Exhibit features diverse sculptures

A new exhibit in Ashland features diverse sculptures ranging from sea urchin-like forms, to obsessive assemblages of strips of paper rolled into spools, to whimsical, friendly animals.

The 10th Annual Sculpture Invitational at Illahe Studios & Gallery in Ashland officially kicks off tonight with an opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. The exhibit runs through Aug. 31.

"Every year it changes. Each year it's nice to have it be fresh and different," said Sue Springer, owner of the gallery and an exhibitor in the show.

Artist Annabel Allen draws inspiration from vintage illustrations in botanical and aquatic natural history books to create her porcelain sculptures.

She has made several intricately patterned pieces that resemble urchins. The minimalist ivory color of the sculptures keeps the viewer's eye on the patterns and textures.

Her vessel-like piece "Morel Mushroom" features fine lines carved into the top portion of the porcelain, mimicking the delicate ribbing on the underside of mushrooms. Lower down, a pattern of circular forms recalls the pitted caps of morels.

In "Urchins with Tails," Allen added streaming tendrils behind her urchin forms. Some are decorated with vintage floral patterns in vermilion, while others have aqua tints.

Allen first taught herself ceramics when she lived as a young teen in a Maine boarding school that previously had served as a home for children with polio. In the basement of the mansion, she discovered stacks of antique wooden wheelchairs — and a dust-covered room for ceramics with massive kilns.

After cleaning the room and ordering clay, she began teaching herself to sculpt by following picture tutorials on the wall.

Artist Penelope Dews is also inspired by the natural world.

Her easily accessible, playful ceramic forms include a goat, hedgehog, bear cub, horses, llamas and a large owl.

Springer has drawn from human as well as animal forms for her assembled clay pieces.

"Red Raven" features a multicolored Cubist human form, pieced together like a mosaic, holding a black raven.

The raven motif returns in "Raven Seated," with a large bird perched on a chair and another posed on the seat back.

Holly Kilpatrick, Laurie M. Brown and Cheryl Williams have gone the abstract route — Kilpatrick with gray felt combined with naturally colored wood, Brown with hand-tinted rolls of paper arranged to form low-relief wall sculptures and Williams with ceramics colored with metallic and earthen colors.

The sculpture exhibit is rounded out with Williams' abstract paintings that hint at landscapes.

An atmospheric, cloudy sky of blue, creamy yellow, gray and white rises above low, rust-colored land in her painting "On the Prairie."

Illahe Gallery, located at 215 Fourth St. in Ashland, is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

For more information, call 541-488-5072 or visit http://illahegallery.com/.

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

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