Friday, June 19, 2015

intrigue and delight in the natural decay of things - Jeff Bye and David Zimmerman

Part of what I love about this business is that sometimes the most delightful connections come together by happenstance.  I've learned whenever I'm planning an exhibition to leave myself open to being directed in the process, discovering as I go how to best present the work.   

I'd been looking forward to the upcoming exhibition of paintings by JEFF BYE since last year when we scheduled it.  And with a recent visit to the gallery's long time stable artist, DAVID ZIMMERMAN, I found myself thinking they both find intrigue, surprise, and delight in the natural order of decay - Jeff in painting spaces, and David in creating wood sculpture.

David's workshop is chock full of sculptures from the earlier part of his career, work in progress, tools, paints, and slabs of wood waiting to be called forth.  Sunlight was pouring into the space that day, slicing through the created inhabitants, a formidable play of shadow and light. 

I was fortunate that day to have long time friend TOBY RICHARDS and his camera along with me to document and capture the work and the space in ways even an I-phone and Instagram can't.  There is something to be said for a professional photographer, his trusted eye, and his understanding of what's really going on in the camera.  I still find my Nikon D80 and all it's buttons and menus befuddling, despite numerous tutorings from savvy photographer friends like Ed Huddle, Andy Schoenberger, and my father-in-law Gene Clemens.  

Between the combination of David's delicious trappings and stocking of worked and reworked pieces stowed in every corner and rafter, Toby's watchful, talented eye, and the ensuing conversation between the three of us, this series of photos is really a feast for the eye.  A gift really - thanks Toby!

Anyone familiar with David knows his numerous series of explorations - boats, spirals, cocoons, benches, tables, bowls, and vessels.  Typically we think of the larger than life pieces like the 11' cocoons that hung from the massive ceiling space of the Marriott in Downtown Lancaster for awhile.  But he plays with miniature versions of these too, exercising what must be an enormous amount of patience, not to mention dexterity for a tall, lumberjack of a guy, and puts them in shadowbox dioramas crafted of salvaged wood.  

Pensive and quiet, David appears to listen to each piece of wood, communing with it, rather than pulling out saws, sanders, and blades determining ahead of time what he wishes it to be.  Every decision from removing a branch or filling in a knot, to applying legs to a table or bench and a simple coat of finish require a deep understanding of what will enhance the sensibility of each piece.  

One of my favorite things was a series of three flat boats hung together above a door.  Probably made from the same fir tree trunk, they keep quiet company together and simply must remain that way.  Looking for a perfect wall somewhere in your world, perhaps!  We're bringing this never-been-seen-publicly work into the gallery for the exhibition, along with some brand new gorgeous wormy maple, organic slab tables…and... 

a selection of old favorites - like the "boat with fishtail" - 110" of maple that was originally displayed in a pop-up gallery in a downtown Lancaster abandoned tobacco warehouse just before it went under construction to become the Lancaster Arts Hotel.  A collection of photographs by Toby from that exhibition in 2005 are available in a limited edition catalogue from the gallery.   

Early this month, I completed a trio of visits to JEFF BYE's studio in preparation for this exhibition.  What is found was a feast of color and introspection still blooming like ready yeast - works completed, and numerous canvases in varying states of completion.  Of course those are always my favorites, as I love, love, love seeing the process beneath an artist's work, though they all deny me the pleasure of watching them actually paint.  Must be a solitary thing.  Even my husband drops his paintbrush as I approach him working at the easel.  

I couldn't help notice two new pieces, both of which showed boisterous color on decaying walls, exposed ceiling joists, and his characteristic narrative light and perspective of an interior.  But what else caught my eye?  Crystal chandeliers hanging from the rotting ceiling, like proud expensive pieces of jewelry on a woman who wears purple.  And the splashes of bright lime green, turquoise and orangey red - just perfect for some of today's popular interiors' pallette - opposite of the Benjamin Moore or Farrow and Ball trendy, neutral grays.

A peak into Jeff's working studio space yields exactly what I'd expect - a penchant for architectural salvage and nostalgia.  Stuffed book stacks, some books lying about open to favorite artists works, journals (I forgot to ask him if he sketches, writes, or both…?), punctuated with a world globe,  a collection of cowboy and indian figurines about 4" tall lined up precisely along the top of the shelving, and an enviable collection of vinyl records.  I found numerous craftsman reimagining furniture design for the storage of LP's, turntables, and speakers on a trip to the Architectural Digest Home Design show in NYC earlier this year, and noticed just last week a new area in Barnes and Noble dedicated to vinyl.  

Why does this trend just make me extremely happy?  It's a bit like hearing on NPR recently that independent bookstores are proliferating and seem to be thriving amidst the digital reworkings of our age.  Even magazines and newspapers seem to be making a comeback, albeit slowly.  This tells me Art too, will continue to thrive.  As I read recently in the Sunday NY Times Magazine… 

"Why art?
  Because you will never have to change batteries or remember passwords, 
  or read instructions or fear obsolescence."  in an ad for Questroyal Fine Arts, LLC

A Brooklynite for several years before coming to Pennsylvania, JEFF BYE still basks in the afterglow of the city streets, decrepit buildings, and past lives.  He says of his work, 

"I am fascinated with how these spaces have weathered over time and the beauty that they withhold.  These abandoned spaces are now a mere reflection of their past.  What draws me to them initially are the facades of the buildings.  Some…have a haunting presence that is hard to ignore."

Jeff's light-filled studio, on the other hand, is anything but haunting, rather full of life, color, stories, and laughter.  His distinctive, contagious laugh and easy smile fill the space, like his work, with fun.  You are just happy being in front of these paintings, seeing something you missed before, each time you revisit them.  I'm looking forward to a couple of months living with the work in the gallery.

Workshop and studio visits with artists can often be arranged, and gallery hours are available outside of posted hours - just give us a call 717-367-9236 and we'll arrange a private showing.  More information about the artists, their work, and event happenings at the gallery can be found on our website,

Art feeds the soul.  Remember to eat well, and buy more art.

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