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Monday, Jan. 20, 2014

Meditations on Nature

Timothy Cobb presents 'Scapes'

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Timothy Cobb Fine Arts’ latest galley night offering is a multi-artist exhibit exploring the many permutations of landscapes. “Scapes: Land, Water, and Roads” features five contemporary artists as well as 17th-20th-century landscapes from Cobb’s collection. Together, the works transform the already tranquil, contemplative gallery space into an immersive meditation on nature.

Upon entering, the viewer is greeted by Joseph Fellows’ large-scale steel and wood sculpture, Tidal Study, which Cobb set in the center of a rectangular koi pond with a bubbling fountain. The resultant sound environment, coupled with the sculpture’s form—a precarious steel frame in the shapes of twisted organic materials pierced through by a gigantic dowel—puts one in mind of the delicate state of the earth’s oceans polluted by human waste.

Also treating on the subject of water is the bronze piece, Cresting Wave, by prolific Wisconsin sculptor Bernard J. Roberts. True to its name, the work resembles a mighty wave in the instant before it succumbs to gravity, but the references do not end there. The form also suggests a dancer, gracefully bending backward, and the metal still bears the subtle grain of the wood from which the cast was made. Numerous smaller works, cast from maquettes, are included in the show as well, offering a glimpse into the vast array of natural forms that preoccupied Roberts.

Linda Gee’s Horizontal Paintings contribute the land dimension of “Scapes.” The small-scale panoramas convey the sweeping vistas of Indiana farm country. The materials—oil on wood panel—add a rustic feel complementing the rural subject matter.

Timothy Cobb’s own work also features in this show by way of three large oil paintings—all waterscapes. Employing multiple layers of paint and scraping techniques, Cobb creates abstract impressionist visions of moving water and the light playing over it. The effects are particularly striking in Sunset Over Lake Michigan, which effectively suggests the winter lake by matte layers of scraped-away clouds above the horizon and icy-looking, varnished waves below.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is a series of photographs by the well-traveled American artist Derusha. Titled Roads, her work looks closely at the surfaces of conveyance that we so often take for granted. The artist spent 14 years in the Australian Outback where she created art with members of the Aboriginal Papunya Tula movement. The reverence for land inherent in this group’s philosophy is profoundly reflected in Derusha’s work here. Explaining the common use of aerial perspective in Aboriginal sandpainting, she notes, “They believe that they’re part of the land and the land is living.” Mapmaking figures prominently into the traditional art form as well, both as a method for affirming the human-environment connection and as a means of survival.

Roads—the basis of maps and land organization in the American mind—therefore make a logical point of interest for the artist. She captures in her work the many idiosyncrasies of place conveyed by road construction, signage, the wear and tear of weather, variations in dust and the endless advance of nature through pioneer plants springing up in cracks. Derusha says she hopes to offer viewers what the Aboriginal artists offered her: a different perspective on something we see every day. She notes, “I can be anywhere and be fascinated just looking at the ground.” Roads brings this reverential appreciation of place into sharp focus for us all.

“Scapes” is on display through March 1, at Timothy Cobb Fine Arts, 207 E. Buffalo St.
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