George Rogers is back this week looking at Sculpture.

Art We Love and Why — Life in 3D

Buying art can be intimidating. We ask ourselves, “Is it good?” and wonder if spending money on art is frivolous. We justify it by pointing to the big blank wall over the sofa and maybe rationalize it by calculating the price per square inch. It’s not surprising that the vast amount of art that’s sold is two-dimensional: things you can hang on that blank wall. This week I’m pushing out of that comfort zone to look at work in three dimensions, i.e., sculpture. The pieces here are in a wide variety of media and all have the advantage of presenting themselves anew every time you walk around the room. And remember, you will never go wrong if you buy art you love.

Thomas Stenquist, In the Surf (metal, 18” high), Outermost Gallery

One of the great things about smaller pieces of sculpture is that they can easily be moved and appreciated from different vantage points and in all kinds of light. Not that a piece like this needs any help in captivating the eye, which glides easily over its sinuous surface. Remarkably, this fluid, elegant form began life as a single sheet of scrap metal that the artist folded, cut, bent, and hammered until it was transformed into this ethereal state. He describes the process as intuitive and improvisational. There’s no plan, each bend and twist dictates the next until an ultimate harmony is achieved. It’s really alchemy as much as art.

James Tyler, Gabrielle (patinated stoneware, 38” high), Rice Polak Gallery

The human form has inspired sculptors for millennia, and James Tyler’s work seems to have taken inspiration from many of the great traditions. But he doesn’t mimic or copy; these pieces are their own distinct genre. The virile, slightly idealized physique brings to mind the classic Greek gods – that is, if they decided to step down off their pedestals and try some yoga. You also think of the seated deities of Indian and Buddhist traditions, though none of them have the playfulness of Tyler’s works, perched as they are in a posture between active and passive. How he gets to this beautiful balance starting out with just a lump of clay is no mean feat. Each piece is hand built, fired in a kiln, and then patinated with a variety of finishes including gold and copper leaf, resulting in a work that will hold up quite well in every way over the millennia.

Mike Wright, Into Sea (found painted wood, 15” x 15” x 5”), Alden Gallery

Artists find inspiration in many places, and for Mike Wright it’s in discarded scraps of painted wood she finds around Provincetown. The color, patina and shapes of these scraps and all the history that goes with them are carried forth into a new life as a work of art. Into Sea is one of those pieces that pulls you in. The layered, shaped fragments form a kind of vortex leading you toward what might be the horizon line of a distant sea. But that’s just what I see. You might see a cloudscape or crashing waves. That’s the beauty of a piece like this — each of us gets to create our own journey with the work, finding joy through our own particular lens.

Brandon Reese, Dress (salt-glazed stoneware and upcycled wood, 80” high) Cusp Gallery

This totemic piece is a study in contrasts. And that’s why I find it more than just beautiful, but fascinating as well. I love the way it rests elegantly atop a plinth fashioned from the trunk of a fallen tree. It’s powerful and dignified, yet ethereal. It’s in the figurative tradition but there’s no actual figure. The dress reads as lace yet it’s high-fired stoneware, durable but breakable. I don’t have answers for this piece, only questions. And maybe that’s the highest praise of all — whether a book or a painting or a sculpture, it’s the greats that keep us engaged and forever pondering.

George Rogers is an artist and ceramicist.  After a career in museums including the MFA in Boston and the Smithsonian, he and his husband moved to Provincetown full time three years ago.