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Chester County Press

Nature takes center stage for 'Living Art' in Oxford

04/24/2017 09:30AM ● By J. Chambless

A pair of ice skates made from natural materials by Lenny Wilson.

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

“Living Art,” which opened last weekend at the Oxford Arts Alliance, brings nature indoors, with grasses and vines in the display windows, wood slabs and ivy on the display pedestals inside, and bird songs playing in the gallery.

Lining the walls are pastel-hued photographs by Kathleen Magner-Rios, focusing on flowers and insects from her garden, printed to give them the appearance of hand-tinted images. They convey the soft textures of petals and butterfly wings in strongly composed closeups that focus all the attention on the interplay of insect and flower.

Paired with the photos are remarkable, full-sized shoes made of intricately crafted natural materials by Lenny Wilson. Leaves, seed pods, feathers, pine cones and tiny corn cobs are all used in these fanciful creations, which look like fairy shoes – or at least the kind of footwear you'd expect a fairy to have.

Delicate but still sturdy looking, they meld natural materials in ways you've never seen before. Most spectacular are the sedge slippers, with their tendrils stretching out in front and back by eight inches or so, but you'll be consistently intrigued by how Wilson re-imagines the materials to craft sculptural objects that are firmly rooted in the natural world.

At the back of the gallery is a dynamic metal sculpture by Rob Sigafoos that seems to be caught in mid-transition, its tendrils fraying but anchored by its solid, trunk-like base. It's displayed against a backdrop of “Caged Bird,” a poem by Maya Angelou, tying together the theme, the soundtrack and the materials in this immersive, gentle, memorable exhibition.

“Living Art” continues through May 12 at the Oxford Arts Alliance (38 S. Third St., Oxford). Gallery hours are: Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., with extended hours on the first and third Fridays until 8 p.m. Visit www.oxfordart.org for more information.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email jchambless@chestercounty.com.

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