Sunday, December 27, 2015

Rachel David at Barrister's

Rachel David is a blacksmith. She is also a sculptor. Both professions shape metal, but they are really different worlds. Blacksmiths were once everywhere, in the cities and remote rural regions where they worked steel into the horseshoes, hinges and the fixtures that everyday life required. Sculpture always  appealed to art collectors and churches in need of objects that transported people to a realm of wonder. Today blacksmiths are far scarcer than sculptors, but they are still totally different professions. That is why Rachel David is so unusual. She accepts commissions for functional, hand forged objects, but as a sculptor her vision is wondrous and otherworldly.

As one of the rare individuals willing to work long hours with heavy chunks of steel heated to glowing hot temperatures over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, David somehow fuses the archaic serpentine extravagance of 19th century art nouveau with the futuristic, post-apocalyptic aesthetic of Mad Max, or sci-fi writers like Philip Dick who anticipated the wonders and terrors of the shape-shifting, digitally defined present we now inhabit. Darlingtonia, upper left, a collaboration with artist Liz Judkins, suggests a tall, spidery, Auguste Rodin-esque interpretation of a gigantic carnivorous blossom with a darkly elegant art nouveau aura. Narcissus Lycorine is another mysterious botanical form, a metallic meditation on the Narcissus flower. One side resembles a shield, but revolves to reveal a mirror on the other side. The "lycorine" in the title refers to the poison contained in its sap, a metaphor, perhaps, for the toxicity of extreme narcissism, but Spinning Wheel, above, suggests an alternative Industrial Revolution shaped by the laws of nature. Bursae, top, suggests a vastly oversize cocoon reminiscent of an ancient Viking ship. Clusters of actual silk worm cocoons embellish either end in fuzzy baroque flourishes. David says most of her ideas come from dreams and observations of emotional states in herself and others. In Bursae, "holding patterns" play an important role. "The silk worm is in a holding pattern. It builds the cocoon around it; there is a mile of silk in each cocoon and the moth, transformed, emerges and flies away." ~Bookhardt / Holding Pattern: Hand Forged Steel Sculpture by Rachel David, Through Jan. 3, Barrister's Gallery, 2331 St. Claude Ave, 710-4506.