Mark Gardner: CALL – AND – RESPONSE
March 1 – May 25, 2013
CALL – AND – RESPONSE is a form of spontaneous verbal and non-verbal interaction between speaker and listener. This exhibition of new work produced by Mark Gardner during his Fall 2012 Windgate Artist in Residence at The School of Art + Design, Purchase College, was made with this back and forth dynamic between the artist and material. Gardner brought his own ideas to the fallen trees and they offered suggestions based on their size and shapes. Cuts where made and pieces removed from the trees which offered ideas of new forms. Sometimes these “drops” prove as interesting as the pieces they come from. Mark was also a Resident Fellow Artist in The Center for Art in Wood’s 2001 International Turning Exchange (ITE) and has work in the Center’s Museum Collection.
CALL – AND – RESPONSE was originally exhibited in the Richard & Dolly Maass Gallery at Purchase College, NY, from January 28 to February 15, 2013. The Windgate Artist in Residence Program at The School of Art + Design, Purchase College, is an ongoing residency in applied design. The program is designed to advance the career of practicing artists, to prepare students as professional artists and to strengthen awareness of the significance of applied design.
This audio slideshow, produced by Jonathan Binzen, explores Gardner’s new work as he describes his process—most of the pieces were made outdoors, shaped from big logs with a chainsaw. Gardner, who lives and works in western North Carolina with his wife, the photographer Nancy Barnett, and their two children, moved north with the whole family for his residency this past fall. Gardner has spent much of his career as a turner, but has recently been making more work with a chainsaw, which he describes as “even more immediate than turning.”
The time spent making this body of work at SUNY Purchase has been incredible. Rarely do I get the chance to work, basically uninterrupted, for 4 months. Preparing for the residency I had some general ideas about the work I wanted to do here but not about specific pieces I wanted to make. Since I work with fresh cut logs I also wasn’t sure what material, wood species, it’s size, quality or quantity, I would find to work with when I got here. When I’m working I react to what is happening with the material and I get excited to try new things. The process itself inspires new ideas. I don’t get that sitting at a table sketching. I sketch and plan on the work. Isamu Noguchi once said, “I think the unexpected is the most important. It’s a happening that occurs unpredictably in the process of creation. If it lacks the unexpected, to me it is not art. Art is a change prompted by something outside oneself, and the artist is no more than an instrument that gives form to that change.”
Working with the chainsaw is immediate and destructive, creating or ruining a piece in an instant. Because of this I’ve been in the habit of sneaking up on my forms. Revealing them from within the logs. Pealing the layers off like a fruit. But there is freshness, looseness and simplicity to a single cut or brush stroke that I’d like to have in my work. Its something I see in the African and Oceanic art I admire. One goal I did have for the residency has been to work looser. One manifestation of that goal is that I have let the nature of the wood have a stronger presence in the finished pieces in this show than I have in past works. Evidence of this is in the pieces that incorporate the bark as well as the cambium layer (the layer directly beneath the bark) of the tree.
My forms are gestural and any meaning in them is discovered through the process of making them. There is a practical side to some of my forms as well. By cutting the pith out of the log, coring them, tension is relieved in the log and they are less prone to self-destruction due to cracking as they dry. These forms also take advantage of the length of the logs and are subject to the natural curves and bends in the tree.
One of the nice things about having 4 months to work is having the time for new things to grow on me. I can let new ideas percolate and get used to them. Surprises happen during the creation of a piece and I have had time to consider them and decide whether to incorporate them or not. For me the residency has been about the opportunity to get into a flow of continual making and seeing what comes of it. And for anyone who walked past me, or stopped to talk to me, while I was working out in the lawn next to the cemetery you may have observed that the action is important to me too. The work. Working. I enjoy it.