Wood-turning is an ancient craft that involves shaping forms -vessels, spindles, nails - on a lathe. As craftmaking continues to advance into the realm of art, the turning technique - which can be used with metal, plastics and laminates as well as wood - has found new acceptance.
Michael Brolly's wood-turning, however, is distinctive.
Brolly is a sculptor. As he wrote in his statement for the exhibition "Cradle to Cradle: Turned-Wood Sculptures by Michael Brolly," at the Ohio Craft Museum, he uses the lathe as a design tool, "a starting point to get where I want to with my work."
The result Is generally a fascinating mixture of humor and wild Imagination wrapped in superb craftsmanship.
"Cradle to Cradle" is a small exhibition with just more than a dozen pieces. Its impact is much larger, however, captivating visitors as soon as they enter the gallery and holding their interested throughout.
Weird creatures, not the gentle vision of cradles promised by the title, confront visitors_ That puzzling situation is explained by the fact that the Ohio Craft Museum can accommodate only a fraction of the original traveling exhibition, organized by the Erie Art Museum.
The original show was intended as a midcareer retrospective for the artist and was very large. It included many of the works he created between 1973 and 2001. In each of those years, Brolly created a cradle: The first one is very crude; the second one is the product of a sophisticated mind with a slightly sinister twist -- the exterior is covered with thornlike clusters of spikes. The cradles are represented on the front and back of the exhibition catalog, which is available at the museum.
Sinister twists certainly inhabit several of the pieces in the show But they are so beautifully built, so exquisitely finished and so fantastically imaginative that they have an irresistible appeal.
The first piece to catch visitors' attention Hs a huge eye floating on three tall legs, juvenile Tryclops. The disconcerting imagery harks strongly back to the surrealist movement of the 1920s and '30s.
A tall, weird-looking bird in the center of the room quickly becomes the object of fascination. With the unlikely title, Thinking of My Mother-In-Law Marianne and Those Magnificent Mahogany Breasts, It intrigues by its complexity The body opens into wings and reveals four rows of breasts,