Art review : ‘By Hand 2016’ weaves together winning works
The Sacramento Bee
By Victoria Dalkey
Published 01/27/2016

It’s no surprise that “By Hand 2016,” the second National Biennial Fine Craft Competition presented by the Creative Arts League of Sacramento on view at Roseville’s Blue Line Arts, is a winner.

Founded in 1952, the non-profit league has presented many outstanding shows of contemporary crafts over the years at the Crocker Art Museum, where it will present a retrospective of works by renowned ceramic artist Ruth Rippon in fall 2017.

While not as prestigious as the Crocker, Blue Line’s spacious Coker Gallery is a fine setting for this exhibition of 69 works by 48 artists. Juror Elisabeth Agro, curator of American Modern and Contemporary Crafts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, has put together a show of dynamic and innovative works that push beyond the boundaries of their materials and processes.

A case in point is Marie Bergstedt’s “No,” an embroidered portrait on a paperlike fabric that is like nothing I have seen before. Using thread as a drawing medium, she gives us an image of a woman holding her hands up to her face as if warding off something threatening or emotionally disturbing. Her head and face are loosely drawn, but her arms and hands are intensely rendered in raw flesh tones that convey the pain of whatever it is that she is facing. It deservedly won the Best in Show award.

Several other fiber works, including woven textiles, embroidery and quilted objects and collages, form some of the strongest pieces in the show. Among them is Melissa Maddonni Haims’ “Creep,” a quirky installation of crocheted yarn balls that form a cluster of hairy, podlike organisms that disperses downward over a white wall.

Roz Ritter offers a pair of hand-embroidered garments, one a hilarious Brownie uniform with a huge, dangling, orange necktie; the other an unfinished dress hanging over a nest of shredded pages from “Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care” book.

The Pixeladies, a collaborative group, give us a computer-generated wall hanging that addresses America’s obesity epidemic with images and texts that relate to our penchant for unhealthy foods.

Susan Else, daughter-in-law of the late, much loved Sacramento artists Robert Else and Jorjana Holden, offers “Family Life,” a fantastic quilted sculpture of a Day of the Dead skeleton family – mother, father and baby – in vibrant colors collaged with texts relating to skeletons in the family closet.

Among the ceramic pieces in the show, I particularly liked Jarred Pfeiffer’s volcanic salt-glazed stoneware flask and Jennifer Joh’s trio of eccentric clay vessels in red, black, and white with grid-like markings and strange cup-like openings.

A number of finely worked wood pieces were included, such as David Kirby’s evocative wall piece “Out on a Limb,” made of maple, walnut, sycamore burl, twigs and birch bark with paper text and watercolor, and Allen Graef’s “Pa Hoe Hoe,” an elaborately carved box with legs made of Hawaiian hard woods.

Agro also selected some fine works in metal, including Mark Oldland’s “Two Moons” ensemble, an elegant stainless steel rocking bench and table, and Dean Moniz’s dark, hulking vessel made of metals, wire, toys and found objects, among them a broken 45 record titled “Cinderella.” In contrast to its massive scale, Tali Grinshpan’s “Tashlich,” a series of tiny petal-like vessels made of thin frosted glass is a quiet, fragile poem that casts a winsome spell.

Prominent ceramic artist Tony Natsoulas, who is also Blue Line’s energetic exhibitions coordinator, has done a smashing job of installing this must-see show that will be up through Feb. 27.