Forgive the fuzzy picture, and concentrate on the black painted chairs in this work by Sandra Sell at the Thea Foundation in Argenta. The assemblage artist, who waited 21 years to begin her art career, thanks to her well-planned strategy of becoming career Army so that one day she’d be supported by a pension and be free to create, takes found objects and lets her inner tree emerge.
The chair tree shown in the picture is an “homage to ancestors” and people she admires. She acquired the chairs, which like people come in many styles (comfortable, fancy, simple, antique), from roadsides, flea markets, once buying them a truckful from a man who was hauling them to a resale shop. There’s a certain Nevelson quality, thanks to the black paint, but more important is the video that accompanies the piece, one that
took Sell a year to create on the Pinnacle Valley property of Robyn and John Horn. Sell videotaped chairs slowly approaching a tree — their source, a mother — and, when close, bowing down to the tree. Then, as seasons pass, they climb the tree, frolic around the tree and finally fall apart, becoming less like chairs and more like wood. Finally, they are piled up and spontaneously burst into flame. For reasons I can’t particularly explain, I was totally engrossed by the video.
Sell has been working with Robyn Horn and has moved on from assemblage to woodworking; she and Horn had the inaugural exhibition in the gallery of Pulaski Technical College’s new Center for the Humanities and the Arts. Only one wood sculpture is in the Thea exhibit, “Curiosity Revealed,” which opens Friday with a reception from 6:30 to 9 p.m., as part of The Art Department series. Instead, the show offers older work in a style that Sell has moved on from. In fact, she plans to burn some of the work when the exhibition finishes its run at the end of August.
Sells, 55, is a native of New Hampshire. She served in the Army from 1983 to 2005, including a tour in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War, Operation Desert Shield. She had a friend stationed in Arkansas and decided to try us out. She went on to get a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in art at UALR.
Sell describes the work, which includes a sculpture of her grandfather made out of metal and an installation dedicated to her grandmother, as “low-tech … made out of things people can get their hands on.” She thinks the show will appeal both to adults and kids.
One of the works in the show is a tree merging with a door, a piece in which Sell sees the seed of her new sculpture. A 24-year-old who accompanied me to the exhibition indulged in a little Pokemon Go, and found a sprout (or whatever) serendipitously next to the tree.
The reception Friday has a $10 ticket price; that gets you hors d’oeuvres, libations and music by Bonnie Montgomery.