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‘Women in Wood’ at American Art Company

Turned Wood and Hilga Winter’s paper sculpture

“Leaves,” sculpted paper by Helga Winter. Photo courtesy American Art Company

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"Women in Wood" continues through Sept. 15 at American Art Company, showcasing turned wood pieces by 13 women woodworkers from around the country, including Helga Winter, Betty Scarpino, Cindy Drozda, Dixie Biggs, Donna Zils Banfield and Barbara Dill. As a bonus, Winter is showing eight pieces from a new series she calls sculptural paintings. They are essentially paintings that stand two to three inches out from the wall made of book pages rolled into tubes and attached to a flat surface with the cut edges facing outward and from sheets of paper with at least one ragged edge that are stacked in an accordion arrangement. In many of her pieces, the paper is colored in fire colors such as red, yellow and orange -- even the blue and green tones, normally cool colors, are hot. In others, the paper has left its natural color to form patterns that call to mind parchment and tree bark. 

The pieces in which the paper is not colored are more meaningful in that they reflect on the material from which the paper comes. For example, the large piece in the entrance called "The Secret Life of Trees" reminds us of the working of roots underground and the intertwining of limbs and leaves. The more colorful pieces are exciting, but I suspect over time the excitement might wear thin.

Unless you peer into what the artist calls their hidden stories. The paper is from books, and the words from the books are mostly out of sight and unreadable. "I have hidden the words and knowledge that nevertheless are still there," Winter writes. "By turning books inside-out, I want to turn my stories, my perceptions, inside-out, recognize how they can diminish my life, and then create new and conscious stories that are close to the current truth."   

The turned wood is all beautifully crafted. Scarpino might well be the star of the wood show. There are five pieces by her displayed in a group near the back of the gallery on black sculpture stands. Each of the pieces is small, and there is quite a variety of style among the five. "Be Seeded" is a sensual seedpod made of dark cherry wood. Lying in the pod are four round white balls or seeds. There is a nice contrast between dark and light, and rough and smooth forms that all fit together smoothly despite their contrasts.

Another piece in the group, which was created in collaboration with Biggs, is called "Egg and Crate." Inside a tiny wood-slat box is a decorative egg resting on a bed of wood shavings. It is a fun little item that would make for a conversation starter on someone's shelf at home.

Kristen Le Vier is showing a couple of turned-wood snakes. "Slither" is a painted snake, half green and half black, in European pear and acrylic paint. Her "Talisman for the Home" I see more as a humorous icon than a talisman. Made of maple, epoxy, clay and acrylic, it is a snake wrapped around a long-handled wooden spoon. Imagine seeing this on your kitchen counter.

Also of note are a couple of dark wood decorative platters: Merryl Saylan's "Padauk Platter" and Sally Ault's "Carved Platter." Both are notable for their rich coloring and subtle patterns.

If you like fine craft work, I suggest you stop by American Art Company to take a look at these works.

"WOMEN IN WOOD," 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, through Sept. 15, American Art Company, 1126 Broadway Plaza, Tacoma, 253.272.4327,

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