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Northwind Arts Center: Whales, Ships and Sky
Friday, September 20, 2019

Northwind Arts Center, September exhibit, will feature "Whales, Ships, and Sky". William Wessinger and Kristian Brevik express the human interaction with whales by recognizing the similarity in the architecture of boats and the anatomy of whales. William's love of craft and boatbuilding evolved into sculpture. Kristian's background in science and concern for our natural world motivated him to create ghost whales, highlighting the human impression.

“Whales, birds, and watercraft have all been shaped by their environment. Their curves and shapes developed to move through air and water. The humans who hunted whales, both from ships and kayaks as they encountered the margins of the aquatic world, borrowed the shape of the hunted. We explore the shared elements of form - sweeping sails and wings, streamlined hulls and bodies, bending wood and tendon - by adapting boat and shipbuilding techniques to create sculptures of wildlife. We bridge the human and animal worlds, centering the shared convergence of form”.

Artist Statement - Kristian Brevik:

My work is a conversation between artist and material. The process of creating a piece involves discovering how a material behaves when worked with in a certain way, finding how the wood bends (and when it breaks), how the cloth lays, how the paper folds; using methods to modify those properties (steam bending, epoxy coating), and sometimes deciding that a material doesn’t want to talk about what the artist wanted to talk about. Each form of each type of material has its own properties and contributions, and specific viewpoints to bring to the work. The three materials I work with most are wood, paper, and cloth. Each combination of these materials facilitates certain forms and conversations.

I find this way of working lends itself towards an iterative process, where planning fades into the background - first I build the piece in my mind over weeks or days, then imagine the materials taking the forms present in the mind-built image. I then check it over (mostly to make sure there is enough space for light bulbs and enough structural strength to maintain the shape. After turning the piece over in my head for enough time that I feel confident (I’ve learned the hard way that an over-enthusiastic and premature build often ends in collapse), I build the piece using paper and cardboard, trying to mimic the thicknesses of the final materials, which allows for the reality of the materials to confront my assumptions about them and make any final adjustments.. This paper version is then disassembled, and the final piece is cut out of the final materials and reconstituted and finished. The techniques used for this body of work are a mix of methods adapted from various eras of shipbuilding, with bits and pieces brought in from model shipbuilding. Generally, I base my forms on lapstrake construction methods, using wood, cloth, or paper.

Artist Statement - Bill Wessinger:

This series of sculptures came about through my love of boatbuilding and my love of the natural world. While trying to represent the exterior shape of the animals as accurately as possible, I explore ways of expressing their shape, bulk, and movement with open frameworks of bent oak, reclaimed fir, and artificial sinew.

The idea for these sculptures first came about as I was building a skin on frame kayak modeled after the boats built by the indigenous people of Greenland. The frame was built with glue in only one place, and without any metal at all, and included 25 steam bent oak ribs. The process involved traditional joinery, small pieces of dowel, and artificial sinew. I loved the peaceful and meditative process along with the look of the resulting frame, but on a kayak the frame gets covered up with fabric in the final steps. I immediately wanted to build something that would adapt the techniques I had learned to something dramatically different and which would leave the joinery on display.

I grew up spending time outdoors with my parents and grandparents, and have always loved wild places. I decided to build representations of animals as a way to express the awe I feel for these creatures and the many complex relationships that exist between them. For my first application of these techniques I built a series of humpback whales. To successfully express the shape I brought in a variety of western boatbuilding techniques and developed a new process that blends a variety of traditions.

I have since taken the lessons learned building the whales and applied them to birds including barn swallows and life size turkey vultures in flight. In the future I’d like to continue finding new ways to apply this process to new animals.

The exhibition runs from September 5th through September 29th.

Opening Reception and Art Walk Saturday, September 7th, from 5:30-8 p.m.

Art Talk – September 8th, 7:00 p.m.

Exhibit hours are Wednesday through Monday, 11:30 – 5:30 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.

Location Northwind Arts Center, 701 Water St, Port Townsend, WA, 98368
Contact 360-379-1086, info@northwindarts.org
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