Movement and Metamorphosis

Tucson Weekly

Joseph Gross Gallery
Movement and Metamorphosis
By Margret Reagan

August 2006

Carrie Seid’s shimmering sculptures in silk and copper show up fairly often around town- right know she is in group exhibitions at Joseph Gross and Conrad Wilde- but their familiarity doesn’t dim their brilliance.

Her exquisite mixed-media pieces glisten in reds and oranges, with copper sculptures glowing behind translucent cloth that she picks up at a local fabric store. And in fact, Seid, now a visiting professor of fiber at the UA, started out as a fiber artist.

The Chicago native studied weaving at the Rhode Island School of Design, but found she had a “hunger for fine arts. So in grad school at Cranbrook Academy of Arts, Seid started playing around other materials, wood, metal-and light.

“I started dealing with light as a material, with its reflective and translucent qualities, she says in a quick phone call from Chicago, before setting out for her home in Tucson, and started making work that’s a weird amalgam of textile and sculpture.

Her wall sculptures begin with a smallish wooden box frame- some pieces are only a foot square. These deep frames become shadow boxes for her sculptures. Inside them, flat pieces of copper are twisted into repetitive shapes that suggest vertebrae or corn husks and other natural patterns.

Once the copper is inside, Seid stretches colored silk across the boxes, and fastens the cloth taut. But the shiny copper within remains invisible until Seid applies an oil to the silk. (The oil makes the silk translucent.) The artist is always a little bit in suspense until this moment of revelation: As in photography or in printmaking, the final work can be a surprise.

“Husk, one of 11 Seid sculptures in the three-person show at Joseph Gross, has four V-shaped copper pieces standing in a row, like so many incipient ears of corn. Lighted up in the gallery, the deep-red silk alternates with glints of copper and dark maroon shadows.

“Burners has four bursts of copper flaming underneath orange silk, with swaths of tan in between the metal. Four columns of vertebrae, piled one atop the other, march across “Spine Box II, covered in lush red.

All of Seid’s works have an alluring interplay of light and color and texture. The silk hovers soft and sensuous over the hard, cool metal. The colors change depending on the light and a viewer’s vantage point in the gallery. Crimson turns to maroon at the edges of the copper, and the copper veers from pale glints of yellow to robust rust.

And the light plays optical tricks. Sometimes the husks or the spines or the flames “read” as positive images, against a darker background. But then the spaces in between become the figures, and the husks recede into negative space. And from across the room, the silk casing virtually disappears, becoming just a rich color, and the copper sculptures within seem to emerge into the light.

“Painting is an illusion between two and three dimensions, Seid says. “With the addition of shadow, paint and color, I try to confuse the issue. Sometimes (the works fall within) the conventions of painting, sometimes with the conventions of sculpture.

Blake Shell, curator of the University of Arizona galleries, says that all three artists in the show- Seid, photographer Martina Shenal and Bruce Futrell-“play with the idea of 2-D vs. 3-D.

“Carrie looks through expanses of silk into 3-D sculptures. Bruce makes his paintings 3-D by building a structure (behind the painting) that presses up against the canvas. And Martina manipulates the eye by looking through a scrim at the objects in her color photographs.

“I wanted to do an Arizona artists show, Shell says, “and I saw the connection between them and realized they should be shown together.

All artists also hint at movement, hence the show’s title, Ectasis, an obscure word that means “slow, steady, almost imperceptible outward movement, Shell says.