Sunday, March 13, 2011

REVIEW: Jayn Bier and Chip Hopkins at Art Space in Tunbridge

By Dian Parker

A delightful show, Scrapwork, is at the Tunbridge Public Library’s Art Space, through April 16, 2011.

Jayn Bier and Chip Hopkins are two artists now showing in Tunbridge at Art Space;. They each use recycled materials and both artists’ work is full of whimsy and character, full of story and humor.

Jayn Bier makes folk art patchwork pictures using fabric scraps, yarn, and buttons, stitched and appliquéd. Her textile pictures capture scenes of country life; hunting for arrowheads in her grandfather’s backyard, a cat hunting amidst cattails, autumn in a chicken yard, a man playing a banjo on his porch, the empty slippers of her grandfather at his bedside, boys skating on ice. Each piece is sewn with a sure hand, uniquely mixing fabrics and colors to form not only the details of her images but also the borders and frames around each scene. Checks and plaids, felt and sleek material, black and white, orange and yellow - all her combinations are pleasing, drawing you into the story. One called “Late for the Game” shows a boy on ice skates running to join an ice hockey game in the distance. His ear flaps are raised, his elbow lifted and reaching, hockey stick in hand, one leg pressing his skate into the ice as he rushes to catch up; his body pumping with all his might. The perspective in the picture is wonderful, showing the other boys tiny in the distance, already at play. All the boys have left their shoes tucked under a wooden bench at the side of the ice. There is a shining sun made from a button with its rays of thread, warming the players. The ice is a glimmering fabric of subtle colors.

Beside each of her pictures is a card describing Bier’s related childhood memories; equally charming. For her “Free Range Morning” she wrote: “Inspired by early childhood memories of morning egg gathering with my grandfather. He, I and the hens shared delight in freedom and breakfast.”

“Baby Giraffe and Bird” is an adorable scene, to which her note adds: “Scraps of ‘climbing skins’ husband Bruce discarded after outfitting his back country skis are reborn as a new little giraffe.” The delicate piece has all the charm of a sweet baby animal. For “King of the Roost” Bier uses great color combinations of mustard, rust and yellow along with black and white plaid. All of her patchwork pictures are darling and well made. In her artist statement, Jayn Bier says her age-old technique was “inspired by the frugal simplicity of rural life and learned from the artist’s grandmother and great aunt.” How wonderful that she has chosen to continue this delightful folk art tradition.

Chip Hopkins’s art work includes scrap metal sculptures and oil paintings as well. His sculpture is filled with humor, often tongue in cheek. “Clown” is made up of a liner from a stove burner for the hat, fencing wire for hair, spring from a garage door (maybe) for the body. It evokes the playfulness and pathos of a real clown. “Troubadour” has bicycle handlebars for legs, pipe elbow for a torso and rebar for arms. “Punch” is a fanciful character with his bicycle pedal body that moves. “Devil” is the only piece that is entirely painted. It is bright orange and devilishly imaginative. Hopkins wrote: “Scrap metal sculptures is a metaphor for my life – having been broken and reassembled to being a functioning member of society.”

My favorite of his oil paintings are “OIL CHANGE – OIL PAINTING”. Here is a Prussian blue old Mercedes sitting in a stark white room. A man in overalls is lying underneath the car holding an oversized wrench. Hopkins put the painting in an ornate large gold frame and the juxtaposition of subject, the folksy rendering of the painting, along with this fancy, gilded frame is wonderful. Another of his oils is “COVERED BRIDGE”, reminiscent of the Taos Art Colony painter Marsden Hartley from the 1920's. Hopkins’ tangled blue tree, blue road (or water) running through the bridge, white clouds (or snow) are like Hartley’s monumental shapes that he used in his impressionist landscapes. Chip Hopkins’ choice of frames adds an extra dimension to his works especially the metal frame he made himself, surrounding his “SPACE MAN” painting.

This is a show worth seeing.

Jayn Bier, Baby Giraffe and Bird, textile using fabric scraps
Chip Hopkins, Oil Change - Oil Painting, oil painting