Carbon Dialogue

From innocence to menace



WHAT: “Carbon Dialogue”
WHEN: 11am-5pm daily through June 30
WHERE:  Smith & Vallee Gallery, 5742 Gilkey Ave., Edison

WHAT: “Splintered”
WHEN: 12pm-4pm Mon.-Sat., through June 29
WHERE: Bitters Co. Barn, 14034 Calhoun Rd., Mount Vernon

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

I’ve often enjoyed the work of David Eisenhour. His bronze sculptures previously exhibited at the Museum of Northwest Art and Smith & Vallee Gallery have joyfully celebrated the beauty of crustaceans and jellyfish.

Eisenhour began as a foundry worker, where he was allowed to build up his own body of work. Once he became a full-time artist, he gradually moved from strict imagery to creating “something which would make people ask questions.”

And with a new exhibit at Smith & Vallee, “Carbon Dialogue,” he’s moved the goalposts further—he’s become an oracle.

You might compare his present work to that of Hieronymus Bosch, who beautifully depicted the hellish punishments awaiting mankind at the Last Judgment.

Eisenhour’s theme is, “We are all part of a carbon dialogue.” Beyond that cryptic remark, the sculptor speaks through his work. A statue in concrete and coal in the form of a spiral shell is simply labeled, “Canary” (think coal mine). A bronze wall piece, “In a Drop,” features a human hand encrusted with coral and barnacles.

His glistening bronze jellyfish, formerly merely delightful works of art, now carry a symbolic message, juxtaposing innocence with menace. Jellyfish, the artist tells us, will inherit warming oceans as fish and coral vanish from acidifying and overfishing. The mantles of Eisenhour’s jellyfish offer images of babies and dinosaurs—and some of the jellyfish dangle human fingers, in place of tentacles.

“Terrorpod” is a bronze wall hanging in the shape of a spread-winged eagle. It’s a monstrosity with a skull-face between the wings and six toes on either side. The name’s a play on the word “terra,” meaning both “Earth” and “terrible.” Eisenhour admits it was a “cathartic work. I felt like I was letting go of the demon of extinction.”

Even Eisenhour’s lovely prints on cedar, “Carbon Excerpts,” are mysteriously haunting. He laboriously creates each image on a board using clay, paint and coal dust. The abstract images suggest diatoms, ferns, coral, butterfly wings, broken glass and patterns in sand.

With thoughts of the apocalypse in mind, how about something completely different? Drive south on Farm to Market Road to visit the historic barn of Bitters Co.

Owners Amy and Katie Carson design and sell a line of housewares made by skilled craftsmen from around the world, with a retail store in La Conner.

Through June 29, the Carson sisters welcome you to ascend into the hayloft for “Splintered.” Here, listen to recorded fragments of verse spoken by poet Shin Yu Pai, randomly accompanied by percussive sounds struck by sound artist Steve Peters on glassware, metal and other objects from the company’s inventory. It’s a meditative, healing experience.

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