Philadelphia Inquirer March 2015


Art review: Two artists viewing a natural, post-minimalist landscape

Google Works

Throughout the year, the GoggleWorks Cohen Gallery showcases the work of certain artists or groups in dual exhibits. The stone and marble carvings of Doris Sams, along with the paintings and fabric sculptures of Linda Celestian, are paired through next Sunday, with each artist occupying an entire room of the spacious gallery.

The artists, although decades apart, complement each other through a common appreciation of natural configuration and a post-minimalist approach. Their abstract interpretations of nature and humorous indictments of form relate well together regardless of their materials and manner of working. The show just plain looks good.

Celestian was last year’s winner of the Vanity Fair juried competition for a solo show. In her current exhibit titled “Ocean, Isles and Shoals,” her many pieces represent, or refer rather, to the elements of air and water. Mostly dark and atmospheric, the paintings suggest a cloudy or smoky milieu, as if looking past levels of mist seen from a boat window or water rushing through coral reefs.

The artist additionally states that she is interested in depicting nature’s energy as a metaphor for human states of being.

Her fabric sculptures, some of which are suspended from thin cords, such as the gossamer-fine “Billowing,” as well as others positioned on lightboxes, are for me the stars of the show. For their silky lightness and deceptive weight, they fill the air of the gallery like colored inks dispersed into a still pool of clear water. These works, especially, and those on lit or transparent surfaces clearly play with the properties of light through paint and fabric.

The neighboring exhibit is titled “Doris Sams: A Retrospective,” and contains some 30 elegant stone carvings that stand freely or rest on pedestals. The artist lives and works in Pottstown, graduated from the Tyler School in Philadelphia and studied at the Barnes Foundation and later at the Sem Ghelardini Studios in Pietrasanta, Italy, where she was exposed to fine marble – her choice of material for many years.

Very sensual, the smooth surfaces attempt to seduce passers-by into placing their hands on them to feel their cool energy. More than a few of the solid forms, belying their innate hardness, undulate and curve like waves, giving the impression of something other than what they are. Under her adept fingers, they adapt the properties of fluid, softness or even goopy gel textures.

“Hanging Rock,” for instance, consists of a braced upright board of black steel where a carved piece of marble mimics a blob of sorts as it droops over the board. I was especially attracted to “Steep,” an upside-down pyramid of steatite with a squared maze carved into its topmost surface.

With definite affinities to renowned sculptors Isamu Noguchi, Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, the exhibit does not approach the work in a scholarly, art historical or formalist manner. And for it being a retrospective, the show does not offer a time line or date when each work was completed, or any information on process. Aside from those minor (or major) points, both shows were beautifully laid out and a pleasure to visit.

Contact Ron Schira: (Image Courtesy of Ron Schira)

Links to related articles and others:

Reading Eagle 5-13-13 

Reading Eagle 5-17-13

Brandywine Community News 5/18/2012 Painter Linda Celestian to exhibit in ‘Art in the Open Philadelphia’

Brandywine community News 2/3/2011 5 Things to Know About Artists’ “Waterways” exhibit