Man & Beast
Geoffrey Gorman, known for his animal sculptures, goes in new directions in solo show
Feb 13, 2009
Geoffrey Gorman is known for his imaginative and endearing animal sculptures and certainly there are plenty in his solo exhibition opening today at Jane Sauer Gallery on Canyon Road. But there are some additions to the show that demonstrate that the veteran artist has more than an arrow in his quiver.
“Jane Sauer is terrific. She pretty much lets you do what you want, even if she is not crazy about it herself,” Gorman told the Journal . “As for me, I’ve kind of gone wild.”
Gorman’s new show includes plenty of the eponymous “Animals,” his trademark sculptures of an excited cat, a curious baboon, a high-stepping deer or long-eared rabbits. “His creatures are frozen in a moment of intense awareness of their viewers,” said Sauer. “Wild things that gaze at us in a silent moment of mutual curiosity. As all devotees of the natural world know, it’s a look that can pierce directly into the human soul.”
But Gorman also is including drawings and prints from a trip last year to China. “I did a series of about 65 drawings,” the artist said excitedly. “Nobody in Santa Fe has ever seen my drawings and prints before.”
He’s also used his sculpture techniques to create pairs of human — or humanesque — figures. “Most of what I do is based on some kind of animal. I like to look at animals and see what I want to see. But these are direct looks at human figures,” he said. “I haven’t done that in a long time. I don’t think Jane likes them.”
“I just completed a male and female couple that hang on the wall. Some of the first figures that I built were what I thought of as tree spirits, or the energy of the tree, which is called lignin. Another influence on my figures is the people that they have found in bogs in Europe,” Gorman said. “This particular couple is wearing masks. After carving the masks, I put little pieces of an old paint brush in them to suggest hair. The masks have the feeling of owls who are peering around and curious. Hanging off their bodies is my usual assortment of old typewriter parts, rusted metal, and found objects. The male figure has a small skull hanging off his waist.”
Sauer, for her part, ignored the human figures in discussing the show. “Geoffrey’s work is really for the times — happy, made from readily available low-cost materials and some of it is quite affordable,” she said. “In addition, those animals are so engaging.”
Gorman certainly isn’t repudiating the mixed media animal sculptures. They are his primary métier, after all. He talks about his work at length on his blog, geoffrey gorman.blogspot.com. The baboon heads, for instance:
“I became obsessed with monkeys and our close relationship to them. I’ve also been fascinated with the various forms of money that I’ve seen used around the world, especially from Africa, and how it often would be made into a practical, recognizable form or shape, like a bracelet,” Gorman wrote in a recent blog. “These baboon heads have an interesting feel to them, as if they were ancient trading objects or some old sculpture. I mounted them on blocks of wood covered in rusted tin, as if they had come from a museum display.”
He uses every part of his experience, even “horrible” situations like a Chinese meal in Beijing. He made “a portrait of a duck, in honor of all the Peking ducks that are eaten in China. (I made the mistake of going to a famous Peking duck restaurant while in Beijing and it was truly horrible. Hundreds of people and dozens of duck bodies lined up for the slaughter.) His ‘hair’ is made from an old paint brush.”
A man of parts
Gorman describes himself as a man using many talents. “I’m many things. I started out in art school many years ago majoring in photography. Now I’m a practicing artist, and have been for the last several years. I’ve also been helping my Santa Fe gallery dealer (Sauer) with art fairs around the world. That involves setting up the booth and selling the art. Last fall we were in Beijing, China, and later in Chicago, participating in art fairs. I created 65 drawings and one print based on impressions of the people that I met while in Beijing. I was a gallery dealer for 15 years, but I thought I was over that part of my life. In fact, I’ve really been enjoying working with Jane, setting up and hanging the shows, and selling both my work and other artists’ work.
“I also continue to coach and consult with artists and arts organizations,” Gorman continued. “But I’m putting most of my focus on making a living at creating and selling my sculptures and drawings. So I guess I’m this combination of struggling artist, preparator, gallery dealer, coach and businessman.
“I feel pretty lucky that I’m able to use many of my skills and past experiences,” Gorman added. “In constructing my sculptures, I’m using my knowledge of woodworking from my many years as a custom furniture maker. In promoting and marketing my own art, I’m following my own advice. And it’s been pretty interesting to see how it works from the other side, the side of the working artist, the ones who have to survive in the commercial art world. It’s tougher than I thought. I have to be tougher, harder, more persistent, even pushy, when it comes to promoting myself. Being a professional artist is not for the meek and mild.”