The life-size figure of a woman holding an oil-slicked shorebird in her arms greets you at the entrance to "Edge of Extinction," a powerful show of mostly ceramic sculptures by Lisa Reinertson at the Pence Gallery in Davis.
Reinertson, a Benicia artist who has completed more than 20 commissions including bronze sculptures of Martin Luther King Jr. and former Sacramento Mayor Joe Serna, turns her attention here to the plight of endangered animals, among them mountain gorillas, polar bears, cougars and wolves.
A statement accompanying the show informs us that, according to a study in 2008 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, "at least a quarter of mammal species are headed for extinction in the near future."
From the rough liveliness of "Tangerine," a sculpture of a youthful figure with a monkey perched on her back, to "Wolf Rider/ Ophelia's Return," a nude woman mounted on a wolf's back, the show reminds us of our relationship with animals and the primal natural world that we are increasingly neglecting and damaging.
In "Polar Bear/Slip Sliding Away" she gives us a moving image of the massive arctic creature mounted on a pillar that seems to melting like the ice caps at the poles. In "The Sleep of Reason," a reference to an etching by Francisco Goya, she offers a tender scene of a mother gorilla with her child cradled in her arms. It has religious overtones, like several of the works in the show.
That connection is apparent in a bas relief of two monkeys in an arch, as well as in "Pieta," an image of the Virgin Mary cradling a host of at-risk animals in her arms. It is most powerful in "Deposition (Cougar)," a reworking of Michelangelo's "Deposition of Christ" with the animal taking the place of the dead Christ. The handling of the male figure holding up the slumping dead weight of the animal is masterful.
Reinertson works in a classical humanist tradition of figurative art, with pieces ranging from the Leonardo-like "Girl With Ermine" to the imposing bronze nude "Woman With Lemur." In addition to the sculptures, she also shows three powerful drawings: a radiant pastel of two monkeys, a bold and visceral oil stick drawing of a gorilla and an incisive image of a wolf.
Sculptures in paintings
At Elliott Fouts Gallery, Terry Pappas' "Sculpted Spirits" is a departure from her familiar landscapes of the American River. Here she begins with a stone in moving water, moves to a landscape with cairns stacked as rudimentary sculptures meant to mark a place and segues to paintings of sculptures from various times and places around the world.
In "Dreaming," she visits 19th century France with a sensitive bust of a woman in front of a Renoir painting. In "Tenderness, she gives us a scene of sculptures of a mother lion and her cub in a Versailles-like landscape. Turning to the 20th century, she vigorously renders Picasso's famous sculpture of a goat.
The Sacramento artist stops at a variety of ancient cultures, from an Egyptian royal couple and a pre- Columbian baby to Cycladic goddesses and a Tang Dynasty woman riding a horse. Returning to France in the 19th century, she gives us Rodin's portrait of his student Camille Claudel in a bonnet and Claudel's rough sculpture of a couple waltzing.
The paintings seem to have been done from photographs which gives them, at times, a flatness that belies their subject matter. Nevertheless, this is a new and clearly profitable direction for Pappas.
EDGE OF EXTINCTION
What: Works by Lisa Reinertson
When: 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, through June 14.
Where: Pence Gallery, 212 D St., Davis
Information: (530) 758-4670
What: Paintings by Terry Pappas
When: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday- Friday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, through Thursday
Where: Elliott Fouts Gallery, 1831 P St., Sacramento.
Information: (916) 736-1429.