Walker at the Firehouse Gallery, Burlington, Vermont, 2006 (installation
In her sculptures of birds and barns, Walker strips these familiar forms down to planes, angles, and color, and places the forms atop tall pedestals and perches. The birds, most often wrought from newspaper are whimsical and gestural, while the barns often stacked precariously on top of one another express the uncertainty of rural economies and traditions.
In her most recent sculptures about the human brain and mind, Walker attempts to impart the complexities of her own though processes. In Aberrations, the seven bulbous forms projecting from a smooth, white dome may represent the minds capacity for multiple and, possible, deviant thought processes. Similarly, in What Were They Thinking bits of white paper extend from the back of an upturned head like birds in flight or leaves lifted by a gust of wind, and the effect is undeniably optimistic. Walker’s sculptures embody a delicate balance and beauty through clarity of form.
Walker’s Barns at the Carving Studio Gallery, 2003
In Rural Architecture: Field with Shed (image), a corrugated cardboard structure about six inches high, is a simple house shape like those in young children’s drawings. The rippled part of the cardboard has been exposed by peeling off the smooth surface paper and leaving flecks of glued paper to create a textural patina. The walls are painted a muted pistachio green; the roof is red on one side and soft blue on the other. The barn rests in the center of a metal table, a 20-inch square of slate blue so deeply reflective that the shed seems to float and the colors of its walls and roof shift as they interact with the laquer field.
In Rural Architecture: Passing Glimpse (image), Walker uses a different strategy to salvage a barn caught in a fleeting view from the car while driving through her native Scotland. This faded dark green cardboard barn consists of four slanting sheds attached to the four sides of a single gabled form. Nested in a deep silvery gray open box (also corrugated) that sits on the gallery floor, little more than the barn’s roof is visible even when the viewer bends down to peer in. There is a sense of constriction, but perhaps an equal gesture toward preserving the patterns of faded paint, rippled metal, and sun-bleached wood of old farm buildings.
These two sculptures speak of frozen moments and of the steady beauty of these humble icons of rural culture. Other works in this exhibition have a “tipsy” quality and are precariously presented on tall, thin-legged stands. Rural Architecture: Stacked Barns (image), is a jumbled assemblage of numerous wood and cardboard components. The pile of white, brown, gray, black, and red forms rises off a spindly, wooden stand, reaches a height of seven feet, and seems ready to tumble down with any breath of air. Cantilevering off a tall white base is Toppling Barns (image), a simple piggy-back stack of three barns—black, white, and red—that are identical except for color. The barns don’t topple because the pedestal’s legs are attached to an extended rectangular base.
Barns in the Air (image) also confronts gravity (but most elegantly!) by forcing a row of five contiguous barns to dance on two long, slanted, wire-thin legs. Pushing the precarious even further, Walker connects the legs to an end of the metal form rather than at the center, and crosses them like the ankles of a ballerina on point or a blue heron taking flight. The illusion of flight is perpetuated by the backward tilt of the barns exposing hollow interiors. A second version of the barns, however, is firmly grounded on a square table and its interior is dark and contained, suggesting multiple interpretations of these buildings.
There is much to enjoy here in the materials, shapes, and colors as well as in the art historical references. There are other concerns, too, about the fragility of rural economies, disintegrating barns, and disappearing landscapes—not just Scotland’s but also Vermont’s, where Walker has spent much of the last three decade.
This review published in Sculpture Magazine, July-August 2003
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