Sculptor David Geiger finds meaning

The versatile artist David Geiger sits in front his "Houses and Homes" series of isculptures of glass houses at Gossamer Gallery in Chilmark. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

When surveying David Geiger’s sculptures, abstract and representational, one can easily identify his passion for horticulture, his fascination with human form, as well as his psychological themes.

The artist works primarily with bronze and glass, though remnants of horseshoe tails and old train tracks appear sporadically in his pieces. With sculpture that varies just as much in its medium as it does in its subject matter, it’s difficult to identify the common thread that runs through the artist’s unique and varied work, which can be seen at Gossamer Gallery on South Road, Chilmark. But regardless of the singular quality of his pieces, each is a reliable indication of Mr. Geiger’s contemplation of the complexities of the human psyche.

Mr. Geiger’s knowledge of horticulture is based on a rich education. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in plant sciences from Cornell University. After obtaining his degrees, Mr. Geiger, who currently lives and works in Chilmark, returned to Cornell as a visiting artist to take sculpture classes. The artist had previously voiced his passion for art through representational paintings (some of which can be seen at Gossamer), but was drawn to sculpture as a means to explore the field of abstract art.

“My scientific background allows me to bring a lot of concepts to what it is I’m working on,” he says. “For instance, I look at a flower and wonder what pollinates it and what time it pollinates.”

His sculpture, “Lithops,” composed of three connecting bronze sections, represents the lithop, a form of succulent plant native to South Africa. The plant is composed of two leaves, each resembling the other in an identical circular fashion. Like Mr. Geiger’s sculpture, the plant blends in with the stones around it to avoid being eaten. The third part of the sculpture is devoted to the part of the flower that buds. While expressing an appreciation for the plant itself, the piece also exhibits a statement about conformity and uniformity.

“The third part of the sculpture, the flower bud, has developed scars from being different from the others and from its inability to blend in well,” Mr. Geiger says.

This metaphorical vision is typical of the artist, regardless of the subject matter at hand. “Houses and Homes” is an ongoing series of individual glass sculptures of a house, each the same small size with the same basic frame. “The design is based on what you think of when asked to draw a typical Cape Cod house,” Mr. Geiger says.

He began the series by creating a wooden form of each house and then making rubber molds, which were later converted into wax. The sculptor then made plaster molds, which allowed him to insert glass in the final stages, breaking the mold and creating individual one-of-a-kind pieces. By using frit, pieces of crushed glass, Mr. Geiger was able to give each mold a unique look and texture. “Some of the houses have big flaws, but that does not mean that any of them are good or bad,” the artist says, speaking of each structure’s intricacies. “Everyone has a house, it’s what we bring to our house that makes them a home.”

Mr. Geiger’s moving “Alzheimer’s” is another series that comments on human experience. It was created after he observed a close friend’s struggle with the disease. Composed of three hollow spheres made with bronze and gold leaf, the pieces track the gradual stages of the disease. In the first stage, the bronze bowl is smooth and filled with memories symbolized by gold leaf emblems of music notes, letters, and a small calendar, among other tokens. In the second bronze bowl, small chunks of gold leafs have transformed and are harder to identify, they are deformed to symbolize the harsh effects of the disease. Amidst the damaged memories is a small sculpture of a thorn to symbolize the pain to the victim. The last bowl contains no distinct separate forms, though the gold leaf still shines through on the interior of the bowl, to express the ongoing presence of the human personality.

Like his use of gold leaf in the “Alzheimer’s” series, Mr. Geiger always allows his subject matter to dictate the medium.

Using mahogany wood and rubber tendrils, “Calopogon #1” portrays a species of orchid. The rubber tendrils represent the deceptive nature of the plant, which tricks insects into pollinating it. Mr. Geiger humorously observes how humanistic this deceptive characteristic of the orchid is.

A collection of Mr. Geiger’s paintings and sculpture can be found at Gossamer Gallery along with a new display of jewelry. Inspired by his life on the Vineyard, the artist integrates sea forms into sculptural pieces that speak to the Island as well as the sculptor’s creative impulses that are rich with sensitivity.