Natural Inclinations- Kimball’s Anniversary, James Grubola.

Natural Inclinations: Bette Levy and Friends

Pyro Gallery

By Keith Waits.

Entire contents are copyright © 2013 Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

Among the many treasures to be found in the First Trolley Hop of the New Year, the first exhibit of entirely new work from the recently relocated PYRO Gallery may (arguably) be the highlight. The space has been open with a collection of members’ work for a few weeks now, but a new exhibit, “Natural Inclinations,” features the work of PYRO member Bette Levy and three friends from outside of the group: Vallorie Henderson, Kay Polson Grubola and James Grubola.

Into the Woods, Vallorie Henderson.
The new space, in the Sign-A-Rama building at 609 East Market, is smaller and broken up to include a smaller room filled with work apart from the primary exhibit, and an alcove off to one side. Exposed ductwork hovers over a rough-finish concrete floor, and the impact of the room itself is diametrically opposed to the old PYRO gallery, which, while beautiful, was also a less adaptable space than this more grounded and cozy environment.

Those nooks are used to good effect with this combination of two and three-dimensional work. Ms. Levy’s large wall pieces occupy the walls opposite the entrance, and the largely earth tone palette and sumptuous visual textures invite you in to the space. In “Mosquito Creek in Flood,” careful stitching belies the elemental feeling of the piece – so suggestive is it of animal hides hung inside a primitive domicile. The metaphor to the natural world carries through her other work and, in fact, the work of all the artists in the show.

Mosquito Creek in Flood, Bette Levy.
The felted, machine-stitched vessels of Vallorie Henderson sweep across the room, mostly on pedestals; while Kay Polson Grubola’s colorful and eccentric insect and seedpod constructions move you into the tight end of the alcove, where you are subtly forced into close inspection of James Grubola’s graceful and detailed drawings.

Relationships among the materials and color reinforce this flow so that the viewer’s eye discovers connections of tactile surfaces in the fiber pieces, then vivid color forming an alliance between the sensual felt vessels and the hand-painted organic forms of Ms. Grubola’s delightfully impractical jewelry. The final bridge is more thematic, also an important unifying element here, as Mr. Grubola’s beautifully intricate gold and silverpoint drawings examine thickets and vines that could be home to the previous artist’s bugs and seed casings.

On PYRO’s website, each artist describes the layering in their work, and that deliberate buildup of the physical and visual texture brings home how the natural world is embraced both in their subjects and in their materials. Bette Levy’s largely abstract work utilizes walnut inks and techniques that stain or burn the materials, while Ms. Henderson employs natural materials in work that follows Cherokee tribal traditions. The organic elements long found in Kay Grubola’s work are here newly transformed into sparkling, hand-painted jewelry, most spectacularly presented in a custom-designed (by the artist) wooden case that stands on angled legs, suggestive of the limbs of one of her insect forms. Placed into impossible juxtaposition on rings and pendants, similar forms are the most obvious example of layering, while James Grubola’s patient development of lines drawn with a medium consisting of precious metals completes the journey through nature on an elemental level.

Belisama, Kay Grubola
PYRO Gallery is open 12-6 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday or by appointment. The gallery is open late during opening receptions and First Friday Gallery Hop. Admission to PYRO is free and open to the public.

Natural Inclinations: Bette Levy and Friends

January 4 -February 17, 2013

PYRO Gallery

909 East Market Street

Louisville, KY 40202