“Pocketed Investments,” by B.Z. Reily.
B.Z. Reily, another artist working with found material, describes her sources as “weathered and worn objects, antique wood, metal scraps, Raku clay, bits and pieces from the natural world, and remains from our consumer culture.” Her past work has often regrouped her various discovered objects into figures and recognizable forms, rather than the chiefly abstract work of artists such as Simons or Bowen. Reily’s works, from faces which she titles “Masks,” to animals such as flies made of metal scraps, to figures reminiscent of human forms, take on a spirit that is greater than the sum, or even juxtaposition, of its parts. More recently, she has turned to the task of creating “Quilts,” though rather than piecing together fabric, she applies this traditional quilting practice to metal, wood, clay, or objects like old board games or baseball gloves. One of these quilts, “Pocketed Investments,” for example, consists of a base made of blue jean fragments, overlaid with items that Reily found by asking friends and relatives to turn out the contents of their pockets. Foreign coins, guitar picks, matchbooks and keys dance in rows on the map of denim, a background reminiscent of their origin. The entire pieces arrest the viewer with their similarity to stitched or woven quilts, and upon further examination, one is rewarded by recognition of the unexpected but familiar objects that make up the whole.
Mark Fenwick rounds out the group of five, whose fantastical wood sculptures are carved rather than ‘assembled,’ and he is as likely to chop his lumber down himself than collect fallen branches. As a child in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, he enjoyed splitting firewood, and when he moved to an artist commune with friends in his teenage years, he spent most of his time outdoors felling trees for use on their farm. This collection of artists and writers near Brattleboro, Vermont, also staged magnificent productions for the community each summer as the Monteverdi Players, and here Fenwick was able to apply his skill at wood-carving, an art he began as a child with pieces from the wood pile. Like the gigantic creations which formed stage sets or pieces for these plays, much of Fenwick’s work is life-sized or larger, drawing the viewer into immediate relation to the figures, human or animal, or strange woodland faces that emerge from inanimate forms. Some of his work is abstract, and from some, clear figures emerge, but all of them are suffused with mystery, fusing a recognizable element such as a foot or a bird to more abstract shapes. Some, like a man in a flying boat or a bull with a man’s body and a fish’s tail, seem like the subjects of myth; some have religious resonance, such as an abstract Buddha bearing a feather; other collections of human figures or structures seem the stuff of dreams. Fenwick is currently at work restoring an inventive home he built—called “The Castle” by the local community—in his earlier days at the artists’ commune. Years of exploration led him away, but he has returned to this inhabitable sculpture in Vermont, populating it with his sculptures.