Many configurations of metal at Chapel Hill gallery

Jan. 09, 2014 @ 10:49 AM

“Metal 3,” Light Art + Design, 601 W. Rosemary St., Chapel Hill, through Jan. 25.
For information about hours, call 919-942-7077.

Humans have known about metal and used it for thousands of years.  It can define objects as different as silver tea services, nails, bridge abutments, supports of buildings and kitchen appliances; it is a mainstay of sculpture and fashionable jewelry. 
The exhibition at Light Art +Design touches on many aspects of this remarkable material especially as it has been recycled into art objects. The show includes free-standing and wall mounted sculptures, pictures, assemblages, paintings and jewelry, most of which are made of metal. There are 14 artists featured with a spotlight on the work of Hoss Haley, Andrea E. Vail, Beatrice Coron and Eleanor Annand.  Many of the artists live in North Carolina or have deep connections here, especially with Penland, the school of crafts in Spruce Pine.
Haley enjoys pride of place with his enormous statue “Tesselation No. 1.” My immediate reaction was a riff on Henry Moore done up in some soft plastic material. The nod to this artistic ancestor remained (although Haley speaks of Brancusi as his influence), but the soft plastic material turned into the skins of washing machines welded into a large white hollow sculpture. Also around the gallery are large balls of skinned washing machines on the floor and hanging high on the wall. The artist calls them “Wads” and said while working with the cast-off material, especially as it crumpled in the hydraulic press, it reminded him of paper wadded up and thrown out. 
He writes about the history of consumerism as seen through the prism of the Asheville scrap yard, which over the years went from industrial waste to consumer cast-offs, especially appliances. He is not the first artist to point out our society throws away rather than fixes, but his use of recycled material is original and the things he creates are imaginative and wonderful.
Haley lives in Asheville and has taught art from Penland to St Louis with Appalachian State, Illinois University at Carbondale and East Tennessee in between. His public commissions include projects in Asheville and Charlotte.
Vail, a graduate student in crafts, presents “Trinkets,” a large, round assemblage that hugs a corner wall, one half on either side. From a distance the work is as delicate as a piece of lace, but close inspection reveals a different sort of handwork. What appear as fragile lacy designs, however, turn out to be found objects from a junkyard. There are discarded odd bits of rusted metal like nails, keys, nuts and bolts. Each is hand wrapped in silk thread and has been fastened to the wall, piece by individual piece. The artist has written she is drawn to objects with worn surfaces and untold stories. Every piece in “Trinkets” has been hand placed, making it even more exceptional.
She lives in Richmond, where she is in the graduate program of Virginia Commonwealth University and teaches as an adjunct instructor. Her materials of choice are metal and fibers and a combination of the two.
Using scissors as her main tool, Coron calls herself a paper cutter. In an online presentation she spoke about her other art activities which include architectural design, digital imagery, wearables, and animation. She also works in stone, glass, metal, rubber and stained glass. She described her creations as intricate worlds including heavens and hells. 
Although she still works with paper, she recently began to use Tyvek, a DuPont non-woven material used in products as different as coverings for the inside of walls of buildings to envelopes to medical packaging. Her “Hooks and Hookers” is an elaborate narrative about the history and mythology of New York’s meatpacking district. She wrote that she chose an impossible view so that we see the Hudson River, the High Line, live animals, carcasses at Gansewoort market, lovers, shoppers, bikers and tourists on one plane. Every small vignette is realized with a meticulous technique and is full of silhouetted figures cut into the Tyvek. 
Coron is a native of France and moved to New York in 1985. After a varied career that included driving a truck, working in a factory and guiding tourists around New York, she reinvented herself as an artist. Her public art can be seen in subways, airports and sports facilities.
Of all the artists working with metal in the show Annand is perhaps the most traditional; she paints abstract images on metal supports rather than canvas.  Her pictures are wispy, shadowy; we must look quickly for fear they will fade away. In “Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing,” her blue marks look like airplanes over a disappearing warhead; in “Bridge” we see what might be the mirror image of a suspension bridge, and in “Drifting” we are certain something sits just across a strong horizon line. She writes about humans who make marks to develop a visual history and in her paintings she communicates in her most honest stripped-down state. Coron also lives in the Asheville area and is a Penland artist.
Light Art + Design has brought these superb Penland artists to the Triangle and in doing so reminds us of the rich traditions of craft and art we have in the state. 

Blue Greenberg’s column appears each week in Entertainment and More. She can be reached at blueg@bellsouth.net or by writing her in c/o The Herald-Sun, 2828 Pickett Road, Durham, NC 27705.