By MATTHEW NASH
Boston Sculptors Gallery is the kind of art venue that arises out of need, out of a desire for community, and out of shared creative interests. Prior to their current luxurious space on Harrison Ave, BSG was housed in a church, and before that existed only as a loose group of artists meeting in living rooms. Rather than operating as a commercial gallery, BSG is a collective of artists who contribute time, energy and resources in exchange for community, critique and, of course, exhibitions.
Murray Dewart, one of BSG's founding members, summarized the approach that has allowed the collective to survive for so long. "Being an artist-run collective, we are first and foremost a community of artists. SHARED EXPERIENCE BUILDS COMMUNITY!! Our goal is to maintain an artistic community of the highest order, have fun in the process, and not go broke doing it. This works and it's successful most of the time. The downside is the organizational looseness. The upside is that we share and grow and learn as artists. We have worked on shows in the U.S. and internationally. After all these years, we are still going at it, HAMMER AND TONGS..."
This week, Boston Sculptor's Gallery will unveil their fourth "Box Set", a limited edition set of boxes containing original works by thirty of their members. It is quite an impressive list: Laura Baring-Gould, Michael Beatty, Lorey Bonante, Murray Dewart, Laura Evans, Christopher Frost, Beth Galston, Peter DeCamp Haines, Jim Henderson, Charles Jones, Niho Kozuru, Peter Lipsitt, Michelle Lougee, David Naito, David Phillips, Larry Pollans, Robert Schelling, Nancy Selvage, Pat Shannon, Julia Shepley, Maggie Stark, Margaret Swan, Marilu Swett, Ann Torke, William Wainwright, Kitty Wales, Ellen Wetmore, Joseph Wheelwright, Leslie Wilcox, and Dan Wills.*
Ellen Wetmore, an active BSG member, offered to explain the history and evolution of this new collection. "How do you get together a collection of artwork by many different artists? How do you unify that collection? And how do you try to keep the widest possible latitude for personal expression? These are the puzzle pieces we try to fit together every time we do a gallery collection. We're always looking for themes to work with; last time it was folded paper sculpture, this time, a set of tiles, in recognition of small Boston living spaces and the desire by many art collectors to have something for the walls, instead of something you bump into in the middle of the night.
"Of course, the original Box Set was Duchamp's miniature museum and that is what this is also - a portable gallery.
"Last winter we identified the need to do a new set; we had some changes in the artist roster since the paper project and we try to do one of these projects every few years. I was 'minding the store' - this is before Jean Mineo came on board- and I gave BSG member David Phillips a call. We got talking and little did I know he would envision such a fine form for our project. We gave him a few parameters: tiles were to be the format; 30 people in the collection; we needed a box to gather up the works. He returned with this achingly precise, finely sanded idea about 2 birch cabinets with sliding plates to hold the tiles, hand made latches, and laser cut lettering. It even hangs on the wall. And it's even a good vehicle for these new iron powder on aluminum 'sketches' he has developed."
Given the diversity and history of this group of sculptors, it should not come as a surprise that the pieces present a wide variety of sculptural approaches. "There are 30 different low relief vignettes in as many different materials. There are some unexpected artist-material pairings: Pat Shannon did an architectural styled piece in concrete (her last show was all cut newspaper) while Chris Frost made steel cut flowers (he's in Trainscape at the DeCordova with me and did architecture for that show). Niho Kozuru made an ivy architectural design in orange rubber while Kitty Wales made a jellyfish in steel. My piece is called Un-Tit-`led and features a nipple in hydrocal tagged in pink spray paint. Charles Jones did a design in wrinkled lead, while Ann Torke introduced a new series developed over her sabbatical of resin with embedded bits of candy wrappers," says Wetmore.
Boasts Wetmore: "The last few sets we produced are in the collections of the MFA, the DeCordova, and the Boston Public Library, so our collectors are in good company."
* Artist list courtesy of the Boston Sculptors Gallery website
"Box Set: BSG2007" is on view November 14 - December 23, 2007 at Boston Sculptors Gallery.
Image courtesy of Boston Sculptors Gallery.