Lori Goodman's new installation centers on two large, contoured forms that protrude from the wall. These vaguely tent-like structures are spaced so that they almost touch at their shared boundary. Their rugged surfaces are fashioned from handmade, hand-dyed paper dressed over flexible armatures, the material Goodman has long favored for her constructions. Scale lends these objects a rangy, ungainly look. They burgeon in unexpected ways, barging beyond the wall and into adjacent space.
Part of Goodman's exhibition JOURNEYS III, these "Huts" elaborate the theme of shelter at a remove. They've been flipped upright 90 degrees, which emphasizes their form and curtails their potential for utility. The reason they are on the wall in the first place, the artist said, is because "I wanted to remove them from use." Rather than amplifying a message, the decision emphasizes the volumes in abstract.
Viewed from the front, symmetry lends the dual array the look of something encountered under a microscope, writ large: an organism poised midway through a process of cleavage or splitting, perhaps. Viewed aslant, the forms look like topographic reliefs of rugged landscapes or bivouac tents for Spider-Man.
Goodman reveres the work of Eva Hesse and Martin Puryear — both process-oriented innovators from the generation of American postmodernists that came of age in the 1960s, making sculptures from unconventional materials that redefined the medium's parameters. Her new works, with their materially insistent surfaces and irregular organic forms, also bring the wax paintings and poured latex sculptures Lynda Benglis made in the 1970s to mind.
Titles reflect Goodman's longstanding preoccupation with forms of human and animal shelter. In the past she has made sculptures that resemble egg capsules, hives and the sock-like nests of orioles. These pieces, less literal, are no less animated. Like bellows, box kites and geodesic domes, they have what the visionary architect and theorist Buckminster Fuller would call tensegrity. The surface tension evident in their stretched, gnarled paper skins is counterbalanced by the coiled energy in the compressed supports beneath.
This approach to construction, used in many traditional and indigenous cultures, shapes forms ranging from yurts to teepees to traditional kayaks. It's insistently corporeal; viewing these sculptures, one is aware of the bellows-like thrust of ribs beneath the objects' paper skins, framing an unseen void. The body is, after all, one's first and most enduring shelter.
Goodman's research into indigenous dwellings from different cultures resulted in a series of preparatory maquettes and drawings, some of which are on display here. In later phases of construction, as the maquettes were being scaled up, forms began to diverge from their sources in productive ways. When I caught up with Goodman at her Eureka studio she explained, "The first things I made looked very nice, exactly like little huts. But while I was making these big pieces, they became mine. The paper is my landscape, in the sense that I made it myself."
"I'm fascinated by the structures birds and animals build in nature," the artist continued. "And I am fascinated by process. I want to know how the roof is thatched, how the hut is made, where the natural dye comes from, and how the hive or nest is constructed." Structures that have inspired her include nests, webs, burrows, and egg casings as well as more esoteric forms she has encountered in the course of her travels.
"When I went to Africa, I was intrigued by the rhinoceros poop," Goodman told me by way of example, laughing. "Dung beetles eat what they need out of it and then leave it riddled with tiny tunnels that make the most intricate and unpredictable forms." Her own sculptures are never literal translations of the forms that inspire their creation. After the meticulous planning that goes into the sculptures' early stages, the slow, hands-on process of making the paper and stretching it on an armature begins. During these later phases, the artist says, "I try to let the execution of the work be completely intuitive. I have an intention when I start but then it goes away."
Several blocks away in Old Town at Humboldt State University's Third Street Gallery, an exhibition of JoAnne Berke's artwork in multiple media reveals an approach to art that is as communicative and language-driven as Goodman's is translation-averse. As the exhibition title Significant Moments indicates, it commemorates a milestone for Berke, who will be retiring this year as professor of Art Education at Humboldt State University, a position she has held since 1994. This cheerful survey brings together a selection of paintings, drawings, mixed media assemblages and mosaic-encrusted sculptures spanning the period from 1985 through the present. Three rebus paintings, part pictograph and part handwritten manuscript, narrate events in Berke's life in a disarmingly intimate narrative voice that is at once frank, funny, reflective and excruciatingly self-aware.
Lori Goodman's exhibition JOURNEYS III will be at Black Faun Gallery (212 G St., Eureka) from Dec. 2 - Feb. 10. A reception for the artist will be held Saturday, Dec. 2, from 6 to 9 p.m. during Arts Alive! Contact the gallery at (707) 798-6207 or www.blackfaunart.com.
JoAnne Berke's Significant Moments will be at Humboldt State University's Third Street Gallery (416 Third St., Eureka) through Dec. 31. A reception for the artist will be held Saturday, Dec. 2, from 6 to 9 p.m. during Arts Alive! Contact the gallery at (707) 443-6363 or www2.humboldt.edu/third.