Oakland Museum of California Off-Site Exhibits is proud to present the paintings of Jenny E. Balisle and the sculpture of Sam Perry. Both West Oakland-based artists look to the natural environment of Northern California as inspiration.
Jenny E. Balisle describes painting as a layering process that mimics “occurrences in the natural world.” The densely built-up surfaces of her paintings are rich with associations to organic processes and the environment. However, Balisle’s non-objective forms and titles that read as accession numbers allow the viewer to glean their own meaning.
“My art begins with a mark or line inspired by patterns in nature and Asian calligraphy. In my oil paintings, I pool, wrinkle, scrape and create chemical reactions with solvents that mimic occurrences in the natural world. The painting’s multiple layers become a complex surface that reflects and glows with iridescence while maintaining a minimalist composition. My pen and ink drawings explore repetitions of line and organic forms. As a result, I explore the simplicity and complexity of gestures, marks, lines and textures. Overall, my art is an observation of the environment close and far away. It is my attempt to reclaim an experience of the outdoors in my West Oakland studio.
“Nature and art form my closest interpretation to a spiritual experience. Therefore, my utilitarian art titles mark the quantity, size and creation date. This leaves free range for the viewer's imagination and personal definition of faith.” –Jenny Balisle
Sam Perry makes sculpture from the found wood of fallen trees. Each form references natural shapes such as spirals, spheres and vessels. The artist views cracks, knots and other imperfections in the wood as markers of time in human terms as well as in the life of the tree. The rhythm of the carving marks on the surface of each piece personalizes this chronology and reveals Perry’s intimate connection to his materials.
“As a child I spent weekends in my father’s canoe shop learning to build and repair Hawaiian racing canoes. My experiences there sparked my interest in wood as a sculptural medium. Years later, when working at Runnymede Farm, a private outdoor sculpture park in Northern California, the naturally fallen wood on the grounds there provided an abundant supply for my exploration.
“What interests me about carving fallen trees is how they reveal a chronology, not only in human terms as a yardstick for life, but also as a chronology of the wood’s own history of abundance, injury, and affliction. Imperfections present challenges that lead to innovations in form. From canoe building to sculpting, the process of having to adapt and transform a given shape into a new unrecognizable one that alludes to something other than the medium itself, was what first excited me and keeps me involved in sculpting. Emphasizing curves and grain patterns infers a fluidity and rhythm that give a sense of spontaneity – like motion caught in a freeze frame. I consistently try to make the static medium appear malleable and bends and twists in the work seem natural rather than carved.
“In a literal sense the sculptures are about relationships - how one form interacts or relates to another in a formal composition. Beyond that, the sculptures become metaphors for human feelings and relationships.”—Sam Perry
Carin Adams, Museum Curatorial Specialist