, "a funky little thing," Gossamer Gallery in Chilmark packs a lot of interesting art into its two rooms. Much of the gallery's collection of handsome Shona sculpture from Zimbabwe dots the expansive lawn surrounding the building.
The gallery, on South Road just over the West Tisbury line, is celebrating the culmination of the summer season in a group show that opens Sunday, August 23, with a reception from 5 pm to 7 pm.
With its doors open and opaque panels on the roof, the space is sunny and welcoming, showing to good advantage the paintings by Gordon Melbye, Sandy Turner, and five Zimbabwean artists, as well as landscape and still-life weavings by Ann Bromberg and hand-turned wooden objects by David Smith.
Gossamer is one of the few Island galleries that specializes in sculpture. Ms. Merry and her husband, Don Lyons, became interested in Shona sculpture, the ancient Zimbabwean art form, after they went on safari to nearby Botswana and visited Shona art expert Elizabeth Nugent in Harari. They have brought back hundreds of pieces in stone and wood, created by "releasing the stone's spirit."
The five Zimbabwean painters on display share a distinctively vivid palette. Figures are often stylized, and some, a series of rounded women, are executed with great humor. Other paintings morph people or buildings into nearly abstract compositions. Most haunting is the untitled portrait of a man on a chair, his long legs stretched forward diagonally. Here the artist has stitched together 50-million-dollar bills, a nearly worthless Zimbabwean currency, to paint on.
Exhibiting for the first time is sculpture and painter artist David Geiger, who shares a gallery room with art teacher and sculptor Paul Brissette. Mr. Geiger displays both finely detailed watercolors of flowers and a remarkable selection of sculptures. Particularly compelling is his piece, "Alzheimer's Series." Four open-topped, head-sized spheres cast in bronze each contain gold-leafed objects symbolizing memories, like a watch, dog, or a pretzel. As the viewer moves from one sphere to the next, these objects grow increasingly unrecognizable, until they are no more than shapeless forms of metal in the last sphere.
In "Sea Forms," a group of wall sculptures, Mr. Geiger combines horseshoe crab tails with silicone, bronze and copper in a way that makes them seem other-worldly. "Houses and Homes" is a series of block-like buildings in kiln-cast glass, each in different colors and textures.
Mr. Brissette's wall reliefs employ his signature mono-cast of objects like shoe prints, shells and cameras. In "Sea Scape," he has taken the skate egg cases called "Mermaid's Purses" to create a particularly lyrical "archaeology" of the beach.
The variety of media displayed creates an exciting environment. The gifted Ms. Bromberg turns her weavings into a form of textured painting, as the titles of her works suggest: "Pink Pansy," "Sunflowers in Green," "Southwest."
Ms. Turner's oil paintings focus on farm animals, tractors, and eggs with charming, accomplished simplicity. Mr. Smith's beautifully wrought little bowls made of Island wood, boxes, and wine stoppers take full advantage of the burls and irregularities of the oak, cherry, maple and other woods--even rhododendron--that he uses.
Mr. Melbye's representational oil paintings range from the deceptively complex "Still Life with Table" to a striking portrait called "The War" of a man and woman on deck chairs. In the first, Mr. Melbye surprises the viewer by angling the table, where the eye focuses, and placing it in the corner of the composition. The brightly striped deck chairs combine with a lopped off car tail light and an intense background of blue sky to create a fascinatingly enigmatic portrait of the two subjects.
Gossamer Gallery, 24 South Road, Chilmark. Open daily, 11 am to 5 pm, and by appointment. The Group Show opens Sunday, Aug, 23, and runs through September. Opening reception is 5 pm. 508-645-7978.