Woodworkers Showcase – Judge’s Comments

Woodworkers Showcase    July 2017

Once again, RiverArts Gallery has assembled a dazzling parade of objects that proclaim the protean nature of wood. Here pose vessels brute and refined, traditional sculpture, and the high handicraft of musical instruments, carved decoys, and fine furniture. Turned bowls of every stripe crown pedestals alongside bas relief and freestanding figures, a slender six-foot table solid as a rock, and a Merganser duck in colorful array. Each of the represented fields has its own standards of workmanship and faithfulness to tradition. How, then, can they be compared and ranked?

I have chosen imagination as the basis for special recognition, although technical mastery remains a prerequisite. Many works possess both qualities, but three entries make the greatest impression:

  • Best of Show: Epistemology of Silence, by Joe Dickey. A heavy title for a heavy piece, it represents a conundrum: Can the philosophy of knowledge—distinguishing fact from belief—exist without words? Is this a statement of cynicism or awe? We are presented with a massive cratered planet floating on its side. In places the form appears inside out, with large expanses of polished wood enclosing an interior filled with bark. Given the danger and finesse of its making, this exquisite wreckage is a keeper.
  • Honorable Mention: Natural Edge Bowl 2, by Mark Supik. The understated title doesn’t do justice to the form in this instance. While most natural-edge bowls have rims resembling a bird’s mouth, the top of the vessel at hand looks more like the coastline of Cape Cod. Through design and serendipity, the meandering perimeter startles and delights. One of the hardest woods in the East, hornbeam rewards makers with its silky finish. This vessel comes from the dark portion of the tree, below ground. It looks, however, as if it was made for the light.
  • Honorable Mention: Galaxy, by Louis Rudinski. Another celestial creation, the outline and surface of the piece convey both the chaotic and controlling forces of a galaxy and the maw at its center. The choice of the smoky buckeye burl for the display seems inspired. The raised rim at the mouth literally adds another dimension to the structural dynamics. What skill it required to keep the breadth of the form in a dead-flat plane. Like Epistemology of Silence, this work gains power from its floating appearance.


Needless to say, many other objects stand out in RiverArts’ superbly mounted exhibition. Congratulations to all the artists juried into this excellent show.

—David Fry, Cabin John, MD