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Enjoy the View

Five artists take a walk in nature with small, poetic steps


Intense color and the sheer number (15) of Anne Savedge's digital photographs grab one's initial attention with what appears, at first, to be simple images of the forest floor shot at close range. Leaves, berries and other loose layers of organic debris fill each frame at full scale. At first glance, these photographs resemble slick calendar shots for the Sierra Club, but Savedge's imagery is more complicated, and certainly more contrived. It doesn't document what she finds undisturbed, but rather what she assembles on her own.

Savedge densely arranges decaying vegetable matter, dead reptiles, fresh flowers and insects on a scanner to suggest a minihabitat, but uses her artistic license to edit according to visual relationships. Sinewy green stalks and leaves curve against dead brown leaves. In "Yucca and Frog," dewy white flower petals are juxtaposed with a dead amphibian. Acting as a high-tech flower press, Savedge's scanner prints her assemblages in shocking accuracy and clarity, producing a New Age facsimile of nature.

In sharp contrast to Savedge's brilliant and crisp images are Jane Hendley's small and crusty ceramic wall pieces that mimic sea creatures like urchins and anemone. By methodically piercing dozens of nails into the clay forms before they are fired, Hendley makes small cupped forms that are smooth and shell-like on the outside and prickly on the inside. High temperatures of the firing process meld nail and clay, forming a whole that seems to have evolved over centuries rather than days. With a scale and texture that begs to be held and touched, these peculiar objects stand fine on their own. Unfortunately, Hendley pairs each with printed text (presumably to explain or support her influences), and that only distracts from her art.

The connection with nature in Susan Iverson's masterfully crafted linen-and-silk tapestries is highly abstracted and removed. Each tapestry is a combination of small panels of colorful patterns framed by a large field of natural linen. Mildly suggesting landscapes with horizontal lines, or trees with vertical lines, the panels compete for attention against large gill-like pleats that Iverson insists on adding to the sides of each piece. Iverson's tapestries are weighty, but only with physical substance.

The lesson one might learn from Barbara Dill's wood sculpture is how an artist learns from her medium. According to her statement posted in the gallery, Dill relies on the character of found tree sections to determine what comes from her carving. Calling on personal memories of tribal art she has seen in Africa, Dill intuitively carves abstracted figures that frequently suggest ritual objects from primitive cultures.

Quiet and pensive, Dennis Winston's wood-block prints visually narrate personal, emblematic outdoor moments one notices and carries within forever. Flocks of birds, a bundle of daffodils gathered for a mother, the woods in the moonlight — these are universal images that Winston judiciously represents in personal terms. Winston's flawless execution of the wood-block medium, combined with patterning of flat color and delicate line work, supports the contemplative mood of his imagery.

"Five Lessons from Nature" isn't exactly instructive, but like a walk in the woods, it is cause for slowing down and noticing the little things. S

"Five Lessons from Nature" is on display at the Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen, 2880 Mountain Road, through Dec. 21. For more information call 261-6200.

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