Alchemical Vessels - Smith Center for Healing and the Arts

 Curly pussy willow branches, acrylic and wax, 11" porcelain bowl 2013

Curly pussy willow branches, acrylic and wax, 11" porcelain bowl 2013

My inspiration (see on the left) is part of :

'Alchemical Vessels'  offers a bowl full of healing

By Mark Jenkins May 30, 2013

Alchemical Vessels

Asking multiple artists to execute variations on a single item is a familiar gambit, as anyone who happens upon a tricked-up fiberglass donkey or elephant around town will be reminded. The object in the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery’s “Alchemical Vessels” is a bowl, but the 125 contributors to this show didn’t begin with a piece of identical crockery to decorate. The finished objects are made from — to list only a few — acrylic, wood, pumice, raw clay and red flocking. The variations don’t stop there: The pieces include Barbara Frank’s spiraling twigs that penetrate the surface, Rosana Azar’s paintbrush tips arrayed in a circle and Bridget Sue Lambert’s toy house that sits on artificial turf inside its dishy setting.

The exhibition is a benefit for the Smith Center for Healing, which works with cancer survivors and caregivers. The center calls the vessels in the display metaphors for itself, “a space where healing can take place.” That aside, the bowl is an archetypal geometric shape, and one that neatly defines inside and out. Some of the bowls are jokey, while others seem solemn and even devotional. (Flip a bowl over, as Shelly Lowenstein does, and it looks like a Buddhist stupa.) Add the opposition between soft and hard, and the possibilities for juxtaposition become vast.

The variety is impressive, if also a little overwhelming. The bowls range from purely conceptual to potentially functional, and while some participants employ motifs and techniques from their customary work, others use the opportunity to attempt something new. Overall, the show reflects contemporary artists’ enthusiasm for mixing things up and developing artisanal skills that, a generation ago, many painters and sculptors would have considered beneath them. Here, the ability to make is just as important as the capacity to imagine.

 

Alchemical Vessels

On view through June 7 at Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery, 1632 U St. NW; 202-483-8600; www.smithcenter.org/arts-healing/joan-hisaoka-art-gallery.html