Sponsored by the Creative Arts League of Sacramento, “By Hand” is a biennial international competition and exhibition of fine crafts by 46 accomplished artists from as near as Sacramento and as far away as Seoul, South Korea.
On view at Roseville’s Blue Line Arts through March 3, the 81 works in a variety of media are of uniformly high quality. All were selected by juror Brigitte Martin, creator and editor of Crafthaus, a social network and online community for professional craft artists worldwide.
From New York City artist Auguste Elder’s intriguing wood-fired ceramic “Canopic Urn: Parable of Serving Trout Tea,” suggesting a pre-Columbian artifact with a wry contemporary twist, to the luxurious wood piece, “A Drawer for Emile-Jacques,” an elegant and quixotic homage to an Art Deco designer by Paul Henry of Carlsbad, Calif., this show draws you in and delights you over and over.
You are met at the door by Sebastopol artist Michael Cooper’s mind-blowing wood and metal sculpture, “Ruby,” which made me think of a cross between a sci-fi fantasy motorcycle and a chariot for a Valkyrie. It deservedly won the first place award for its technical excellence, creative use of materials and imaginative vision.
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Smaller but no less fascinating is the second place winner. It’s an intricate trompe l’oeil clay sculpture in the form of a rich pink-red litchi fruit whose faceted surface might have inspired Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes by Hsun-yuan Hsu of Pacific Grove.
Another New York City artist, Biba Schutz, took third place with “Pooling II,” a necklace of linked organic forms made of metal and gorgeous globs of watery translucent and stonelike opaque glass.
There were a couple of strong works by familiar names, including Woodland artist Linda FitzGibbon’s charmingly unexpected clay sculpture of an inflatable black swan and “JAKE dog with prosthesis,” a poignant yet life-affirming ceramic and steel sculpture by Berkeley artist Maru Hoeber, who was based in Sacramento for many years.
Partaking of the Sacramento-Davis funk spirit, Rio Linda artist Sharon King’s ceramic and mixed media “Artist’s Inner Child and Her Muse” pays tribute to UC Davis artists Robert Arneson, David Gilhooly and Roland Petersen in a beautifully made comic sculpture of a girl astride a turtle on a squat Greek column. The piece rivals Tony Natsoulas’ goofy busts of artists and cartoonists.
Benicia artist Jack Weaver’s metal and wood construction, “Vid Swan,” made of found mandolin parts, delighted me with its lively and witty take on modernist sculpture and Georgia artist Dawn Peterson’s delicately beautiful “Sconce,” made of beaded recycled paper, surprised me with its effective use of unexpected materials.
Also intriguing was “Weight of Human,” a sombre resin and clay sculpture of a well-articulated male figure weighed down by familiar, sometimes menacing objects (a gun, a bomb, a necktie, for example). Both figure and objects are wrapped obsessively with delicate graphite gray thread. It’s a haunting comment on our common fears and sense of helplessness, by June Lee of Seoul, Korea.
I wasn’t that taken with the fiber works in the show, though I liked Tacoma, Wash., artist Peeta Tray’s monumental “Ring Border Basket with Lattice Overlay in Brown and Black”; Royal Oak, Md., artist Ulrika Leander’s lively, large tapestry of geometric houses reminiscent of Bauhaus aesthetics; and San Carlos artist Winifred van der Rijn’s contemporary take-off on Warhol’s “Marilyn” in a digital photo image transfer and embroidery on muslin.
It’s great to see Blue Line’s partnership with organizations like CALS, which was founded in 1952 and has presented many fine crafts shows at the Crocker Art Museum in past years as well as supporting the magnificent catalog for the Crocker’s current exhibition, “Exuberant Earth: The Ceramics of Ruth Rippon.”