Amanda Wojick usually creates art that is “intentionally fragile” using ordinary materials such as paint chips, linoleum flooring, Band-Aids, polystyrene, and different kinds of paper to create small and large abstract sculptures and drawings. But about 18 months ago she added welded steel to her palette – creating art she characterizes as “firmly situated in the world of permanence and durability.”
Above: Surrounded by equipment in the UO sculpture metal shop, Associate Professor Amanda Wojick takes a moment from creating work for her show at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery that opens March 7 in Portland. Photo by Cody Rappaport.
An associate professor of art and head of the sculpture program at the University of Oregon, Wojick’s sculpture and works on paper are inspired by the natural world and rich with wit and playfulness. Her latest work continues that, but with a different edge, literally.
“I am interested in how (my new) series relates to my previous work in that it still appears somewhat structurally vulnerable – some of the pieces even appear to be leaning to the point of tipping over – and the work still has a handmade and DIY sensibility,” she says. Junctions are imprecise, edges are rough and irregular, and welds are visible, but the compositions are “fixed, secure, and irreversible.”
Wojick’s new work will be featured at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery in Portland in a solo show March 7-20, with a First Thursday opening reception March 7 from 6-8 p.m. The Ford Family Foundation, in partnership with the Oregon Arts Commission, awarded her a Career Opportunity grant in February to help support the costs of producing the show, specifically material and shipping costs. Wojick was also awarded a University of Oregon Humanities stipend in spring 2012 to help support the show.
The exhibition at the Elizabeth Leach Galleryconsists of a series of 12 welded steel sculptures, each painted a different solid color. The sculptures are made of hundreds of hand-cut steel blossom silhouettes, welded to “prickly angular structures that are human scaled.”
Her steel sculptures at the Elizabeth Leach Gallery, which has represented her for the past decade, reflect her creative spatial exploration over time. “An ongoing visual concern of mine is the intersection of two- and three-dimensional space. This body of work engages this conversation as well, but from a completely different standpoint than previous works,” she says. “While I have often used tilted planes, I have never done so in a way that completely emphasizes such an openness of form and space.”
Above: Hawthornes: Orange, Pink, White, 2013, Steel and urethane paint.
Wojick decided to sculpt the blossoms in steel “largely because in order for them to look like they do – fragile, irregular, light, open, and intensely angular – and still be structurally sound, they couldn’t be made in any other way.” The forms not only mark a new visual territory for her, “what is even more interesting is how literal shifts in my own perspective make this work possible. For the past decade I have been approaching my work from a position of dislocation. My newest work begins from a completely different place, that of being located, of beginning with an assertion or affirmation about being present, here.”
This journey led her to encounter “a very different way of visualizing and actualizing my ideas. Rather than using imaginary or speculative points of departure as I have in the past, I am now engaged with my immediate and observable surroundings.” In this instance, those surroundings include “a pair of small brambly Hawthorne trees in my front yard.” In her new sculptures, “I have isolated and almost endlessly repeated this ubiquitous springtime blossom shape as a way of leveraging particular aspects of my everyday experience.” The steel blossoms are coated with auto-body paint, which layers the fragile subject of the work with another aspect of durability beyond their basis in steel.
The act of bringing a 20th century craft into a contemporary moment hasn’t escaped her. “Welded sculpture occupies a particular place within the history of 20th century art, specifically in the context of Modernism,” Wojick says. “Filling an entire gallery with steel in the year 2013 is a little scary, but the vision I have for the installation has remained strong and clear.”
Wojick’s work is included in the permanent collection of Portland Art Museum, Tacoma Art Museum, and many private collections. She has had recent exhibitions in Oregon, New York, Ohio, Toronto, Washington, and Florida. She has received awards and grants from Sculpture Space, Oregon Arts Commission, University of Oregon, Ragdale Foundation, Portland Art Museum, Alfred University, and Bard College.
The Elizabeth Leach Gallery, 417 N.W. 9th Avenue in Portland’s Pearl District, (503) 224-0521, is open 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and by appointment.