New school: McGuffey suprises with latest members

Peter Krebs, "May 19."
Peter Krebs, "May 19."

I confess. I occasionally feel jaded by the local art scene and drift into a been-there-seen-that attitude of lassitude. But then someone like Sonjia Weber Gilkey comes along and shatters my ash-colored glasses by turning my expectations upside down.

Tall and elegant, Gilkey always cuts a striking figure among the "usual suspects" at art openings. But now she's given me something to admire beyond her style and presence. Gilkey, it turns out, is not just an art-lover, but also an art-maker, and her monumental wall sculptures of crocheted rope are among the highlights of the "New Members Show," currently on view at the McGuffey Art Center.

Working in an atelier in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, Gilkey has created abstract vertical works inspired by Kundalini spiritualism that incorporate objects gleaned from beachcombing, such as fishermen's nets, shells, feathers, worn glass, and driftwood. Gilkey skillfully balances her textural elements, introducing movement via spirals and carefully draped ruffles. Her minimal use of color– for example, a bit of purple woven into the upper tier of "Soul Traveling"– and contrast of layers with negative space enhance the impact of each piece.

Hanging at the south end of McGuffey's upstairs hall gallery, Gilkey's organic-feeling wall pieces complement Amber Zavada's sculptures, crafted from natural materials, atop pedestals running the length of the hall. Although Zavada has several cast-bronze pieces on show downstairs, her upstairs work features twigs, seedpods, and twine combined in precariously balanced structures that allude to social relationships with ladders, nets, and nests. Charming yet dark and otherworldly, her small-scale sculptures create Zavada an aesthetic like the lovechild of filmmaker Tim Burton and sculptor Andy Goldsworthy.

Another new McGuffey member engaged with nature is recent New York transplant Peter Krebs, who previously exhibited in Charlottesville at the now-defunct Migration gallery. Krebs has continued his series of skyward-looking portraits of trees painted on stained wood for the McGuffey show and added several small pen-and-ink drawings of tree roots. His large nighttime image, "May 19," featuring a starlit sky seen through a lacy black canopy of charcoal, is particularly engaging.

Rounding out the stellar upstairs-hall fare are Aaron Eichorst's mixed-media compositions that digitally mix photography, well-known artworks, and flowers in humorous and surprising ways. Meanwhile, downstairs, highlights include Bethany Pierce's small cosmological oils, Darrell Rose's image-packed abstracts, and Susan Haley Northington's minimal yet effective landscapes.

Thanks, new McGuffey members, for dispelling my local-art doldrums.

The McGuffey Art Center's annual "New Members Show," is on view through January 31. 201 Second St. NW. 295-7973.

1 comment

Lovely review- I can't wait to see this show. Congratulations McGuffey!