At first glance, the wall sculptures made of wood – well, lumber really – that are currently populating Waltman Ortega Fine Art are good-looking – beautifully crafted with a subtle sense of color and a nice eye for simple composition. They remain that on closer inspection, but reveal much more. “Graphic Nature” includes a good number of sculptures from St. Augustine-based artist Joe Segal.
The distinction between raw wood and lumber here is critical. “I think of the material as a metaphor for our relationship with nature,” according to the artist. “Salvaged lumber is particularly interesting because it has a history, which I try to explore as much as possible,” he continues. “The trees that were cut down to produce some of the timbers I use started growing hundreds of years ago. The buildings made from the salvaged beams stood for as much as a hundred years. The buildings were knocked down, the wood salvaged and then finally used to make sculpture.”
An interesting premise. Ancient wood is manipulated to make what turns out to be temporary structures for humans, and when they are torn-down, the artist steps in to rework it. Although there is a process of inevitable destruction here – of both the trees and the buildings – there is also renewal and rejuvenation.
We can see the grain and rings of the original wood, although Segal has burned, scraped and washed the pieces in light grays, blues, off-whites, or sometimes varnished them. He also has incorporated a few aluminum “supports” or clamps here and there, a visually good touch in shaping the ultimate appearance of the sculptures.
Although this is the first time in a while that Segal has shown in Miami, he has pieces in the Bass and the Lowe. It’s another well-done outing for the barely year-old Waltman Ortega gallery (it has an older gallery in Paris).
“Graphic Nature” by Joe Segal runs through Nov. 6 at Waltman Ortega Fine Art, 2233 N.W. 2nd Ave., Miami; www.waltmanortega.com.