Come and discover the thrill of the ambitious national exhibit "Craft Forms 2008" at the Wayne Art Center. It's exceptional because it exists at all, and its high quality as a crafts showcase featuring clay, fiber, glass, metal and wood is gaining strength each year.
The 14th edition of the juried show of contemporary crafts attracted more than 700 potential exhibitors, including submissions from Japan and Canada. From that outpouring, the show's judge, Michael W. Monroe, executive director and chief curator of Bellevue Arts Museum in Washington state, chose 108 works by 93 artists from 27 states.
This year's event even has a significant simultaneous "offshoot," featuring a by-invitation-only regional woodwork group show, "Across the Grain," that merits close attention. (The inclusion of a rare music stand by Paoli woodworker Wharton Esherick required taking out a special insurance policy.)
Besides the high quality of "Craft Forms 2008," the display's most striking feature is that it's by far the "greenest" show yet in the series. Nature in its many forms makes some perfectly obvious appearances here, either in the object itself or its title. Some other nature references turn out to be exceptionally subtle or sophisticated. The nature-related pieces include claywork by Kate MacDowell, Jennifer McCurdy, Vince Palacios and Emily Snedden, textiles by Ann Harwell and Carol Taylor, and woodwork by Chuck Sharbaugh and Tania Radda, whose wooden football, titled "Field Kick," has laces sprouting into a "growing" branch. Relatively few of the pieces in the show deal with politics and war.
A thoroughly excellent exhibit, perhaps the most remarkable in the series, this event is outstanding because its focus is more than local. And the works on view were chosen by a leading authority on American crafts who searched for genuine artist-craftsmen (a venerable term) who would put their best foot forward as participants.
Such are the rewards, small and great, for an energetic, concentrated project like this, put together to enhance the public's awareness of fine contemporary craft. This display offers viewing opportunities of considerable interest that are difficult to match in terms of artistic quality.
Adjoining the traditional O-gauge model trains exhibit at Brandywine is a "Scenes of the Season" display of paintings and illustrations. Relying heavily on wintry holiday subject matter, its three dozen works give a glimpse of recent additions this museum has made to its holdings, plus pieces on private loan.
N.C. Wyeth is front and center with his fanciful "Eseldorf was a paradise for us boys" book-cover image (1916) and his showstopping signature piece of this exhibit, "Old Kris," a 1925 Country Gentleman magazine cover. Images by Everett Shinn, Winslow Homer, and especially Thomas Nast offer a lighthearted change of pace from other work we so often associate with them. Harrison Cady adds the nimblest touch of white Christmas humor here.
Charles Kalick and Heather Pieters share an abstract painting show, "Push Pull," at Webster.
Kalick paints geometric patterns in radiant colors thickly applied in straight, ropy lines resembling woven fabric. There's a liveliness in this work giving it an extra level of maturity, and Kalick's sizzling colors have a sensuous quality. So full of texture is the work that we soon want to give up looking for clues to meaning here and just get lost in it. Yet, Kalick's focus on small rectangles assumes a totemic importance.
Pieters, by contrast, scrapes off much of the paint she applies to canvas, so the remaining oil colors stay suspended midpoint, just off center. Many of her small paintings are thus lacking in accent. This only goes to show what a difference color makes. Pieters' modest approach chiefly conveys the effect of a "worked" surface and its related feeling of personal involvement.