Woodturners’ conference inspires local exhibits

Louisville is the host of many art-related conferences this year, including the annual American Association of Woodturners symposium at the Galt House on June 22-24. The AAW is the largest international organization promoting woodturning, which uses a spinning lathe to support the wood. About 1,200 artists and interested guests are expected to attend. The Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, in honor of the AAW conference, has two woodturning exhibitions currently on display, “Turning Twenty: Still Evolving” and “Out of the Woodshed and Into the Parlor.” Both shows illustrate the high level of art that can be achieved with this style of woodworking.

“Turning Twenty: Still Evolving,” co-organized by the AAW, features 23 national artists who have been woodturners for at least 20 years, the length of time AAW has been in existence. The nation’s best have a wide variety of styles, including the trompe l’oeil effect produced by Michelle Holzapfel. Her “Draped Bowl” of carved, textured and bleached maple looks like a linen towel has been draped over a wooden bowl. “Because of my early training in dressmaking and needlework, I often felt impelled to ‘dress,’ ‘upholster’ or ‘embroider’ many of the forms I made,” she explains in her artist’s statement. “The actual ‘bowl’ peeks out between the folds of carved, textured, bleached and ‘embroidered’ (with pyrography) maple.” It takes close examination to prove to your senses that it’s made entirely of wood.

Bill Hunter’s organic “Kinetic Garden” of cocobolo wood twists like a plant reaching for the sun. Each separate “shoot” swirls to shape the vessel, yet there is little solidity about it. It seems to have its own built-in wind that ruffles the stalks, giving it the lyrical motion grass exhibits when a breeze blows on a spring day.

Included in this section is a special homage to the grandfather of contemporary woodturning, Kentucky’s own Rude Osolnik, who is best known for his hourglass-shaped candlesticks.

The companion exhibition organized by KMAC is “Out of the Woodshed and Into the Parlor: New Work from Kentucky Woodworkers.” Louisville’s own Andrew Brown contributed “What Wood has Done for Me” in hickory burl.

 “My work is a quiet reflection on form and intimate properties of wood,” he says in his statement. “No other material is so overlooked as wood, yet each piece is unique to itself. It gets to be handled and retains the warmth of being touched for minutes after being set down.” Brown will make a demonstration at the AAW symposium, and at KMAC during this week’s First Friday Gallery Hop.

Jack Fifield is a master woodturner that Kentucky should be proud to call its own. His “Cherry Vahz” is composed of black cherry and black walnut that has been lathe-turned and carved, then mortise-joined. The tall vessel, with its beautiful wood grain, resembles a partially opened flower. He also collaborated with his wife, Linda Fifield, on “Heaven and Earth.” The maple vessel is covered with Czech glass beads, and patterned in brown for the ground, green for the trees and blue for the sky.

Two shows outside of KMAC are also on display in conjunction with the AAW conference. The Louisville Slugger Museum will open “Step Up to the Plate” on June 21 (it closes Sept. 4) with woodturned objects. And Kaviar Forge and Gallery has “Turn, Turn, Turn: Contemporary American Wood Turnings” from June 1-July 1, with works by John Townsend Lannom and two artists featured at KMAC, Chris Ramsey and Greg Kirkland.

The conference is open to the public. If you are interested in attending or want more information, visit the AAW Web site at www.woodturner.org or call (651) 484-9094. The local AAW contact is Clay Johnson (587-0777, [email protected]).

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