Wood / Paper / Metal
Shaping wood as it rotates on a lathe, Joe Dickey transforms craggy chunks into sleek forms with flawless surfaces. But the Davidsonville, Md., woodturner sometimes leaves a rough patch to demonstrate the material’s origins. Among his pieces in “Wood / Paper / Metal,” at the Watergate Gallery, is one made from a remnant of the Wye Oak, Maryland’s state tree, which was felled in a 2002 storm. The hanging sculpture is an almost perfect circle, with one unfinished arc.
Dickey often stains the exteriors of his hollowed-out constructions with vivid dyes, highlighted by layers of varnish. The gleaming, uniform hues contrast with the natural tones of the interiors, which may have black veins caused by fungal decay. The artist dries the wood fully, so that no further deterioration is possible, and what was once harmful becomes decorative. One way Dickey pays tribute to the former trees is that he takes care not to transfigure them entirely.
A retired physicist, Dickey invokes the interstellar with “Cephei,” named for a star system. Hanging nearby is “Orbit,” a sympatico print by EJ Montgomery, the show’s paper artist. Her abstractions array simple forms, mostly circles and squares, in complex juxtapositions. Neon-bright red and pink encounter and sometimes overlap metallic-ink silver and copper, all heightened by the patterns of the textured paper. Although the basic elements of Montgomery’s compositions can be read in an instant, the details invite prolonged inspection.
Wood / Paper / Metal On view through Jan. 17 at Watergate Gallery, 2552 Virginia Ave. NW. 202-338-4488. www.watergategalleryframedesign.com.