Leaving a Mark at D’Amour
by Marguerite Serkin
Springfield, Mass. – Graphite occurs naturally in many forms, and its appli- cation for modern inscription has a history dating back to sheep marking in 16th-century England. Formerly referred to as “Plumbago,” graphite was used as a paint base in Neolithic times by the Marita culture of the Danube to decorate ceramic pottery. Versatile, easily manipulated, and widely found in nature, graphite serves as an accessible and functionally effective tool in both art and science. It is used in nuclear technology, batteries and brake linings. And, of course, in pencils.
“Leaving Our Mark: In Celebration of the Pencil,” on view through March 27 at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in Spring eld, offers a unique perspective on “pencil art.” Organized by New England artist Steve Wilda and curated by Spring eld Museums curator Julia Courtney, the exhibit illus- trates a wide range of stylistic approaches to pencil drawing, charcoal and silverpoint, and features compelling works constructed from pencils themselves by Dalton Ghetti and Jennifer Maestre.
Originally inspired by sea urchins, Maestre’s pencil sculptures are created using one-inch pencils drilled into beads, which are sharpened and stitched together to form undulating, spiny pieces of unexpected variety. There is a continuity offset by whimsy in Maestre’s pieces, which are intelligently scattered throughout the exhibition.
Ghetti’s tiny pencil sculptures defy common artistic approach in their fastidious and excruciatingly detailed construction. Ghetti, whose mother was a seamstress, spends months to years using a sewing needle to shave down a single pencil into a form so minute and refined it captures the discreet nature of all things small.
The drawings in “Leaving Our Mark” clearly illustrate the versatility of graphite in creating a full range of textures: from blurred and smoky to highly de ned and precise. In the rst gallery, Terry Miller’s “In The Midday Heat” conveys an ethereal context beyond the con nes of its architectural detail. Lisa Henry’s “Ablution” expresses the literal simplicity of the artist’s memory of her grand- father washing his aging hands in an emblematic image at once poignant and familiar. Both pieces combine precision in stroke and content with the fluid movement of light, implying a presence that is greater than the subjects themselves. “My goal when installing the show,” said curator Julia Courtney, “was to allow the works to speak to each other as if the artists were in the room discussing their styles, similarities and differences. Although disparate, each work reveals common threads whether in the quality of line, subject, form or composition.”
Elizabeth Kostojohn has drawn upon life experience to inform the compel- ling series “Hurt & Damage.” The series portrays fragile pieces of fruit that have been ruptured by pointed and blunt objects. In one, an upright pear is pierced by a black-handled screwdriver; in another, a partially deconstructed pear is held in a vice grip. The unusual applica- tion of graphite on Mylar in these works creates a tension between object and background, in keeping with their implied social commentary.