Emerging artists Robert Glass and Alexis Kaminsky were two heretofore strangers with Ph.D.s from Cornell University who took completely divergent paths before meeting at the Page Coleman Gallery for their “Process of Discovery” sculpture exhibition.
Glass, a native New Yorker with a background in fluid mechanics and geology, dropped out of his professional career at the Sandia National Laboratories to pursue art full time in 2013. At age 60, Glass mastered the art of welding and reconfiguring industrial steel to create organically inspired expressions.
His totemic minimalist structures echo works by Donald Judd from the 1960s and Constantin Brancusi from the 1930s. But three of my favorite pieces are reminiscent of works by northern New Mexico’s Tom Joyce.
Glass titles his works with reference numbers. In “78,” “77” and “89,” Glass uses thick slabs of steel to create incursions and rifts one might find in rock formations eroded by water. The relentlessly rectilinear forms are energized and given life by wear marks and other violations of their otherwise pristine geometry.
Glass implies geological landscape formation and fluidic activity in “62,” a wall-mounted horizontal piece of polished steel.
Because excellent craftsmanship is a given in Glass’ work, my only nit is his acceptance of dimensional limitations in his modified I-beam totems. When following the curvature in works like “29,” I wish he had added more material to the beam’s center section to a create a more fluid arc.
Because of the vertical area in the standard I-beams Glass uses, and his dependence on the gray mill-scale surface as a contrast to his bright silver hued polished edges, he seems reluctant to violate the original dimensions of his materials. He may want to rethink that limitation.
Kaminsky, a native New Mexican, earned her doctorate in program evaluation and planning and has lived and worked in California, New York and Kenya. A genetically triggered stroke at the tender age of 28 almost ended her promising career. But by turning her focus to self-expression and a study of the natural world, Kaminsky was able to reconnect and recover her brain functions to an even higher level. She completed her doctorate at Cornell after recovering from the stroke.
Figurative sculpture studies with Tebby George in San Francisco and workshops in New Mexico with Niya Lee and Lea Anderson helped to hone Kaminsky’s skills in ceramics. Her organizational skills and love of art led to her to co-founding Making Our Mark: Explorations in Creativity, a series of one-day writing and painting workshops with Natalie Voelker.
Kaminsky uses slab-building and slip-casting techniques to create scores of grid- and circle-based boxlike forms that she bisque-fires in a kiln. After several kiln-loads are fired, the separate bits are scattered around her studio to act as a personal “Lego” set with which to build final arrangements.
She mounts the arrangements on composite substrates with adhesive and designs the wall mounting hardware to allow each piece to float about an inch away from the wall.
Each composition is finished with acrylic and oil paints, along with an application of cold wax.
The stunning results beautifully impart natural world phenomena like Kaminsky’s “Phases of the Moon” a horizontal array of circles and arcs that shares a distant but favorable kinship with New Mexico sculptor Karen Yank’s Coors Overpass project on I-40.
Our lunar celestial companion also plays a role in Kaminsky’s “Moon Over Black Mesa” a dynamically shifting arrangement of triangles, rectangles and squares that captures the true character of our ever-changing Southwestern landscape.
All eight of Kaminsky’s compositions are well-designed, well-executed and alive.
Both artists are on the high road toward creative success. Glass needs to take a few more risks with his materials, but he has certainly arrived as a skillful contender.
The show is well-worth a lingering visit.