Husband and wife team exhibit at Sandpiper
Chris Wooten and Vladimir Shakov are a married couple that often function as a team to produce works of art. In 2001 they produced “Canned Salmon,” the giant fish sculpture made with recycled aluminum cans that is situated in a fountain in the Theater District. They also produced Fern Hill’s “Chicken Fun Sway,” a crazy gate that was made in conjunction with the 2004 Red Door Project.
Gifted artists, the two also work individually. The latest show at Old Town’s wonderful Sandpiper Gallery features photography by Shakov and woven wire sculptures by Wooten. The sensual photographs and the sinuous wire sculptures complement each other despite the dissimilarity of media employed by each artist.
As an Army photojournalist in Vietnam, Shakov contributed to four publications while on active duty. Over the years he has explored all of the arcane methods and techniques of pre-digital photography. Works in the sandpiper show are from two series of photographs called “The Drawing Room Series” and “Chic in Sheets.”
The photographs are all female nudes that are enmeshed in smoky, gauzy fabric. The images are silver gelatin, gold-toned photos that were produced in a traditional wet darkroom. The silver gelatin technique is old school stuff – developed in 1871.
The lyrical curves of the nude model play against the sharp folds and creases of the translucent fabric. There is a haunted, antique quality to these airy images. The “Drawing Room Series” incorporates line drawings also of the female nude. Akin to the highly refined line work of the non-cubist side of Pablo Picasso, the drawings often echo the position of the fleshly model caught up in her ephemeral veil.
Wooten’s woven wire sculptures of tree forms – a series called “Memories of Trees” – are charming, skillfully crafted works that combine basketry with sculpture. The trunks of these trees often have a face or a female figure worked in. The branches spread wide or soar upwards. Wooten sometimes uses such things as beetle wings or parrot feathers as leaves for her trees. Each piece recalls a specific time, place and tree of personal significance to the artist.
“Ghost Gum Eucalyptus” is a lovely, curvy thing standing a couple of feet tall. Its trunk splits into three elegant branches that end in dangling appendages that are decked with pearls and glass beads. “Rare Eyelash Palm” springs upward from a circle of earthy beads. Aluminum fans form a crown of palm leaves. A ceramic “eye” is at the center of each palm leaf.
Artwork done with wire and beads occupies a stepchild’s place in the art world. Little figures or animals of kinked and twisted wire are often peddled by sidewalk craftsmen and chintzy gift shops. Wooten, however, is a wire-bender of high refinement. Her gem-like trees make one think of treasured objects such as a Fabergé might have crafted for the court of the Russian Czar.
Shakov’s photographs and Wooten’s wire sculptures will be on view through Sept. 3 at Sandpiper Gallery, which is located at 2221 N. 30th St. in Old Town. For further information call (253) 627-6667.
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