White, red, black and silvery gray large-scale sculptures perch on the walls of Marie Walsh Sharpe Gallery of Contemporary Art. One sunny yellow shape crouches on the floor.
At first glance, it’s not clear what they’re made of, but some of their shapes seem familiar. The yellow sculpture in “Two Undressed Stones Somewhere Between Unraveling and Revelation” reminds one of Haystack Rock on the Oregon coast, when really the artist modeled it after Heel Stone at Stonehenge in England, the first stone to receive light in the solstice. The yellow piece’s partner, a black sculpture hanging behind it, might remind one of a certain local favorite — Balanced Rock at Garden of the Gods. You’d be correct. The artist, Vadis Turner, happened across it on a visit to town and says she referenced it in the piece.
But really, it’s up to the viewer what to see in the moundlike pieces with straight bottoms and rounded tops.
What Turner sees is an exploration of the female experience and rites of passage, and within that, the alchemizing of feminine materials into something else. This has been the focus of her work over the last decade. Now, though, she’s exploring those ideas through the lens of the Neolithic era.
“Megaliths,” her newest body of work, created specifically for the gallery, opens Thursday with a reception and artist talk. It runs through Dec. 8 at Ent Center for the Arts.
The bones of the show were inspired by the shape, which she keeps revisiting in her work. After creating the piece “Red Gate,” she was inspired to go back in time to the Neolithic era, when society shifted from hunter-gatherer to focusing on agriculture and megalithic stone structures began to take shape, including Stonehenge in England.
“What interested me about the rocks is it’s a beautiful moment of man’s evolution, when he or she starts to mark the landscape with communal effort and artistic or cultural intention,” said Turner from her home in Nashville, Tenn. “To turn a big rock into a megalith is an act of human beings working together to turn it upright.”
During this period, humans began to erect rocks, domesticate animals and farm, what Turner considered “macho activities.” Comparing those first acts of domestication, which were decidedly male, to contemporary acts of domestication, which are more feminine, was an impetus for the new show.
“I wanted to use inherently feminine materials to create megalithic structures to explore possibilities,” she said.
And those materials? Previously used and dyed bed sheets wrapped around steel structures. The piece “Cumulus Megaliths” also uses wood from her Tennessee property, acrylic medium and her own breast milk.
“Around the time she became interested in generations of women was when she had her children,”said Daisy McGowan, director of University of Colorado at Colorado’s Galleries of Contemporary Art, “and started making work about the body transforming and thinking about the generations of women before her.”
JENNIFER MULSON, THE GAZETTE, 636-0270, JEN.MULSON@GAZETTE.COM