Monday, March 21, 2011

Holly Tornheim @ Baltimore ACC Show

There were a number of great wood artists at the Baltimore American Craft Council Show but I've decided just to discuss the work of my favorite, Holly Tornheim, or else I'll never get it posted.

I was anxious to see her work in person after seeing her Unfolding Wave sculpture on the cover of a 2010 SOFA catalog. She creates small wood sculptures that are remarkable for both their extreme beauty and technically difficulty. From what I've seen, she often employs sharp edged curves with a recurring theme of both gentle and cresting waves.
Though her sculptures stand on their own, she often takes advantage of spectacular lumber like quilted maple and claro walnut to further highlight her designs. At other times, she uses wood that is completely void of figure and grain pattern so that the viewer only sees the form she created.

As with this walnut tray, some of her work is functional but most of what she brought to the show was purely sculptural.

claro walnut tray
This piece, Meander, is playful in that it invites the viewer to rearrange the blocks to create one's own design. It seems to be a very therapeutic piece. I think it would help to create tranquility in someone who took the time to rearrange the work. Very zen.
The sharp edged curves in this piece remind me somewhat of Sam Maloof's work but, unencumbered by functionality, she is able to take the form to another level.
quilted maple
In showing a wide range of versatility, Holly also creates trompe l'oeil sculptures, like Memory (below). It feels very emotional to the point where it is almost disrespectful to not lingered in silence for a bit.
spalted maple, yew, African blackwood, holly
And I especially like the contradictions of Black Vessel, black v white, abstract v figurative, contemporary v primitive, functional v purely sculptural, symmetry v asymmetry (I see symmetry but mentally I'm expecting asymmetry). Visually it is very simple but intellectually it is quite complex; you want to think you are looking at some kind of animal but the more you look the more unsure you are of what you are seeing. What is it made for, should you put jelly beans or spare change in it, or is it made for a sacred ritual, or just to observe. Should you touch or just look? Can you play with it? It is interesting how much thought it can evoke. Personally, I think it should be used for a sacred ceremony, perhaps one in which the gods are offered jelly beans.
Black Vessel
holly, African blackwood

And finally, there is this interesting abstract curly maple sculpture that looks like it has gift wrapped itself. I like the interaction of geometric shapes with the amorphous curves.
curly maple

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