“A Walk in the Wood”

Works in wood are the focus of a group exhibit by three members of the Washington Street Artists’ Cooperative in August.  Joe Bourgeois, Greg McNabb, and Nancy Streeter bring different approaches, philosophies, influences, and creative spirit to wood, shown in a range of sculpture, furniture, and functional objects.

Nancy Streeter has been carving wildlife sculpture since 1989.  She wanted “something interesting to do”.  After a career in the environmental field and a lifetime of love of the natural world, she translates these experiences in wood.  She is happy when her tools are sharp and she enjoys most the creating and carving processes (painting and finishing come in second).  She loves to capture nature in action and you can see the familiarity she has with her subjects in the keen detail she puts into her work.  Each piece shows shows how much she enjoys her process. You’ve seen Nancy’s work in the Over the Mountain Studio Tour and as a member of the Heritage Craft Center of the Eastern Panhandle.

Greg McNabb is known for his wooden boxes, but makes furniture and other functional and decorative objects.  He has been working for more than 35 years and speaks fondly of working alongside his grandfather.  His work is about the wood’s source and how it came about.  He draws interesting parallels between trees and people: “A tree is a living thing. It suffers stresses just like we do; tough times of drought, stress from being pushed by wind, and attacks by other creatures. These stresses are reflected in the grain of the wood.”  Greg says his job is to reveal the personality and beauty.  “Wood’s beauty is a lot like that of people, the true character is often hidden deep inside and what looks like a scar or a defect on the outside is often the most amazing feature.”  His work is also about simplicity – clean lines that don’t interfere with the wood’s personality.  But simple isn’t always simple, “It is often difficult to execute a visually simplistic design, because it requires such precision in workmanship.”

Joe Bourgeois has been working with wood for 55 years.  He knows his medium well from working in the construction industry.  For Joe, wood is an interactive medium which demands give and take in every aspect.  He has recently been thinking about the identities of trees and how they are shaped by forces beyond their origin and control.  “Trees are a marvel of creation,” says Joe.  “I have reclaimed some wood recently, which was neglected and abused.  As I’ve been working with it, I find a cooperation and dialog needs to take place in trying to make items that call attention to the wonder and beauty of it.”  When a tree is removed from its natural environment, it loses its growing and regenerative powers yet still interacts with humidity and other forces.  In bringing a design to fruition, Joe has to make a series of “yes” and “no” decisions, which affect the design as well as the maker.

Just as they are different, all three artists share the enjoyment of the sensory aspects of their medium.  The smell of the wood is intoxicating and it is a very tactile medium.  The feel of each piece is different and has its own personality.  Nancy particularly enjoys the feeling of the carving process, working with the grain of a particular piece. “I use more than just my eyes when I’m working on a piece. I use my hands to tell me when things are true and smooth,” says Greg.  Joe says, “My favorite part is putting my hands on it; my least favorite part is letting go.”

Working with wood has taught them all life lessons.  Over the years, these artists have learned patience from their medium, as they steadily put in the hours it takes with their unique processes.  Another interesting parallel between wood and life: “It is the stresses or problems you encounter in life that build the character of your heart. It creates strength and a beauty deep inside of you.”

Exhibit featuring the work of Greg McNabb, Nancy Streeter, and Joe Bourgeois.

August 1 through August 29

Opening reception: Saturday, August 2 from 5:30 – 7:00 PM                                                       Firehall Gallery – 108 n. George Street in Charles Town

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