Chris Bruce

The Cracked Lake Bed Sculptures

Two exhibits now at Howard House use a rich material base to explore realism, perception and “found” subject matter.

Matthew Picton’s work has the look of the confectioners art, something like miniature mountain ranges shaped from the drippings of colored sugar. In fact, the glowing resin sculptures are cast from the cracks in dry lakes beds in eastern Oregon. They are presented upside down so the top of the “mold” becomes the base of the sculpture, and the fine filigrees at the bottom of cracked earth become the tips of his mountain peaks. Picton thus creates beauty out of the void, and shows us a world we wouldn’t otherwise see. In so doing, he follows a certain tradition in contemporary art that began in the 1960’s with Bruce Nauman’s concrete castings of the space under his studio chair, and was continued ad infinitum in the 1990’s by Rachel Whiteread’s castings of the undersides of book shelves, chairs and the interior spaces of entire buildings. And yet where these artists demonstrated hermetic processes that channeled claustrophobic density, Picton explores the unseen wonders of the natural world. One begins to imagine vast lake beds filled with Pictons work, like jewels found in the pores of drought.

-Chris Bruce. Chris Bruce was the former curator at the Henry Art Museum, Seattle, Washington

February 2003