Feel free: Artists share show, interest in organic forms

Posted: Thursday, February 24, 2005


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  "Tidal Pool" is a ceramic bowl by Ann Wilson.

"Tidal Pool" is a ceramic bowl by Ann Wilson.

One prefers graphite and watercolor work and moved to Alaska in 1972, another has a degree in painting and came to the Kenai Peninsula in 2002, and the third spent six years in Guam before putting her degrees in art education and ceramics to use teaching at Soldotna Middle School.

Though they come from different backgrounds, personally and artistically, Erika Bronson, Sherri Sather and Ann Wilson found they have one thing in common — use of organic forms in their artwork.

The similarities can be seen in "Freeform" the trio's show on display through Monday at the Kenai Fine Arts Center.

Wilson came up with the idea to do a combined show a few years ago after noticing the same tendency toward organic forms in their work.

"For me it was fun and it was inspiring," Wilson said. "You get a synchronisity happening with the energy and creativity, and, of course, it's going to depend on the people you're working with, but with those two it was great."

Looking at the show, it seems the three created many of the pieces in collaboration with each other. Though they did spend a summer working with and inspiring each other, they made most of the work in "Freeform" on their own. The complementary nature of the pieces was just a happy coincidence and testament to their shared interest in nongeometric forms.

"Nobody had to really modify their styles or make things specifically for the show," Bronson said. "... We just talked about different things, what inspired us. It was just fun to work around each other and see what the other two are doing."

Though "organic forms" often can mean abstract or nonrepresentative, there is one recognizable design that echoes through much of the work — water.

"It was really cool how it worked out," Sather said. "I'm really happy with it. I think it's kind of like walking into an underwater garden or something."

Sather's graphite drawings and watercolors often take sea-inspired shapes, like her many seashell paintings.

"I really like broken seashells because they are exposing this really beautiful inner form that you don't see with the whole shell," she said. "And I think that's kind of inspiring and beautiful."

The shapes and textures of organic forms appeal to Sather.


"Seashell X: From the Ocean," a watercolor painting by Sherri Sather.

"The way organic forms look is kind of that rounded, flowing kind of thing," she said. "... I think it's the smoothness. And I just like rounded forms anyway, they seem to flow and make me feel good."

Sather has a "life rocks" series of graphite drawings in the show that utilize rounded forms in different compositions.

"With the life rocks I was experimenting with proximity, how to create a certain feeling by just the positions, the closeness, the distance and the size and shapes to see what kind of emotions I could express — certain forms of intimacy, parent, child, adult or whatever — without being real obvious," she said.

For Wilson, being a nature lover is at the root of her artistic use or organic forms.

"I guess I'm so inspired by nature and nature has a lot of freeform," she said. "But I just like that feel of the loose organic forms that flow with each other and the idea of everything changing all the time."

Not all of Wilson's work is loose forms and flowing compositions. In the midst of some pieces there is an image that is unmistakable to define — a face. She likes to use a ceramic face, a cast of her own or her mother's, embedded in her work.

"As an artist, almost all your pieces are kind of self-portraits anyway, a lot of times," she said.

She attributes the water motif seeping into her work from the years she spent studying and teaching in Guam.


"Serpentine Landscape," a ceramic sculpture by Erika Bronson.

"It's right in middle of the Pacific Ocean. I keep waiting for the arctic to come into my work and it hasn't yet," she said, adding that she does love Alaska but is still drawn to water imagery. "... The constant changing of the cycles, changing of the tides. It seems like more tropical where water's such a basic element."

Though Bronson and Wilson both contributed ceramic pieces to "Freeform," they have distinct styles and approaches to the medium. Wilson's pieces are hand built, whereas Bronson's can be wheel-thrown or a combination of thrown and hand built.

"I like the wheel, and I like to make functional ware and stuff, too, but it's kind of fun to use that as a tool to make something besides your average pot," Bronson said.

As opposed to the almost wet-looking, high-gloss glazes in many of Wilson's pieces, Bronson likes to use glazes and stains in her work, which create a contrast in color and texture.

"I like to try to get a variety and I experiment a lot," she said. "And I like to paint a lot. It seems like using combinations make it look more (like it's painted)."

For Bronson, organic forms are a way to create the shapes that appeal to her.

"I guess those kinds of forms speak to me a little more than rigid geometric forms," she said. "I like nature a lot, and I think there's great beauty in that. To me it's easier to make something that beautiful and appealing to the eyes in that kind of shape. "

Whether it's the inner beauty of Sather's flowing seashells, Wilson's sculpted self-portraits or Bronson's experimental designs, there's plenty to form opinions on in their show.

"I think it's just a play between all the people's work that was really wonderful for me," Wilson said.

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