Obsessive Skill

Thousands of lines and fields of color decorate a bowl carved from madrone by local artist John Dowling.

"It's called '20,000 Touches,'" he said. "That's a realistic estimate of the number of times the bowl was touched."

The bowl is part of an exhibit of obsessive, meticulously created vessels, sculptures and paintings at the Davis & Cline Gallery in Ashland. The show runs through July 27.

Dowling, who gets his madrone from a neighbor, works from a cabin and historic barn below Pilot Rock southeast of Ashland.

He turns newly cut, wet madrone on a lathe to achieve bowl shapes, then lets the wood dry before sanding it to a smooth finish.

Using a burning tool shaped like a small scalpel, Dowling draws intricate patterns on the bowls, then uses aniline dyes to add color.

The designs reference different architectural styles, or various cultures from around the world.

"I tend to try to fuse styles together to get my designs," he said, noting that one bowl combines Latino and Asian patterns, while another is influenced by designs from India and the European Baroque period.

Portland artist Linda Ethier is showing fused glass pieces modeled after leaves, seedpods, eggshells, bird skulls, feathers and other forms from nature.

"These pieces are somewhat about memory and recollection," she said. "They are about remembering things that were magical, like when you were a kid walking in the forest and you found that special feather or stick or stone. Everyone's had that experience of having a little collection and how magical they were — and still are. We overlook them now."

The sculpture "Hatchling" features a nest made of fused glass leaves, with glass seedpods nestled inside.

"Perfume of the Forest" includes a bird skull, feathers, eggshells, leaves and twigs — all made from fused glass.

To create the pieces, Ethier said she makes molds and fills them with finely ground glass that is mixed with a binder. She fires the glass to create the delicate, translucent forms.

Additional firings fuse the separate pieces together.

Although some sculptures have hints of color, Ethier's pieces are usually a frost-like white.

"I love the form of an object and color can be a distraction," she said. "These pieces in particular speak about something that is not there — almost like an apparition."

In contrast to Ethier's quiet, small pieces, Seattle artist Michael Schultheis has large-scale abstract paintings on display.

Often including fields of deep blue or pale aqua, the paintings bring to mind the shifting color of the sky as the day progresses.

Overlaying the color fields, Schultheis has added quick, gestural paint strokes that recall geometric forms and math equations.

The paintings — which manage to be both bold and subtle with their multiple layers — are inspired by math problems done on chalkboards and especially the work of Greek mathematician Archimedes of Syracuse, according to Schultheis. Archimedes lived from about 287 to 212 B.C.

Schultheis, who has a background in math and economics, said he incorporates ideas from Archimedes' mathematical discoveries in layers on the canvas, then overlays those with newer, contemporary math references.

"It's a way for me to have this conversation with him," Schultheis said. "When I play the cello, I'm hearing what Bach heard. When I read Archimedes' equations, I see what he saw. As I build up layers, I go from his ideas to my own using thin washes. People can see through the layers of my ideas and see the intersection with his ideas."

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com

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