On Friday, May 4, John Sendelbach of Metal Stone Arts Gallery hosts an exhibition of work by Greenfield artists Laura Castano and David Drew Longey. The couple has been married nearly 30 years and has spent much of that living and raising a daughter in locations across the Valley. Her copper jewelry and his prints and ink drawings will be displayed amongst the curator's own sculptural works in the red barn on the banks of the river and within view of the Bridge of Flowers.
The exhibition, which runs until June 17, opens concurrently with the city's Art Walk.
On a stormy, windswept evening last week, the three artists invited the Advocate to a pre-planning session at the gallery. Pizza was involved, so a reporter was dispatched.
Want to dampen the party-like atmosphere of a casual gathering amongst creative types? Invite a journalist.
Upon our arrival, the three of them felt instantly obliged to offer context and explanations for their artistic union, even though I hadn't asked the question. But as they stammered and workshopped the question, looking around at Sendelbach's sculptural collages, it was clear that their unique visions all share a common ancestry: a love of finding beauty in the raw, neglected, natural material, and a meticulous execution of simple ideas.
In the middle of the open, well-lit space with river views is a twisted wagon wheel. The giant shape has been driven over by something tougher than it had been, and the twisted spokes writhed around the axle, making the rusted iron look like a giant jellyfish darting away. The wheel is supported by an equally rusted post and admired for the amazing thing it has become.
"I know a guy who's been cleaning out a family barn and selling me scraps," Sendelbach said. "He's sold me a lot of wheels, and didn't think I'd be interested in this one."
Finally the pizza arrived—pepperoni and anchovies from Christopher's Grinders just up the street. As we ate, watching the rain come down on the river outside, warmed by crunchy crust and the salty, spicy, cheesy toppings, we all relaxed. Again, the close artistic ties between them became clearer by their choice of discussion topics.
Longey asked whether others had seen the new whale skeleton on exhibition at Greenfield Community College. He'd been impressed by it, and we all traded stories we'd heard about the carcass having been left out in a farm field until nature had scrubbed it down to the bone. The gallery's curator told of a deceased porcupine he knew of near the riverbank that he'd had his eye on for a while, waiting for something sculptural to reveal itself.
Both Longey and Castano could appreciate this attention to the details of decay and transformation. Taking advantage of a mostly snow-less winter, Longey had gone on long walks in the nearby woods, taking his digital camera along. At one point, he also found a dead porcupine and returned to Castano with some quills.
"I was mad he didn't bring me the whole thing," she said, laughing.
They were all avid collectors of bugs and moths. Castano told of recently finding two freshly demised birds and contacting a lab her mother had told her about at Cornell that studies bird bodies. As her mother had done for a pair of hummingbirds a decade and a half ago, she also put the birds in her freezer and called the lab. Hearing the name, the person on the phone remembered both Laura's mom and the hummingbirds.
Castano and Longey's daughter recently found a place of her own, and the previously full-time parents have found more time and space in their home to devote to their art.
Castano has devoted herself to working with copper wire. She likes working with the "autumnal" palette of colors, and many of her forms are leafy and organic. Though metal, they have a fluid quality. Tightly woven spirals of one piece in progress remind me of the path of a meandering stream. The detailed renditions of natural patterns remind me of the work one might find in a South American tomb.
Longey has been working as an artist in the Valley for his whole adult life. He makes a living combining college teaching gigs and commercial design jobs—most recently he illustrated and designed cover artwork for area musicians cellist Gideon Freudmann and children's pop-music sensation Mr. G (Ben Gundersheimer). Until recently, he chiefly worked in pen and ink, drawing elaborate canvases that had an organic, psychedelic feel. Complex cities sprouted from the roof tops of even more detailed metropolises.
Manipulating the digital images he took this past fall and winter on the computer, Longey became interested in the patterns when he flipped an identical copy of a forest photo on top of itself and reduced the opacity to half. As when projecting a slide on top of another slide, strange, symmetrical shapes appear in the most unlikely places, an endlessly complex Rorschach test. The exposed roots of a tree reveal themselves to have bodies, arms, legs and feet. Tree limbs and a corner of a train trestle turn into a complex glasshouse of geometric shapes.
He calls these images "Inversions."