John Geldersma 2006

Exhibition Dates: August 5 – September 23, 2006
Location: Arthur Roger Gallery, 730 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA 70130
Opening Reception: Saturday, August 5, 6– 9pm (in conjunction with White Linen Night)
Gallery Hours: Monday – Saturday 11:00 am – 6:00 pm

The Arthur Roger Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of recent sculpture by John Geldersma. The exhibition will be on view from August 5th to September 29th at the Arthur Roger Gallery Project, 730 Tchoupitoulas Street. The artist will be present at the opening reception hosted by the gallery on Saturday, August 5th from 6 to 9 pm in conjunction with the New Orleans Arts District’s “White Linen Night.”

Resting Spirits, 2006

Geldersma works primarily in wood and has produced a wide array of pieces in archetypal forms, from his hanging “Shamans” to mandala-like totemic sculpture termed “Spirit Poles.” He is perhaps best known for these latter, inspired by primitive fetishes, various trans-historic ritualistic geometric designs and the vibrant cultural milieu of his native southwestern Louisiana. The artist has cited his early immersion in the intersection of such divergent cultures as French, Spanish, African-American, Caribbean, Anglo-Saxon and Native American as a major influence on his art.

Geldersma’s work is deeply interactive and intensely spiritual. He began carving totems in 1970. The artist says he was inspired by African art and wanted to make it his own, and like Brancusi he began taking the forms of African art to create his sculpture. For Geldersma, the masks and totems he sculpted were a collection of symbols joined not only as a design element, but also as an organization of a kind of psyche. The Spirit Poles are central to the artist’s private mythology and invite meditation and solitary contemplation. Gelderma says, “A lot of these begin to look back you as much as you look at them, especially the pieces with the eyes. They confront you as well as you confront them. A lot of times I make them so that they are eye level so that you have this kind of confrontation and connection with them. I think they are charged, not only because of me but because there’s something in the wood, and there’s something there.”

Geldersma predominantly employs woods such as pecan, weathered driftwood, and fallen aspen trees from Colorado. The artist’s creative process involves studying the wood and seeing the character of it with its twists and turns. “I don’t like the straight ones. It’s more like a dance, like a ballet when there’s some movement,” says Geldersma. The original shape of the wood often dictates how the totem will ultimately look. Beginning with the raw material, the artist first removes the bark with a knife and then works the piece of wood with a chainsaw to get the rough shape he wants. Using increasingly smaller tools, from grinders down to sandpaper and steel wool, Geldersma works the wood into his desired form. He then applies color either by painting the totems in bands of bold colors or by burning them to achieve deep rich blacks.

Born in 1942, Geldersma was raised in the New Orleans area. Though he now lives in New Mexico, he remains deeply influenced by the Bayou State. He has described his native environment as “…a mix of Catholicism, African folk forms and Carnival spirit.” In the 1960’s he earned a B.F.A. at the University of Southwestern Louisiana (now the University of Louisiana Lafayette) and an M.F.A. from Rutgers University in New Jersey. He later taught art at USL for 20 years. Since the mid-60’s he has exhibited widely throughout the United States.

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