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Crafted Response

Thomas Stender's Wave Goodbye offers a witty if not ideal work surface.

Extraordinary Forms II at the Kenan House

Extraordinary Forms II, a craft show currently in the Kenan House—not to be confused with the annual 100 American Craftsmen show being held this weekend at the Kenan Center—consists of works of past jury members of the Lockport annual event. The jury members show includes works of great beauty and often wit.

Among the more eye-catching works are several of Thomas Stender’s exquisite furniture pieces, mostly in wood, of unusual and elegant form. Such as Gazelle, a small table the front legs of which evoke the swift and graceful savannahs quadruped, but also, in a human reference, a classical ballerina en pointe. A similar table, called Betty Boop, evokes the knock-kneed jazz dance attitude of that iconic flapper figure. There are chairs as well. Canilune is a stick-back chair with a crescent-form off-horizontal headrest element. Paso Doble is an opposite-directional love seat of mirror-image-opposite stick-back chairs with swooping—way-off-horizontal—headrest lines. Back to tables, one end of the top of Wave Goodbye morphs into a beautiful (but maybe not so practical for a tabletop) wave form. Like surf about to break onto the shore.

Also in the woodworking category (and wit category) is Rolf Hoeg’s Desk and Tools for Living, a credible workshop workbench equipped however with some unusual apparatus, such as what appears to be a mechanism for speed of light measurements (a directional strobe light and mirror stand), a hamster-cage exercise wheel, work-flow “in” and “out” sacks on one side of the table, wooden screw mechanisms labeled “credit” and “debit” on the other, and some sort of tabletop sighting device, the function of which (like the function of all the other items, for that matter) remains unclear.

In the ceramics category, two large wheel-thrown terra cotta vessels by Stephen Merritt come off as a happy amalgam of classical Greek and Japanese influences. The more Japanese-looking example, called Aryballoid Vase, is rotund below and has a tall pipe-like central spout. (Aryballos is a Greek word, meaning a purse, or container that is ample below but narrow or confined at the top.) The other piece, called simply Storage Jar, is more strictly Greek, in basic form and indicated function.

Bill Stewart has a number of more sculptural (that is, not wheel-thrown) jet black ceramics, including a series of wall tiles with protruding reliefs of nursery rhyme or fairy tale animals, or perhaps just kids dressed up in animal costume hoods. In a more satirical (than simply comical) vein are several large free-standing sculptures—still black—one of a cowboy, one of a shaman, and one, called Ship of Fools, of a mouse in a bishop’s miter and a duck in a wizard hat, on board a little boat.

In fiber, there are wall-hanging quilts by Barbara Murak in sunshine garden colors, by Lauria dill-Kocher in more subdued nature colors, suggesting woods, trees, more than gardens, and by Nancy Belfer in dark on light, slightly foreboding-looking colors and patterns. If nature, storm more than sunshine.

In basketry, Jappia King Black has a small raffia basket with an interlaced border of actual chicken (or other fowl species) wishbones, called Wishful Thinking, and another with wishbones and porcupine quills, called Careful What You Wish For.

The jury members’ show defines the “craft” term broadly. A good thing, or it might have excluded the works of the likes of Kevin Kegler, Shirley Rosenthal, and Jozef Bajus.

Kevin Kegler has basically photographic works that he calls diptychs, that is, in two parts that fold out like opposite pages of a book. In this case, each work consists of two photos, abstract and vaguely mirror images (again) of one another, plus a few actual items, that is, not photos, but more like found objects. In one of the works, called Martin and the Beggar, one of the non-photographic items looks like a small can—like a beggar’s can—that is old and rusted and crushed flat. The story about Martin—St. Martin of Tours, a Roman soldier—is that, confronted by a beggar in the cold, he took his sword and cut his cloak in two and gave one half of it to the beggar. The story reflecting the diptych division of the work into halves. Extremely interesting work.

Shirley Rosenthal has several small framed sculptural works of found object rusted sheet metal, usually, deteriorated to the point of disintegration, or almost, and lightly spray painted. Meditations on the fragility of all things, and ravages of time.

Jozef Bajus has some cut book works and some hard to categorize ultimately sculptural constructions consisting of arrays of parallel strips of light cardboard, on end, separated by zig-zags of similar cardboard strips, with the contact points (of parallels and zig-zags) tied with dark twine, like fishing line. Sculptural nitty-gritty. How matter achieves form, and becomes substance.

The Extraordinary Forms II show continues through July 11.

jack foran

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