Sunday, April 17, 2011

Impressions of SOFA

On Friday, Natalya and I went into New York City to visit SOFA, the International Sculpture Objects and Functional Art Fair.  I had never been to the exhibition before and had no idea what to expect.  I was glad we had a VIP, get-in-free card, since the $25 admission fee is a bit pricey, in my opinion, for what you get.

My first impression had to do with the space.  SOFA was held at the Park Avenue Armory and I had just been there for the Infinite Variety, Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts exhibit.  It didn't look like the same space at all.  The space was well lit without being glaring and there were three rows of booths set up, with a few set up along the edges.  Most of the space had white walls, adding to the brightness of the interior, but with all the colorful displays, it hardly seemed boring.

It took Natalya and I about 2 1/2 hours to peruse and enjoy the art.  We had the pleasure of speaking with a few gallery owners and some of the artists.  I was surprised to see how many galleries represented glass objects and art.  It was a bit more than I cared for.  There was one glass artist, however, whose work really struck a chord with me: Joanne Teasdale, represented here by the Jane Sauer gallery in Santa Fe.  She created some beautiful, ethereal, multi-layered photographs in glass that evoked the idea of dreams to me.   One of my favorite pieces of hers was the recreation of a three page love letter from a sailor to his beloved in 1945, starting with "Dearest Wife".  You could pick up and look at each individual lightly browned glass pages.  It was wonderful.

Jane Sauer Gallery postcard

We had a wonderful conversation with "beadist"(isn't that a great word?) Jan Huling.  A last minute exhibitor, her work is not represented in the SOFA catalog and what a shame that is.  Her whimsical bead creations are a delight.  In a nutshell, she finds objects she'd like to cover -- ranging from Cupie dolls to shoes to anatomical heart molds -- using beads and a plethora of found objects.  She spreads a fine layer of glue over the object and then delicately places a string of beads on top.  Once the beads are in place and secure, she removes the string and starts another row.  It's hard to imagine the patience she has; the precision with which she lays her beads is staggering.  I was surprised at her pricing; I thought she could easily ask for more.  Jan is represented in New York by the Lyons Wier Gallery.

Jan Huling creation on Lyons Wier Gallery postcard

Both Natalya and I stopped dead in our tracks when we saw Lesley Richmond's work.  Lesley was also represented here by the Jane Sauer Gallery of Santa Fe.  As I understand the process for the work shown here, Richmond takes photographs of trees, prints those images on a special medium, stitches atop the images, then uses heat to eliminate portions of the substrate and raise up other sections, creating holes and dimension.  Her final step includes painting the surface with metallic paints.  The lighting in the booth added another dimension to the work, creating shadows in and about the trees because the work was hung slightly away from the wall.  We were allowed to touch the surface and it had a stiffness to it that belied its lacy and delicate appearance.  Lovely, lovely, lovely.

Jane Sauer Gallery postcard
I was personally drawn to the creations of Jane Balsgaard, a Danish sculpture who is inspired by the notion of defying gravity and uses elements of the natural world for her materials.  She uses plant material she grows as the backbone structure for her pieces and then adheres homemade plant paper to flesh out the form.   There's an interplay between the spines of the pieces and the lightness of them that I found fascinating.  To me, they seem magical.  Of course, I was especially taken with The Circle Boat because I'm so in love with circles.  It had a red dot, so it wasn't going home with me.  (The price was too high for my budget, really, but I can dream...)

For fear of making this too long of a post, I'll just quickly go through a few of the other artists / artwork that spoke to me.  

Jim Rose who uses found metal to create lively steel furniture, some of which uses traditional quilt patterns for ornamentation. 

Katherine Glover who uses an archival handmade paper from India and her own hand-mixed fluid acrylics to create pulsating, colorful panels.  I would have loved to see more of her work since she uses paper in a variety of exciting ways.

Jane Sauer Gallery postcard
Akiyama Yo who creates sculptural pottery and vessels that were new and old at the same time.  They looked like they'd just been plucked from the earth, covered in crusty dust that was fundamental to their beauty.  Sounds like a bunch of hogwash, I know, but they really were dramatic and beautiful in a very compelling way.  And I'm not the only one who thought so -- all but one of his pieces were sold already by mid-morning on Friday.

Alison Mercer, a UK artist, who creates lovely doll-like forms that showcase fine hand embroidery and have a touch of seriousness, as most also include some womb-like structure.

Geoffrey Gorman who makes delightful animal sculptures from found objects as varied as tree branches, wire, and cloth that still manage to convey realistic creature mannerisms.

By no means have I referenced all the wonderful things to see.  If you're interested in perusing the entire list of exhibitors and view some of artwork photographs, please click here.


Karen L R said...

what a delightful tour you've taken me on!
thanks, vivien.

norma said...

Great review, Vivien! I had been to SOFA a few times and always loved it. I was sorry to miss it this year.

Natalya Aikens said...

great review! I ditto everything you said!