The current show at Walker Fine Art, Altering Natural Perceptions, represents a newish approach for gallery director Bobbi Walker. Instead of installing a main exhibit up front with a selection of pieces by gallery artists in the back, as she has done for many years, Walker has lately been giving over her entire set of spaces to a single coherent display — and I think it’s a great shift.
In Altering Natural Perceptions, Walker samples seven artists who explore natural forms as the underlying inspiration for their work. The show begins with Lee Heekin’s “Vantage” rising up the entry’s north wall. The piece is made up of scores of separate if related lightboxes containing silhouette-like representational images of birds and women. Heekin has arranged them on the wall so that they are visually linked by cut-outs resembling feathers; the result resembles a gigantic necklace.
Lee Heekin's "Vantage."
In the space adjacent are recent works by Bonny Lhotka in which she layers and alters digital photographic images until they are completely abstracted. These photo-based pieces mark a stylistic change for Lhotka, and look very different from her earlier efforts. Opposite is a group of signature Don Quade paintings in which natural elements, such as depictions of plants, and found elements, like a sheet of music, are sparingly set across moody color fields. Quade’s palettes and chosen subjects both reflect his Latino heritage.
Along the back wall is a suite of Kellie Cannon’s intaglio monoprints from her “Object Permanence” series. Each features an all-over composition of small shapes, but each is done in a different shade of ink. Derrick Breidenthal, who is new to the gallery, is represented by a quartet of smeary, abstracted landscapes — basically horizon lines against colored grounds. Finally, in the niche next to the office, are pierced wall screens by Karin Schminke made of Baltic birch that she carves, paints, and sometimes combines with powder-coated aluminum.
Unlike the other six, the seventh artist included does not have a defined section; instead, pieces by sculptor Norman Epp are installed throughout the show. Epp carves tree trunks so that they are covered in flowing forms; then, using welded steel, he adds mounts and inserts other elements into the logs. There’s an abstract surrealist quality to these works, and by having them scattered through the gallery, they function collectively as a kind of metaphorical forest that provides a unifying element for the others’ disparate pieces.
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A Norman Epp tree trunk.