It’s curious, but the most feminine artworks at Sandpiper Gallery right now are the wire trees. The nude female photographs on the walls, meanwhile, are highly androgynized. Together they make up a duo exhibition at the Old Town gallery by a husband and wife: Vladimir Shakov, who takes the vintage silver gelatin photographs, and Chris Wooten, who makes the trees.
Even though there are just six of them, it’s the trees that catch your eye. Intricate sculptures of copper and colored wire with mixed-media foliage, they float in a fantasy world where nature glitters and trees have spirits. Wooten sculpts her wire into the wavy contours of root and trunk, conveying both stability and swaying, while the branches are feasts of different materials – stiff lime-green feathers, luminous apple-shaped beads, opalescent beetle wings. One is a palm tree with large, eyelash-shaped fronds of beautifully indented aluminum; another is a ghost gum eucalyptus anchored by pale gray stones and drooping sinuously with beads like something out of Dr. Seuss.
They’re technically lovely, but what’s really eye-catching is the subtlety with which Wooten has sculpted female faces or figures into her tree trunks, as ambiguous as a dryad from C.S. Lewis’ Narnia.
Shakov, on the other hand, lays out the female form up front before draping and muffling it into something far less human. His gold-toned silver gelatin photographs themselves impart a shimmery, Klimt-like unearthliness to his female model (Wooten? someone else?), but he also drapes her – or his camera – in a shiny transparent fabric that half-reflects the light so that geometric planes merge and depth is lost. It’s ironic, because depth and contour are what give the female body its allure. Through Shakov’s lens, the model’s provocative in-bed poses become oddly flat and anodyne, less woman than androgynous corpse.
The Shakov/Wooten exhibit is open noon-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday through Sept. 3 at Sandpiper Gallery, 2221 N. 30th St., Tacoma. Free. 253-627-6667