Scavengers at The Loft Studios and Gallery in San Pedro

Installation shot by Kristine (3)
Scavengers, The Loft Studios and Gallery; Photo credit Kristine Schomaker

Scavengers: Wildly Creative Sculptures from Found Material

The Loft Studios and Gallery, San Pedro
through October 26

Written by Genie Davis
The wildly creative sculptures in the five-artist group show now on view at The Loft Studios and Gallery in San Pedro are born from detritus re-purposed.

Scavengers, featuring the witty, inventive, and simply brilliant sculptural work of Tracey Weiss, Hilary Norcliffe, Katie Stubblefield, Jennifer Gunlock, and Renee Tanner, makes astonishing use of materials that would otherwise be thrown away.

The works bring wonder, evoke awe, and bring smiles, both for the materials used to create the art, and the sheer exhilaration the artists express in their work. Creating with re-purposed materials and shaping both wall art and freestanding sculptures, the exhibition also addresses head-on what can become of the earth as it is riven by our mass materialism.

Using everything from bottles to bags to plastic slides and bits of paper, these artists take the idea of recycling and raise it to a profound level. These contemporary works are mysterious and elegant, delightful, yet sometimes ominous. Each artist offers her own involving take on both the sculptural form and what the waste each work is created from is doing to the environment.

It’s a hope-filled exhibition. If the artists are reshaping that waste into art, perhaps we can reshape the waste we are laying to this world. There is joy as well as darkness here, a sublime elevation of the prosaic to the profound, and sculptures that simply grab the viewer with both their beauty and their intense textures, with their vision and visceral qualities.

Gunlock’s work is highly structural, combining drawing, painting, and wood into elegant, towering, and precise shapes. Her drawings evoke castles and high rises, scaffolding, tree houses, and a rebirth of urban ruins. In her work “Habitat #2 (View from the Hills),” the artist uses mixed media, drawing, leather, coffee bags, panels, and sandpaper to build a vision of an otherworldly world. Likewise, using sawdust and drawing on panel, the less monumental but equally evocative works “Red Flag Warning” and “Urban Planning” are both a cautionary tale of a haphazard, post-apocalyptic future and a cogent architectural look at spaces we might make our home. Nothing quite looks like Gunlock’s work: it’s limited color palette and geometry are both sci-fi and reminiscent of fairy tales.

Jennifer (3)
Jennifer Gunlock, Scavengers, The Loft Studios and Gallery; Photo credit Genie Davis

Stubblefield’s work, which also utilizes a limited palette that revels in browns and blacks, uses a wide range of mediums here. Her “Rustbelt” series are works on aluminum created with salt, rust, and resin. They could reveal the cosmos or the ecstasy of decay, both exploded and imploded. Using sail cloth and rope ties, her very different “Cat. 4” creates a world of swarming flowers, fish, insects or birds – however you see her mesmerizing repeated images – fluttering over her “Reflecting Pools.” The latter are black ceramic bowls of varying sizes filled with water, in which the former work’s images, hung from ceiling to wall to the edge of the floor, reflect in the water. The reflection is almost a third piece of art, and is entirely experiential.

Her “Tangle” series, whether “Tangle Mounted” or “Tangle Suspended,” make use of natural waste and technological by-products. Using materials such as wiring and cables, screening fabric, zip ties, and wood glue, she binds these unnatural elements with the natural: pine root knuckle, wisteria, whicker, and embroidery thread. These are both plant and debris, a fusion not unlike what is happening with plastic and coral reefs. We are creating our own Frankenstein within reality’s landscape, and would that it looked as alluring as these rough blossoms.

Tanner’s materials are equally varied. Like a crop-circle of man-made material, her “Thumbs Tied Installation” uses magnetic bars and 40 pairs of gloves to form a surreal circle on the wall. Also using gloves, she creates sea-creatures, orbs, and spiky pillows. She builds a delicate city from the trash of plastic containers in “Jug City;” shapes a “Nautilus” from hanging sculptures over a circular canvas on the floor; and takes on the allure of “Magnetism” using vintage compass cards, gears, and steal plate with magnets. Dangling “Compass Cards” and cases are suspended from metal links; mops, chains, and hardware are used to shape a pink fringe curtain in “Mop Dress.” These are richly imagined works that use the most average of materials to create sweetly surreal, immersive images.

Weiss fascinates as always with an impressive collection of dimensional works made from everything from old processed photographic slides and wire to an almost ethereal creation made from suspended plastic slide sheets. The latter, titled “Wonderlust,” is a walk-in, hanging installation with dazzling detail. It resembles flowers from the sea or creatures from space; seemingly as ephemeral as dandelion seeds, dancing with light, this large-scale work purely captivates, all shimmery radiance and motion. Her “Great Escape” is a magical table-stop sculpture, in which processed slides fly away as butterflies from an antique slide storage box. Both works are elegant and fantastical. Her “Escape Artist 1” and “Escape Artist 2” feature carousel boxes and slides, in geometric sculptures that feature the slides at seemingly illusory angles as they appear to slither and slip outside the box. The large-scale wall sculpture of “Shutterflies” gives us almost a combination of these works, the slides in precise geometry with butterflies emerging as if from cocoons. Butterflies are a wonderful stand-in for the idea of pure transformation, the embodiment of hope that we can escape and transcend environmental catastrophe.

Norcliffe’s works are often awash in color here. A rainbow of produce netting evokes the ocean and resembles dramatic, lush seafoam, flotsam, and marine life in her “Net Value” series. Her “Bed Balafon” uses plastic bottles, PVC Piping, wood, bricks, and super balls to create a large scale curved musical instrument in the xylophone family. It’s whimsical and clever. A “Coke-a-Cola Crate Xylophone,” shaped from a soda crate and found wood is a more conventional musical instrument lovingly using inventive materials.

Each artist has created dynamic, fascinating, highly textural contemporary work from these cast-off materials. Both taken individually and as a whole, the result is nothing short of wondrous.

The Loft Studios and Gallery
401 S Mesa St, San Pedro, 90731

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