‘Brilliant Earth’ rocks! says Sac Bee

‘Brilliant Earth’ rocks! says Sac Bee

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From the Sacramento Bee review of the Brilliant Earth show:

Victoria Dalkey: ‘Brilliant Earth’ rocks eyes, ears at Roseville’s Blue Line Gallery

By Victoria Dalkey – Bee Art Correspondent |
Published 12:00 am PDT Friday, May 21, 2010

Deanna Marsh and Judi Stickney have taken a rocky road to art.

Marsh and Stickney, both rockhounds, are the featured artists in “Brilliant Earth,” a show on the beauty of nature at Blue Line Gallery in Roseville.

They use natural materials, ranging from geodes and petrified bamboo to semiprecious stones such as lapis lazuli and amethyst crystals, in two- and three-dimensional works. The beauty of the materials threatens to overshadow what the two artists do with them.

Stickney, whose works include a sea nymph carved from alabaster and a polished, bulletlike form with matte sandstone wings, carves stone to create free-standing sculptures that draw on the conventions of modernist abstraction. Flora – buds, petals and leaves – abounds, and in a work called “Origins” she gives us an egg shape with a fossil set into it, suggesting womb and fetus.

In her strongest works, Stickney leaves nature pretty much alone, giving us “True Blue,” a simply carved chunk of lapis lazuli that is breathtaking; and “Polar Landscape,” a cluster of icy crystals set on a granite base with a lucite spacer carved to reveal layers of the stone.

Marsh, whose father was a geologist, is a conservationist who takes frequent backpacking and kayaking trips. Several of her works in the show were inspired by a journey down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. In these, she conveys the impression of looking up at the canyon’s steep walls, translated here into rusted steel planes, and down at the river in passages of kiln-formed glass inset with glittering stones.

She also presents tapestries, woven on digitally controlled looms, that resemble maps of alluvial plains with riverbeds and tributaries branching out. Again, she uses stones – serpentine, tiger’s eye, moonstone, quartz and jasper – to highlight the path of the river. In other works, she presents pieces that take the form of coursing rivers framed with jagged pieces of metal that zigzag across the wall.

Her pièce de résistance is a fountain made of champagne marble, steel and glass in the form of a circle girded with wire vines and green leaves, with a panel of aqueous glass waves set into the bottom of the disc. Like all of Marsh’s works, it would be ideal for the lobby of an office building or a meditation chapel.

Both artists supply a good deal of interesting information in wall texts about their works and materials. With the fountain, Marsh notes that “the water the dinosaurs drank is the same water that falls as rain today. Nothing is lost.”

In two wall pieces based on satellite photos, Marsh presents before-and-after views of a Nevada landform that reaches back to the Triassic Period and into an imaginary future that she calls the “Postgene Period, Sapiacene Epoch,” showing waters that once flooded the land returning in our era of global warming.

Stickney, too, provides commentary on her works, such as “Ancient Towers,” a haunting form made of agatized fossil bamboo, a symbol of long life that she has left untouched because it is so beautiful. With the spectacular lapis piece, she explains that the mineral, found in Afghanistan, symbolizes inner peace and freedom from negative thoughts.

In “Legacy,” a piece that covers an entire free-standing wall in the gallery, Stickney and Marsh have melded their talents to present a landscape in which one finds a beautiful fossil formation of ancient fish, surrounded by intricate, stainless-steel fish skeletons in a setting that suggests a sandy beach. It’s one of the subtlest yet strongest works in the show.

Rounding out the exhibition are photographs of trees and natural land formations by Christopher Schiller, who works in black and white, and David L. Robertson, who works in color. These are in the Ansel Adams tradition of fine nature photography and offer an interesting counterpoint to the three-dimensional works.

The show also includes a series of videos of flowers, stone, water and other natural phenomena set to music by Chicago artist Kevin R. Evensen. They are soothing to look at and hear, though I wish the music had been identified in the wall labels that accompany the videos.

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