Slabs and Witches

By Norman Boucher / November/December 2017
November 3rd, 2017

This fall, longtime Brown visual arts professor Richard Fishman’s exhibition at the Bell Gallery, “What Remains,” included sculptures from the Elm Tree Project (at left in the photograph), freestanding sculptures with the thorny texture of a briar patch (center), and wall-mounted pieces that the show’s catalogue describes as “works that concurrently are (and are not) drawings, prints, molds and sculptures” (not shown).

The Elm Tree Project began when a 100-year-old elm on Brown’s campus was felled in 2003, and then-president Ruth J. Simmons urged Fishman to do something collaborative with the wood from the tree. 

Over the next several years, Brown and RISD students produced sculpture, furniture, photographs, videos, and even fashion projects made from or inspired by the 30,000 pounds of wood.

In 2010, Fishman began working with the wood himself. Exhibited here are ultra-thin slabs of elm coated with reinforcing carbon fiber. Some of the elm slabs have smooth, high-gloss surfaces that evoke a meditative calm, in contrast to the 11-foot-tall center sculpture seen here, part of a group that Fishman nicknames “the witches.” These are ominous, freestanding sculptures made of resin-coated carbon fiber in forms that suggest ancient woodland spirits.

Photo by Winnie Gier


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November/December 2017