“Bunny Couple (detail)” by Michael Stasiuk
One cannot help but smile upon entering York’s George Marshall Store Gallery. The reason for these smiles is the wonderful pairing of the whimsical found object sculptures by Portsmouth artist Michael Stasiuk with the colorful paintings by Maine artist Jan ter Weele and fanciful paintings by Vermont artist Donald Saaf.
Stasiuk, who lives in Portsmouth New Hampshire, describes himself as a multi-media sculptor, a theatrical prop maker and art educator. He teaches art at the New Durham Elementary School and for the past 23 summers has been the prop master for the Budd Butt Mystery Theatre Troupe in Telluride, Colorado. His figurative sculptures made from commonplace and often discarded items have an uncanny sense of animation and character.
His ability to animate ordinary objects and infuse them with personality and gesture is remarkable. “Bunny Couple” is a pair of “bunny” figures whose heads are made from shoe shapers and their prominent ears from wooden spoon handles. The “gentleman bunny” strides forward on his elegant straight legs, his torso (a toy boat fragment) tilts back as he deftly adjusts his neck tie (a piano key) His “female bunny” companion wears a lacy skirt (a carved metal lampshade) and her facial expression seems to be questioning weather her skirt may be too short for the occasion. Visitors to the gallery, without exception, respond with smiles and delight.
Donald Saaf makes paintings that reflect the local experience of his community and mirror his surrounding in rural Vermont. He is influence by Outsider and Folk Art from around the world and his collaging of fabric, paper and paint are not too far from the quilt makers methods of breaking down the composition into organic forms and shapes.
Saaf’s simple figures are often clothed in collaged pieces of fabric. In his largest canvas “Round Mountain.” a figure sporting a polka-dot shirt and a striped hat rides his bicycle through the Vermont countryside. It is a beautiful day, birds soar around the mountaintop and a group of villages are hiking up a hillside. There is a dream–like quality to these images.
In many of Saaf’s paintings there is a halo of faces radiating around the figures’ heads. These additional faces may represent the soul or perhaps they are a symbol for the many levels of personal consciousness. No mater how personal the picture is to the artist, he is always striving for the universal. The figures are simultaneously representing the artist and the “everyman.”
Saaf and Stasiuk have exhibited their work together in the past at the George Marshall Store Gallery and also at the Clark Gallery in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Curator, Mary Harding has added to the pairing the work of Jan ter Weele, whose brightly colored paintings complement the work of the other two artists.
Jan ter Weele was selected for the Monhegan Island Art Residency and has just returned from his one-month stay on the island. Painting for the artists is about color and the interpretation of real places. Recently he has begun to disassemble the imagery of these places into abstract compositions that reflect the rhythms, patterns and colors of his landscapes. Like the other work on exhibit, ter Weele’s work has a playful quality and at the same time is very sophisticated.
Concurrently, the gallery is presenting the work of ceramic artist Boyan Moskov. The artist was born and educated in Bulgaria where he had a ceramic production business. He moved to the United State in 2007 and since that time has developed his skills as a ceramic artist, showing his work in high-end craft exhibitions in the Northeast.
His slab built and wheel thrown sculptural vessels and forms are elegantly displayed throughout the gallery on pedestals and wall mounted shelves. The surfaces and bronze/charcoal glazes give the impression that the pieces are welded metal. A recent visitor commented “What a contrast to what I just saw upstairs, but equally as exciting.”
The exhibitions continue through November 16. George Marshall Store Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 1-5. 140 Lindsay Road, York, Maine.