“the Natural unNatural World” now on display at Gleason Library

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The second floor display case holds a number of ceramic artist Katelyn Sugalski’s “cocoons,” which the artist describes as “delicate, yet determined.”
(Photo by Karina Coombs

The Art at the Gleason series opened its latest show on September 23. “the Natural unnatural world” features the recent work of four artists whose work is inspired by nature: Katelyn Sugalski, Jill Goldman, Julia Lothrop and Matthew Dimock. Using ceramics, photography, painting and drawing, each artist memorializes a piece of the physical world whether it is a wall of ice, a clever octopus, a flock of starlings or familiar shapes and textures. An artist reception is scheduled for Friday, October 20 and the show runs until December 30. 

Katelyn Sugalski, Ceramics

“I think my mom always knew I would become an artist,” explains ceramic artist Katelyn Sugalski. “She would watch me play with tin foil, Spackle [and] spare scraps from whatever renovation she was working on at the time.” Originally focused on mixed media illustration, which she assumed would be her focus while at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), Sugalski’s interests changed. Paper sculpting gave way to ceramics for its permanence when creating functional and decorative sculptures. “I loved the entire process [of ceramics],” Sugalski writes of her love for the medium. “Especially being able to create something really beautiful out of a lump of clay.” 

Cocoon series

The inspiration for Sugalski’s work is taken from nature, “…moss, tree bark, mushrooms [and] the little beads of water on plants in the early morning.” Her containers and egg-shaped pieces —displayed alongside natural objects such as moss and wood—are located throughout the first and second floors of the library. Exterior decorations turn the containers into what the artist refers to as “cocoons,” noting that they provide a protective quality, but are also unique to each piece. 

“These pieces resemble static, yet living creatures, in the same nature as coral,” Sugalski writes in her artist statement. “Visible within the work are the themes of hard and soft essence, and a focus on transformation and spiritual serenity.” And while they certainly embody elements from the natural world, they also have a distinct and otherworldly aesthetic that draws the viewer in. 

The form takes shape

Sugalski created her first egg-shaped cocoon while a senior at MICA several years ago. The process began with a bowl form that she added coils to as it built up in size. Using a pottery wheel, she then began to carve away pieces of clay to make the egg smooth and discovered that the discarded pieces of clay had a distinct petal-like form. They became the exterior decorations for the pieces. Sugalski uses a number of different glazes (medium and high firing) for her pieces as well as various types of kilns, from electric and gas to pit firing. She will soon be working with wood firing. 

To see more of Sugalski’s pieces, visit her website at www.katelynsugalski.com. She can also be found on Instagram at sugalski.ceramics. Sugalski also teaches ceramics at The Fire Works Potter Studio in Worcester, working with adults for evening throwing classes (http://thefireworksinc.net). Her next show will be in Baltimore, Maryland at her alma mater for the MICA Art Market, running December 7-10.

Jill Goldman, photography

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“Wolf Kill” captures the wildly beautiful and untouched landscapes of Alaska, as seen through the lens of photographer Jill Goldman’s iPhone. (Photo by Jill Goldman)

Introduced to photography at the age of 17, Carlisle photographer Jill Goldman was immediately hooked, going on to earn a graduate degree in photography from Massachusetts College of Art. For the past 12 years she has operated a successful and growing photography business with a focus on portraits while also donating her time, energy and skills for two non-profit causes near and dear to her heart: taking photographs of newly arrived refugees for the International Institute of New England and of young and at-risk youths involved with Lowell’s UTEC program. “It’s a gift to be able to do what I do,” Goldman says of the people she meets.

Off the beaten path

“[It’s a] very calm and centering series,” says Goldman of her Alaska photographs, located on the walls of the second floor quiet conference room. Taken over a two and a half week period this past summer as her family traveled by RV along 135 miles of the Denali Highway—an unpaved road with a speed limit of 15-20 miles per hour and without cell phone reception or roadside assistance—the landscapes show a natural world that has not been touched or spoiled and left the artist conscious of  “the gratitude one feels at being alive in this moment.”

