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Wednesday, September 15,2010

Duo show goes back to nature

by Meghan Spork

September’s exhibit at the Grove Gallery Co-op of East Lansing showcases two local artists who use unique techniques and materials taken from nature.


Deborah Cholewicki works with fibrous, natural materials such as natural vine, willow and sweet grass to create her sculptural weavings. Kristine Campbell uses beeswax to bring texture to her paintings and collages. What else could you call their duo show but “Trees and Bees?”


There are several ways to build up an impasto, or three-dimensional texture in visual art, some more frustrating than others. Before taking up encaustic painting, or painting with pigmented wax, Campbell got her impasto on by mixing oil paints and clay. Unsatisfied with the results, she switched to wax. She found that wax not only added color and texture, but also came in handy as an adhering agent for her collages.


Unlike other art supplies and techniques, wax requires special handling before it is ready to use. Campbell buys wax from local beekeepers and processes it herself, boiling it down and removing impurities. She then re-melts the wax and adds pigment so it can be used as paint.


It’s not a technique for the timid. “There is a challenge in painting with a heated material because you have to paint in small bursts as the wax dries so quickly,” Campbell said. “I usually have a strong idea when I begin and work towards that.”


The “trees” in the “Trees and Bees” exhibit are found in Deborah Cholewicki’s sculptural weavings. Her work blends hand-spun and hand-dyed yarns with exotic natural materials, including philodendron, yucca, flowers, and reeds — and trees.


“I’ve always got my eye open for interesting pieces of wood or bark or driftwood,” Cholewicki said. While other artists spring for expensive supplies, she often finds hers while taking a walk outdoors.


This type of weaving is far from traditional, but Cholewicki likes it that way. Before she started weaving, she worked with pottery in a similar free-form process, and treats her weavings the same way: Take an interesting piece of material and see where it leads.


“With free-form sculptural stuff, you truly are creating one-of-a-kind pieces,” Cholewicki said. “No one can replicate it.”


Though both Campbell and Cholewicki differ in method and product, both artists are guided largely by nature.
They both said they were nervous about the Grove Gallery exhibit because neither knew what the other would bring.


When they arrived to hang the show, their worries disappeared. “We saw that we had used similar colors and shapes, and it came together beautifully,” Campbell said.


Campbell and Cholewicki are both active members of the Grove Gallery Co-op. Campbell has been a member for almost a year, and this is her first foray as a featured artist. Cholewicki has been a member for almost two years and recently became the co-op’s manager. 


 “Trees and Bees”
Sept. 1 – 26. Grove Gallery Co-op, 325 Grove Street
Hours: Tues.-Thurs. noon-6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday noon-4 p.m.
(517) 333-7180

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