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Delving into light and gravity

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Dutch artist Willi Haye and New Mexico’s Hilda Appel Volkin explore the behavior of light within transparent, translucent and opaque materials in brilliantly stunning parallel shows at the Palette Contemporary Art and Craft gallery through May 6.

Haye is this month’s solo artist with the opening of her “Luminous Reflections: What would my ‘Uncle’ Wassily think anyway?” art glass exhibition while Volkin’s “LIGHTWAVES” solo installation opened in March and has been extended.

The reference to Wassily Kandinsky in Haye’s title is inspired by her father’s unbridled passion for Kandinsky’s art. As a child Haye came to believe that Kandinsky was one of her true “Dutch” uncles.

Though Haye’s art career began with photography she explored sculpture in a variety of materials after moving to New Mexico from the Netherlands. For the past decade Haye has focused on cast glass including studies with Czech glass masters Petr Stacho and Frantisek Janak who have helped her to avoid technical pitfalls while inspiring her with a highly sophisticated aesthetic.

Her own mastery shines through in “Azure Glimpse” and “Claret Glimmer” two jaw dropping works glowing with inner light and radiating living energy.

Composed with a simple sweeping gesture, “Azure Glimpse” is at once water and sky with a rising bubble within that echoes the full circular penetration in the perfectly surfaced triangle in “Claret Glimmer,” the naturally raw execution of “Luminous Grotto” that feels chiseled from a solid block of glass and the brilliant natural formation found in “Amber Grotto,” reminiscent of dramatic rock formations formed by the raging seas. You may want to button your slicker all the way up while viewing “Amber Grotto” so as to remain warm and dry. Haye is a wonderfully imaginative artist who is moving at a rapid pace through a very difficult medium. It’s exciting to witness.

We’ll leave the debate regarding the true nature of light to the physicists who argue between light particles and light waves, while viewing Volkin’s collection of light gathering structures.

Volkin’s use of dichroic or interference film and fluorescent acrylic plastics connects her work to 20th century artists Larry Bell and Robert Janz as well as scientist and inventor Nicola Tesla, who invented alternating current, florescent and neon lighting, hydro electric power and myriad other technologies in the electrical field.

Bell has worked with clear sheet glass and applied dichroic films and filters for more than 50 years. His latest work incorporates mylar, plastics, paper and other materials combined through the use of heat and vacuum chambers. Bell like Volkin has been inspired by observations of natural phenomena.

Janz of Argentina was working with fluorescent plastics in the early 1960s at the Rhinehart School of Sculpture in Baltimore.

Tesla wrote a series of essays on light and the human eye that parallel Volkin’s thoughts regarding her nature-inspired constructions.

“Each thing we perceive, though it may be vanishingly small, is in itself a world, that is like the whole of the universe. … The eye is the most wonderful (of our organs) in all the most perfect of its parts,” Tesla wrote in 1898.

In works like “Sundown” and “Iridescence” Volkin embraces whole worlds of visual experience that move the viewer toward the spiritual realm. It is no accident that Volkin has completed several major commissions in public buildings including a non-denominational chapel in a hospital setting.

Utilizing an 18-inch diamond format in “Sundown” Volkin manages to capture the glory of a southwestern sunset including the gorgeous hues created by our dusty desert atmosphere when bathed in dying sunlight. She takes the viewer to the liminal edge of the horizon as the Earth spins away from the sun’s intensity.

Volkin’s “Iridescence” is a wonderfully joyful masterpiece.

Both artists are major talents. Two thumbs up.

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