The photograph “Wolf Kill”—the foreground featuring the remains of a caribou against a vast and untouched tundra and cloud-covered sky--—was taken alongside the road, discovered by her youngest child (who had to be called back after sprinting into the scene). “Moulin,” located opposite the conference room captures another family adventure, in this case a deep shaft or moulin located within a glacier the family was exploring. Goldman’s photo evokes the sense of the unknown—a beautiful void. “[It was] the best trip of my life,” she adds.

Experimenting with encaustics

Her three encaustic pieces near the entrance of the library are the result of an encaustic class she recently took in Maine. “Longing,” “Stillness” and “Deliverance” consist of photographic images on small wooden panels to which she applies oil paint and a clear wax. The wax is then heated and scraped, allowing for texture and depth in the work while also adding a bit of mystery. “It’s a whole new direction of work,” says Goldman, allowing her to explore her photography with a more hands-on approach than is typical of her portrait work.

To see more of Goldman’s photography, visit her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Jill-Goldman-Photography-61044737486 or follow her on Instagram at Birdiesattva. 

Julia Lothrop, painting 

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A flock of starlings cover the canvas in painter Julia Lothrop’s “Murmuration.” The painting is oil on panel and can be viewed on the library’s first floor. (Photo by Karina Coombs)

“Oil painting is delightfully malleable,” says painter Julia Lothrop in her artist statement. “It reveals my train of thought. Although the paint is thinly applied, the painting becomes sculptural, homemade.” Lothrop has a BFA in printmaking from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and an MFA in painting from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. 

She currently teaches art at the Dexter Southfield School in Brookline with her husband, artist Matthew Dimock, whom she met during their junior year at RISD and while studying abroad in Italy, “…an experience which profoundly impacted our lives… and continues to shape our creative lives,” they explain. 

Located throughout the library, Lothrop’s delicate oil paintings and watercolors capture the simple beauty of the everyday world: as a quiet stretch of beach as viewed in “Howland Beach at Sunset” or a mesmerizing flock of skyward starlings, twirling and fluttering across the canvas and the subject of both “Westport Swarm” and “Murmuration.” “Working on a small scale creates an intimate experience which always appeals to me as a viewer,” she writes.

In addition to the starlings, Lothrop’s oil on panel piece, “Lady Swarm”—featuring a vase whose floral arrangement is covered by a swarm of lady bugs—is another example of the artist’s interest in “… the peculiar behavior of animals (humans included) and bugs and how they impact, and are impacted by, environmental factors.” 

Matthew Dimock, drawing 

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Artist Matthew Dimock captures a cephalopod in all its glory in the charcoal on paper drawing, “Finding the Lacuna.”  (Photo by Karina Coombs)

“My work is grounded by my sense of humor,” explains artist Matthew Dimock in his artist statement. “Memories of my formative experiences and interests help me create nostalgia-tinged images that celebrate the drawing process and reference childhood wonder.” Dimock earned his BFA from RISD and studied at the LeRoy E. Hoffberger School of Painting at MICA, earning his graduate degree. Dimock joins his wife Julia as an art teacher at the Dexter Southfield School where he is also the Art Department Chair.

Dimock’s large scale and vivid charcoal drawings can be found on both floors of the library, their size and subject matter drawing the viewer’s gaze. “The Box,” found near the circulation desk, captures a clever octopus escaping from (or into?) a jar, a single tentacle poking out from under a lid. 

“I’ve been thinking about how animals carry around baggage of how we perceive them, and perhaps they are misunderstood,” he says. “When I use animal imagery, I try to play with the viewers’ preconceived notions as I seek to tap into the fear, affection, or revulsion we feel to point out that things are not always what they seem.” On the second floor another large charcoal octopus is presented in “Finding the Lacuna.” This time the cephalopod is uncontained, however, its form spread out for all to study as it stretches across the paper to fill its void. “My interest in animal and human behaviors is mostly pseudo-scientific,” explains Dimock. “I’m curious enough to look into the reasons why...but I stop short of delving into the science behind the initial attraction.”

Join the artists on Friday, October 20 for a reception at Gleason from 7 to 9 p.m. Admission is $10 and includes light refreshments, wine and beer and live music performed by a local jazz trio. To RSVP, call the library at 1-978-369-4898 or register online at https://eventactions.com/eareg.aspx?ea=Rsvp.   ∆