Last week a friend of mine visited me from Chicago and he insisted we have lunch at the cafe' in the D.D. and Velma Davis Education and Visitor Center at Fellow's Riverside Garden in Mill Creek Park. Once again he was jaw droppingly amazed at the view from the cafe' with the new fallen snow clinging to tree branches and Lake Glacier glistening like polished silver. We had the soup, mine being vegetable and his potato. Needless to say it was delicious and perfect for a cold winter day.
When we finished we strolled into the Andrew and Carol Weller Art Gallery within the Visitor's Center where my friend Vallene Hardman-Weeda is having a solo exhibition. The show is entitled "Meltdown: Beneath Thin Ice" with over 11 large pieces on display.
Vallene works with found natural materials (animal bones, leaves) combined with traditional materials such as ceramics. In this show she introduces modern materials such as stainless steel hooks and epoxy resin as visual elements of design rather than merely structural supports.
This show addresses issue of time, history and our place within them. Science and mythology get equal billing here, and are in fact carefully combined to present 2 sides of the same coin. Vallene even goes so far with her work as to suggest that one cannot fully experience the Mythic without embracing Science and vice versa.
My favorite work is the "Drying Specimens" series. These are mixed media pieces which feature Ginkgo leaves and various natural materials adhered to sheets of ragged paper with a glaze of golden-brown epoxy. They are suspended from the walls with stainless steel specimen clamps and underneath sheets of Plexiglas. This presentation is truly unique and I am certain I have not seen one quite like this. On a certain level these works seem mundane and distant, much as science specimens are, but due to the compositions and the compelling nature of the found objects, a haunting feeling is conjured.
Vallene is truly a professional artist and her work is very sophisticated. If you are in any way involved with the sciences such as Paleobotany, Archeology or Geology you will find this work to be provocative. Should you be a Theologian, Priest or Minister you will find plenty of spiritual material on which to meditate. I would think this show would put a smile on the face of even the most jaded Historian.
In addition to Vallene's show in the Art Gallery, there is also an informative exhibit in the John C. Melnick Mill Creek Park Museum downstairs dealing with the major renovations of the Silver Suspension Bridge. There are photos documenting the deterioration and renovation and large blueprints of the bridge.
Make sure you stop by the gift shop on your way out and check out the Easter display and gifts featuring a large rabbit tureen (rabbit soup anyone?). All very humorous and prone to get one thinking about Spring.