Thursday, June 8-Friday, September 1, 2017
Exploring the dynamic relationship between humanity, the natural world, and the creative impulse, From These Woods features handmade works created by highly skilled artists throughout the Appalachian region.
From his Blacksburg studio, John Albright transforms locally sourced hardwoods into furniture that emphasizes natural forms. Albright’s benches and stools blur the line between style and functionality.
Inspired by the natural world, Alex Bannan’s work reflects its environment. Featuring walnut, ash, white oak, and mahogany, Bannan’s pieces evoke the winding currents of the New River and the wild beauty of Southwest Virginia. Raised in Roanoke, Bannan currently lives and works in Richmond.
Rooted in self-reflection, spirituality, and the intricacies of the human condition, Charlie Brouwer’s constructed wood sculptures invite wonder and introspection. Using local wood, most of which he harvests in and around his workshop in Floyd County, Brouwer creates pieces that illustrate the dichotomous nature of life, simultaneously fragile and resilient. Brouwer lives and works in Willis, Virginia.
Melissa Engler’s wild, chaotic forms hint at humanity’s fickle relationship with the nature. As Engler explains, her works are “an exploration into the ways we utilize the natural world with an emphasis on the line between use and abuse.” Engler lives and works in Asheville, North Carolina.
Greg Galbreath, the founder and owner of Buckeye Banjos, has been honing his craft for over 20 years. A native of Maryland with a master’s degree in freshwater ecology, Galbreath claims that the time he spent in nature as a child and later as a student proved to be formative moments in his development as an artist. In addition to making custom banjos, Galbreath plays in the old-time string band Farm Use Only with his wife, Cindy. Galbreath lives and works in Eggleston, Virginia.
Travis Graves, an associate professor of art at East Tennessee State University, creates sculptures that deal with society’s relationship to nature, particularly our dependence on the environment. Graves employs lead counterweights, magnets, and metal in order to hold his pieces in place—a delicate relationship between objects constantly poised on the brink of collapse, not unlike our own connection to the natural world.
Stories shape our world. They help us define ourselves, reminisce about the past, and look to the future. For Andrew Hayes, altered books are a means of telling new stories. He explains, “I take my sensory appreciation for the book as a material and employ the use of metal to create a new form and hopefully a new story.” Hayes’ creations explode with possibility, ripe with the potential of a thousand imagined futures. Hayes lives and works in Penland, North Carolina.
One of the premier instrument makers in Southwest Virginia, Michael Kovick is also an accomplished musician who can play harmonica, fiddle, and mandolin, among others. In addition to his artisanal work, he currently serves as a session musician at Windfall Studios near Floyd, Virginia.
The Big Ivy section of Pisgah National Forest, located in western North Carolina, faces constant threats from commercial logging interests. As an artist and forest advocate, Steven McBride is helping to preserve Big Ivy through his photography, documenting the forest’s importance and impact on the human spirit. McBride lives and works in Weaverville, North Carolina.
Floyd’s Phoenix Hardwoods brings an entrepreneurial spirit to their artistry. Their locally sourced slab furniture has an instinctively natural feel, showcasing smooth, polished burls edged with raw, untamed boundaries. Owners Bill and Corinne Graefe have brought one-of-a-kind furniture to the New River Valley.
Utilizing advanced material systems and design technology, Jonathan Rugh’s work inhabits the intersection of technology and craftsmanship. Exhibited here, Rugh’s paddles utilize high-tech, performance-driven structural optimization through wood composite laminate, illustrating the productive potential of technology and wood. Rugh serves as a wood shop craftsman in the Virginia Tech School of Architecture + Design.
As a logger in the Appalachian forests, Sanchez’s experience of wood is constant and everyday. He harvests trees but also transforms its burls into captivating objects, unveiling the innate beauty and unusual possibility of their forms. According to Sanchez, “carving for me is a reflection of us as human beings. It is a process of transformation that lets others see the goodness and beauty hiding inside of us.” Sanchez lives in Willis, Virginia.
Norm Sartorius’ fine wooden spoons take many forms. Sartorius is known for the unique variety of materials he works with to create his spoons, which are abstract and brimming with metaphor. Australian purpleheart, African blackwood, and Honduras rosewood are just a few among the many media Sartorius has utilized. He describes his work as sculptures, explaining, “my spoons are sculptures; my sculptures are spoons—not spoons to stir the soup but spoons to stir the soul.” Sartorius lives and works in Parkersburg, West Virginia.
Mac Traynham is a giant in the world of Appalachian music, a towering figure who has been plying his trade as a musician, teacher, and artisan for over 30 years. Recognized as a master banjo maker by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities in 2009, Traynham’s open-backed, custom-made banjos combine expert craftsmanship with impeccable aesthetics, each piece resulting in a sonic whirlwind of beauty. Traynham lives and works in Willis, Virginia.
Based in Floyd, Virginia, Shanti Yard seeks to preserve the unique natural qualities of the wood he shapes into vessels. As he explains, “the most exciting aspect of my work lies in the unfoldment, a sort of flowering, of a raw piece of wood.” Yard’s wood-turned pieces are at once expressive and contemplative, celebratory and introspective.
Drawing upon a variety of sources from contemporary Japanese basketry to traditional Native American techniques, Jennifer Zurick’s black willow bark baskets are simple, yet elegant. Using bark from willow trees near her home in Berea, Kentucky, Zurick strives to imbue her work with life, creating an intermingling of nature and the human spirit that makes for a transcendent artistic experience.
VIRGINIA TECH'S SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN, CENTER FOR DESIGN RESEARCH
Under the direction of Nathan King, assistant professor of architecture; Mark Leach, wood shop supervisor; and Jonathan Rugh, wood shop craftsman, students in the Center for Design Research worked with Rwandan students and craftspeople in order to create a number of furniture prototypes, some of which are on display in this exhibition. These furniture pieces continue to be used and produced at the African Design Centre, a new fellowship program based in Kigali, Rwanda.
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View this exhibition's brochure.