By Marcy Stamper
Sixteen artists who can harness the power of fire and heat to transform ordinary elements such as sand, metal and clay into unalloyed beauty are featured in Confluence Gallery’s new exhibit, “Fireworks: Clay, Glass, Metal.”
The show, curated by ceramic artist Suzi Jennings, celebrates three-dimensional art and a degree of serendipity. “I wanted to curate this show because certain artists are inspired by the process of using heat and fire and different materials,” said Jennings. “It’s so different from painting and drawing. You can get pretty dramatic effects — and sometimes uncontrolled effects.”
In addition to the art itself, the exhibit celebrates the artists’ processes in a series of photos of the artists at work.
The gallery is filled with voluptuously rounded objects, pointy metal ones and sculpturally organic ones. Some are transparent and others flecked with sparkly metal or enveloped in a lush patina.
Jeffrey Hanks, a ceramic artist based on Lopez Island, is showing several large urns that he fires in a wood-fired kiln, which, because of the labor-intensive process, is pressed into service only once a year. The huge kiln must be stoked with wood every 10 minutes for three full days to reach firing temperature. The clay pieces remain in the kiln as it cools for a week and showers ash onto the vessels, which creates unique glazes and finishes.
Jennings is showing her own large clay vessels with evocatively sculptural handles made from branches topped with ceramic birds and bears.
Other artists are exhibiting blown glass, slumped glass with a textural painted background, and sculptural matte-glass orbs.
Artists Joanne Marracci, Sarah Jo Lightner and Nicole Ringgold are all exhibiting jewelry that blends metals, stones and enamel.
There is also large metal sculpture by VBlast, a Tiki-inspired fire pit by Dan Brown and organic sculptures by metalworker Tim Odell, who wrapped large rocks in an embrace of steel.
Artists’ statements give some insight into why these artists are attracted to working with fire. “I love the way wind and water and time have shaped the minerals of the earth and I am constantly striving in some way to imitate this,” said ceramic artist Emily Post.
Describing the unpredictability of kiln firing, Tamera Abate says, “I always offer a bit of homage to the kiln goddess perched next to the kiln.”
An entire wall of cups and mugs made from glass, clay, metal and even parts of fishing rods and plumbing fixtures is a work of art unto itself, although the individual cups are for sale.
Also on view, in the Loovre gallery, is “In the Hot Seat: A Mother/Daughter Wildfire Exhibit,” paintings and photography by Ginger and Donni Reddington inspired by the 2014 wildfires.
The two shows are on view from Saturday (June 6) to July 11, with an opening reception on Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m.