New gallery exhibit showcases carvers|
|A new “hands-on” exhibit is now open in the AVA Gallery inside the Langlade Historical Museum. |
Hands-on, in that the artists literally have hundreds of hours with wood blocks and knives in their hands cutting away areas of negative space to produce the extraordinarily fine wood carvings that are on display through Sept. 28.
Betsy Popp, the featured artist of the four-person exhibit, is widely recognized as a master carver and wood carving instructor.
While attending college in Stevens Point, Popp says that she would treat herself for her birthday and visit the Birds in Art exhibit at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum in Wausau. There, she explains, is where she first experienced a wood carving sculpture. She was captivated.
Popp states that over the years she has taken a few carving classes but for the most part she is self-taught. She has shared her love of carving for the past 20 years instructing beginner carvers through Northeastern Wisconsin Technical College. She will teach private carving classes in her hometown of Townsend this fall.
More than just removing areas of wood are required to create a quality wood carving. Popp attributes her ability to carve such sought after pieces to her well-rounded art education. She is prolific in a variety of mediums including wood carving, wood burning, oil painting, watercolors, pastel, acrylics, and drawing. Popp believes that her drawing abilities allow her to sketch any angle or pose for visualizing her final carving and she believes her painting abilities allow her to finish off the wood carvings in style. Her faux finish treatments make some of the carvings appear to be stone rather than wood creations.
Her signature piece in the AVA exhibit, “Dad’s Trout,” is a true to life replica of a 25-inch brown trout caught by her father. The original fly used to lure the lunker does not travel with the carving while on exhibit but is always displayed on it when it returns to her father’s home.
The wood carving exhibit showcases carvings from a variety of wood including basswood, pine, butternut, and black walnut, a wood that is challenging to bring to life. Along with a variety in wood types, the AVA show presents a variety in carving styles and techniques even though two of the four exhibiting carvers were students of Popp.
Included in the AVA gallery is work by Leif “Bud” Hillsland who shares that he always wanted to try his hand at carving, but it was not until he retired and signed up as a student of Popp that he had an opportunity to explore the carving process. Hillsland’s carvings reflect his patience and attention to detail. He has not actively marketed his wood carvings and, although he has never sold a carving, the pieces he carved and passed down to his family are treasures that will be cherished for many future generations.
Also included in the show is 78-year-old retired city of Antigo Fire Chief Jim Hubatch, who has been carving for over 25 years. Hubatch says that he first became interested in wood carving while still working.
“A fellow firefighter carved and it looked like something that I would like to do. He got me started, lent me knives, provided a pattern and some wood,” Hubatch said. “The first project I attempted was a bear and two cubs.”
That first carving of Hubatch is included in the current AVA exhibit.
Hubatch originally started out carving with a local group of carvers named “Whittle People.” Wanting to learn more advanced carving techniques, Hubatch enrolled in Popp’s classes and has been a student of Popp for over 15 years.
Rounding out the exhibit is Gary Hartl, a well-known Antigo resident who was convinced to go public with his carvings through the Breakfast Club morning radio show conversations with members of Antigo Visual Arts.
Hartl brings to the exhibit a strong contrast in size and technique of the carvings. Having first started carving wood in 2004, Hartl was motivated by the desire to create an exotic “man cave” inspired by Polynesian themed restaurants and bars that were popular in the 1950’s including Trader Vic’s and Don the Beachcomber.
His larger-than-life carvings are based on authentic carving styles of the South Pacific and Northwest pacific Coast, as well as American interpretations that were popular in the 50s and 60s.
Hartl has been part of an online community of carvers called “Tiki Central” since 2004 where the members share ideas, techniques, and images of completed work. His username is “CONGATIKI” and he has had over 400,000 hits on the Tiki Central site from people viewing his work and purchasing numerous creations.
A piece on display by Hartl that’s not to be missed is his “Ridicule Mask” that was inspired by one of the unique customs of many First Nations in the Pacific Northwest. When someone of high rank behaved improperly – for instance, by destroying goods in a display of pride and greed instead of distributing them – a ridicule mask would be displayed until they made retribution.
Based on the excitement and interest from museum visitors during the delivery of the wood carvings to the gallery, Bette Ebel, AVA Gallery Director predicts this to be a very, very popular show.
AVA Gallery hours coincide with the museum hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. There is no admission to the museum or to the AVA art gallery, although donations are accepted to help the arts organization continue to attract visitors to both the museum and the art gallery.
The public is invited to an Artist Reception on Friday at the AVA Gallery from 5 to 7:30 p.m. to talk with the wood carvers and perhaps become motivated to learn the art of wood carving and try their hand at bringing a block of wood to life.
Betsy Popp's "Dad's Trout,'' included in the new AVA exhibit, is stunningly lifelike.
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