Artists don’t hold anything back in Luke & Eloy Gallery exhibit |

Artists don’t hold anything back in Luke & Eloy Gallery exhibit

This weekend, the question for those who will attend the opening reception for the newest exhibit of craftwork to fill Luke & Eloy Gallery will be “paper or plastic?” Not just in regard to bags, but also jewelry, dresses, sculpture, even salt and pepper shakers.

All of those items and more, made by 31 artists from 12 states, and Canada, Argentina and Turkey, will be on display in the exhibit titled “Paper or Plastic?”

The idea for the exhibit, says gallery owner Brigitte Martin, was to showcase a current trend. “A lot of the most current work in the craft scene seems to be made from various plastic materials,” Martin says.

“I am, myself, drawn to metals and plastic, specifically resin, which is a medium I frequently work with,” Martin says. In addition to running the gallery, she creates a line of jewelry on the premises.

“Plastic just seems to strike a chord with many artists these days,” Martin says, “and I am constantly amazed by the colorful variations in form and expression this material takes shape in.”

That was certainly the case for Carol Ann Rafferty of Clarence, N.Y. Her dress, “Land and Sea #2,” is part of a series she is working on using plastic shopping bags, of all things, that she has collected from recycling bins.

Using clothing as a metaphor for shared as well as personal concerns, Rafferty says, “I am creating beauty from ashes, seeing positive in negative, using throwaways to create something of value.”

Rafferty says the color of the plastic bags she uses influences the dresses. “The blue and neutral hues reminded me of sand and sea during the many hours spent alone on Tybee Island last year in Savannah,” Rafferty says.

Using a hot iron to melt layers of bags together, she creates her own “material.” Then she cuts, melts or sews the seams together to create a unique garment that is the result of a near-total transformation of the material.

Paper, on the other hand, obviously is a completely different art material in every aspect, and Martin was interested to see if there was a noticeable difference in expression, too. “Does one material lend itself to certain expression while the other one doesn’t?” she asks.

With works ranging from a variety of necklaces in unimaginable forms to a fish-shaped teapot made of paper, she got her answer, and that is that anything is possible.

Undoubtedly, the most unusual piece in this category is the fish-shaped teapot titled “reEvolution” by Ellen Jantzen of St. Louis.

Jantzen describes her piece as “a digitally augmented, nonfunctional teapot” and says the title could be interpreted as “revolution” or “re-evolution.”

“The ‘fish’ has feet to strengthen the evolutionary aspects of the piece,” she says.

The feet were sculpted in wax and then cast in bronze. The spout, which is barely noticeable in the fish’s mouth, is brass. And each fish scale is a segment of a digital photo of water.

“I took the photo, printed it on both sides of parchment paper and coated both sides with matte acrylic for preservation,” Jantzen says. “I then cut out each ‘scale’ and applied them to the body in an overlapping manner.”

The remaining materials that make up the body of the fish are a combination of paper mache and resin.

With this show, “paper or plastic?” becomes more than a question at the checkout stand. It’s a juxtaposition of two materials. The results are quite stunning.

“The artists seem not to be held back by anything,” Martin says. “Both materials are used in a variety of innovative ways. They are folded, wrapped, glued, stretched, ironed and so on. They are either very colorful, black and white, or just plain white.”

But regardless of what color, size or shape they take, they are, above all else, very creative answers to the question “paper or plastic?”

“Being a metalsmith myself, it is important to me to show that contemporary craft goes way beyond good craftsmanship and functionality,” Martin says. “It is an art form in and of itself.”

Additional Information:

‘Paper or Plastic?’

What: An exhibit featuring craftworks executed in paper, cardboard or plastic materials

When: Opening reception, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Exhibit continues through Jan. 16. Hours: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays

Where: Luke & Eloy Gallery, 5169 Butler St., Lawrenceville

Details: 412-784-1919 or Web site

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