Shifting Scale

Shifting Scale
Laura Tabakman, Woven Brooch, 2012 polymer, steel wire, 1/2 ” x 1 1/2″ x 1″

Using comparable materials and a repetition of form, Laura Tabakman has explored a similar idea in two very different ways with decidedly unique results.   One piece is about mass and containment, while the other is all about lightness and movement. How is it that similar materials handled by the same artist can create such distinctive and yet coherent results?

Woven Brooch (2012), recently on exhibit in the show 5 x 5 x 5 at the Target Gallery in Alexandria, VA is an open pod structure made of wrapped wire with four small polymer “berries” tucked into the interior. The scale is intimate- which is how it qualified for inclusion in a show about works less than 5 inches in size.  The stiff wire pod and the solidly round berries present a sense of permanence and rigidity despite its reference to a seasonal, organic form of nature. The two parts of the brooch, pod and berries, unite as a single object that rests slightly off base against a surface or preferably a human torso.

Laura Tabakman, 3 Vessels-Marshland, 2011 steel wire, silk, gut, polymer, 4' x 8' x 4
Laura Tabakman, 3 Vessels-Marshland, 2011
steel wire, silk, gut, polymer, 4′ x 8′ x 4

Tabakman’s 3 Vessels- Marshland (2011) was part of the Northeast Regional Contemporary Fiber Exhibition at the Rochester Contemporary Art Center in Rochester, NY. While first shown in 2009 using the same components with a more elongated configuration 4′ x 8′ x 8′, this version measures 4′ x 8′ x 4′ and fills the space in terms of height, width and depth, but adds little mass. The composition includes 3 ethereal pod shaped vessels that float above the floor among a swath of reeds.  The whole installation wafts gently with any passing air currents.  Vessels are made of wire, silk and gut with polymer forming the tops of all the reeds.

Each work addresses questions of volume and mass.  It is Tabakman’s smaller piece that displays strength and explores containment. Tightly bound wire allows some negative space, but the four berries fill up the central void.  These berry forms, more solid than fragile in appearance, are open at the top, which allows entry- if only for an ant- into the gaping mouth of their dark cavity.  Despite its significantly larger size, 3 Vessels-Marshland exhibits the illusion of weightlessness and open space.  Here, three airy vessels, hover in midair surrounded by swaying rushes in a pool of implied water. Cast shadows below augment the illusion of transparency and tranquility.

These two pieces, which contain similar elements and structures of wire and polymer and play off of natural structures, albeit at very different scales, produce two totally different effects.  At first, Tabakman didn’t see the connection.   “When you are in the middle of making you don’t always see the forest, you just concentrate on the tree at hand.  It wasn’t a conscious intention to keep developing the same idea changing the scale completely, but when I looked at the pictures, it dawned on me!”

What a fine demonstration of the evolution of an idea.  Along the way, intuitive expectations of scale, mass and volume are disrupted thereby adding both interest and variation.  Tabakman suggests she may have more to “say” with this vocabulary.  PAA will be waiting.

I cannot remember a time in my life that I wasn't interested in looking at art, talking about art and the making of art. In 1990 I earned a Phd in art history at the University of Maryland. My first experiences with polymer clay were in 1992, but I consider my real work with the medium to date from 1999.