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Beyond Surface: Denise Buckley & Kathy Skerritt
February 5, 2021 @ 7:00 pm - March 27, 2021 @ 4:00 pm
Virtual Opening Reception: Friday, February 5th 7:00 – 8:00pm VIEW OPENING RECEPTION
On the surface, the work of Denise Buckley and Kathy Skerritt seems very different. Appearances, however, can be deceiving. Buckley, a welder and figurative sculptor, and Skerritt, an abstract process painter, share a technical mastery, and the ability to show beyond what is seen. By pushing their materials to the limit, both artists unearth the inner essence of their subjects, and find meaning in themselves. This February, the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve is pleased to host Beyond Surface: Denise Buckley & Kathy Skerritt, an exhibition which welcomes the artists into the museum’s prestigious 10,000-piece collection of regional art.
In one sense, Kathy Skerritt’s paintings are all about the surface. Richly colored and highly textured, the work reflects an intimate knowledge of her media. The deep, jewel-toned pigments of Humming II, for example, are expertly applied, creating a rainbow, iridescent pulse which buzzes across the canvas with crackling immediacy. Skerritt allows her paint to pulse and peel, intuiting the moment where whole sections seem ready to drop and freezing them in time, as is seen in the furrowed, crocodile-like skin of Mahasamadhi, a mixed media piece on display.
In another truer sense, Skerritt’s work is about anything but the practice of painting. Her works are all things at once: biological, geological, and anatomical, metallic, and fluid. As Skerritt explains, during a well-traveled youth, “I became deeply influenced by hours spent gazing at the Earth from airplanes. Viewing from above the river systems and lakes, mountain ranges, and desert stimulated my sense of the Earth as a living system. Later studies of human anatomy revealed exciting visual correspondences between rivers and the circulatory system, forests and the bronchial tree of the lungs, topographies and the organ, skeletal, and fluid systems of the body.”
On view in the exhibition are several paintings which reflect the connections between our bodies and the natural world, including Indigo Cell, a massive 3-foot square canvas which recalls river deltas, and the Geo-Biologic series which evokes both microscopic life and canyons cutting across a desert landscape.
These layers of meaning “confound the viewer’s mind with an array of possibilities” and point to a deeper reality. “Combined with this observing of environmental patterns has been an investigation of what it is that is continuously being revealed from behind or under or within form. To connect the viewer beyond the surface to the substance or process that underlies appearances, to approach a vision of that most fundamental Truth or source condition, [that] is my artistic intention.”
Sculptor Denise Buckley’s work also strips away the surface- both literally and figuratively. Known for her human forms which blend bronze, clay, and steel, Buckley’s sculptures appear as if they have been pulled from the ruins of an ancient temple. In Ireland, a pair of elegant, neo-classical torsos rise out of a solid grey block, so close they are almost touching, yet remaining inexorably apart. They are penetrable, with open heads, holes, and missing limbs reminiscent of the Venus de Milo or the bomb-ravaged Thinker, allowing the viewers to peer inside to their richly patinaed centers.
“My history is reflected in my work, my relationships with people, the environment, and thoughts which all come together in the safety of the studio.” Buckley describes, there “I can push, pull, pound, form and distort materials into the human form, into my voice, into me. I make figurative objects sometimes they are beautiful, sometimes not. The work is personal yet speaks to universal themes of beauty, power, hardship, and compassion as defined by different cultures, both past and present.”
In some cases, entire bodies are replaced with steel frames, leaving serene faces floating on top of cage-like forms. And yet, the subject’s personality shines though, as is the case with Yang, Yang, a piece on view from the Archives permanent collection who, despite her rustic body and expressionist features, exudes the graceful composure of a ballerina waiting to take the stage.
A highlight of the exhibition is a herd of six life-size metal deer set to graze across the gallery floor. Constructed using welded steel rods, these free-standing sculptures represent an exciting new exploration of the animal kingdom. Though stripped down to their sinews, like Buckley’s human subjects, they communicate a fundamental essence. As Buckley explains, “Although, the physiognomy captures my attention, the materials I use bring the pieces to life. I love the processes used in sculpture and I get lost in the visceral experience of those materials… No matter the process or technique, however, my approach to figurative sculpture is to capture the spirit.”
Beyond Surface: Denise Buckley & Kathy Skerritt will be celebrated with a virtual opening reception on Friday, February 5th at 7:00pm. The Artists Archives gallery is free and open to public Wednesday – Friday, 10am – 4pm and Saturdays 12pm – 4pm. No appointment necessary, groups limited to 10 people or less. To review the organization’s visitor safety protocol, please view our visitor safety protocol.
To accompany the exhibition, the Artists Archives is pleased to host 4 African American Women Artists You Should Know on Wednesday, March 10th, 7:00pm featuring renowned art historian, author, and artist Amalia Amaki. In celebration of Women’s History Month, Amaki will honor 4 African American women artists who served as the corner stones of their eras, creating meaningful, personal work, and providing crucial support to the development of contemporary art. Featured artists include Nancy Elizabeth Prophet (1890 -1960), Augusta Savage (1892 – 1962), Norma Morgan (b. 1928), and Camille Billops (1933 – 2019). The program is free and open to the public on the Zoom meeting platform. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER ON ZOOM