Janet Orselli’s Step Up

Janet Orselli’s Step Up

During a nine-day period each spring, the Palmetto State hamlet of Lake City, South Carolina (population below 7,000) swells to double or triple its size thanks to the power of art. Since 2013, this small agrarian town has played host to ArtFields, the largest art competition in the Southeast, turning almost every building, from warehouse to barbershop, into a venue for visual expression.

This year’s annual event, featuring works by more than 400 artists, has come and gone. But don’t despair. Stormwater Studios is giving area art lovers a chance to see some of the works that made their way to Lake City in April. For a limited time, ArtFields Extended presents pieces by 19 Columbia-area artists accepted in this spring’s competition.

For me, the three-dimensional works are particularly noteworthy. Consider the eleven-piece installation by Janet Orselli, who just last year finished a very successful residency at the 701 Center for Contemporary Art. Entitled Step Up, the work is admirably reflective of the artist’s playful approach to her work. In the center of this multi-part work, three racket-faced figures with hangers for arms and wooden shoe forms for legs appear to hover above miniature chairs composed of crutches and croquet paraphernalia. Each element in this installation can “stand” on its own as a whimsical composite sculpture; taken collectively as an ensemble, they teeter joyfully along the wall.

The topic of teetering brings us to the finely detailed soft sculpture by Teresa Pietras. In Il Salto and The Leap, the artist presents the viewer with an elderly inventor garbed in Renaissance-era tunic and banded leggings, about to jump from a wooden platform in order to test the efficacy of his handmade wings. This would-be Daedalus, Pietras tells us in her artist’s statement, is meant to embody the idea that “art is a leap of faith.”

The absence of such confidence — indeed the loss of consciousness itself — is the subject of Russian-American ceramic artist Olga Yukhno’s A Very Long Goodbye. Meant to represent an individual suffering from any form of neurodegenerative disease, the sleeping figure, rendered as a classic bust, compels closer inspection. That examination reveals a red-and-black stairway winding around the neck and head, culminating in an architectural ruin at the top. A bell imbedded in the hollowed-out left shoulder echoes a smaller bell at the crown of the head. We are to assume from the figure’s closed eyes, pale color and flaky surface that someone ringing the larger bell at the bottom of the stairs will receive no clanging response from the instrument at the top.

From Yukhno’s somber rendering of the mind as a gradually emptying vessel, the visitor’s eye may alight upon a more traditional container, albeit one composed of nontraditional materials. For her ArtFields submission, basketry artist Lee Sipe abandoned reeds and pine needles for silver wire and copper spokes. Twining the wire around very thin copper bars bent upward around a central point, Sipe fashioned an elegant, deep-red object she calls Vessel #383. It is, however, not so much a container as a piece of sculpture shaped like an open, bowl-shaped flower whose petals are tipped in forged copper.

Copper also plays a part in Dylan Fouste’s transfigured violin body entitled Con-fit-e-or (or Confess). Through the deft application of paint as well as wood and metal overlay, the artist transformed the surface of this evocative piece into something akin to the screen of a church confessional, the perforated barrier between priest and penitent. So intricate and alluring are the elaborate concentric layers that one must resist the urge to press one’s lips up to the surface and whisper their innermost secrets.

Other artists represented in the current show at Stormwater Studios include Ron Hagell, Jennifer Kelly Hoskins, Flavia Lovatelli, Cait Maloney, Ginny Merett, Maggie O’Hara, Pat Parise, Carol Pittman, Janet Swigler, K. Wayne Thornley, Kathryn Van Aernum, Wendyth Wells, Andrew White, and Beth Woodall. 

The exhibition provides an excellent opportunity to sample some of the very compelling works by Columbia-based artists that made the judges’ cut in this year’s competition. 

What: ArtFields Extended

Where: Stormwater Studios, 413 Pendleton St.

When: Through July 18

More: 803-661-9357, stormwaterstudios.org

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