Trash Magnetism

Photo: Patrick Donley

There’s a sinuous appeal to the
of found
created by
Louisville artist Patrick Donley, now showing on the first floor of Zephyr Gallery, 610 E. Market St.

At the heart of each compact sculpture is a form reminiscent of branches only visible in winter — softly contoured  wood scraps or crescent shape furniture pieces, almost braided with other oddly complementary and beautiful trash:  a pink ball, a chevron of wavy fiberglass roofing, curling copper tubing, a purple hoop, a chair leg.

“A lot of time in my abstract work, I set up rules about how light falls, or the relationship between forms,” Donley says. “In this work, I decided the only perimeter was scale – scale and verticality. I wanted them to be intimate and still maintain a sense of twisting, rhythmic flow within the pieces.”

Although Donley is a painter, he ventured into sculpture after a one-year hiatus from art to record an album with the band Jakeleg about 10 years ago.   He wrote songs and played bass. After that sabbatical, returning to canvas felt strange.

“I was actually a little frightened,” he says. It was jarring to move from performance to paint. “Flat, two-dimensional painting didn’t make sense to me.“It was a little minor terror, actually, sort of ‘Oh my god, I don’t feel like I can paint anymore.’ ”

There was something more comfortable about wrestling big pieces into place. “Physically interacting with the forms, cutting things out, using tools – that really changed everything.”

The results were abstract sculptures with an industrial feel, sometimes colorful, full of energy and occasionally clamoring for attention. By contrast, the new sculptures are whispered conversations.

In between, he produced a series of paintings, his Floating or Falling series, highly influenced by his foray into sculpture. The acrylics on canvas

From the Floating Or Falling series by Patrick Donley

resemble luminous chalk drawings of abstract three-dimensional objects caught in an uncertain state.

The Zephyr show this month features another artist who makes creative use of found objects. The upstairs gallery features the work of Joel Pinkerton. (More about him in a day or two.)

Found objects are an expanding vocabulary in Louisville, with more people making memorable pieces from cast-offs. Over at Gallerie Hertz, 1253 S. Preston St., Brad Devlin has a remarkable found-objects show. And Caroline Waite’s assemblages of small objects at Carr + Waite Studios, 221 S. Hancock St., are always magical and never sentimental.

It’s the ultimate recycling, turning the city’s scheduled junk pickup days into a movable Christmas for this group of artists.

“Junk pickup is one of my favorite times of the year,” Donley says. He scours Germantown and the original Highlands with his dogs, looking for art-in-embryo disguised as a smashed coffee table.

That was the genesis of the current Zephyr show.

“It started with broken furniture,” he says. Then he found a smashed guitar.

Picasso guitar sculpture

“I took it apart even further, and I thought, I’m going to work with that.” Although only a few of the sculptures feature pieces from the guitar, all of the sculptures share something of the guitar’s rounded aesthetic. Seeing the guitar brought to mind the many ways Pablo Picasso deconstructed the guitar.

“I wasn’t thinking about creating a musical instrument. It’s more as a self-reference, more a self-portrait.”

He continues to play guitar, and he and Daphne Luster are in the studio recording her first album. He also recorded with Slackshop, a band he left only recently.

Once Donley takes newfound trash to his studio, he doesn’t plan, but instead sees how the objects fit together. “I might pull out one piece and lay it next to something else, and they kind of speak to each other. I try to bring together two, three key elements that seem to be in some sort of visual relationship. I have to respond to it.”

In past sculptures, he’s painted on the pieces or otherwise embellished them. For this show, he let them be.

“With this body of work, it’s pure and simple,” he says. “I wanted to sort of celebrate the objects. I wanted to preserve the relationship between me and the objects.”

The exhibit continues through March 26. Gallery hour 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and by appointment. (502) 585-5646.

An Arena With A View

In the many-story lobby of the new Yum! Center


The great unanswered question remaining after my visit this morning to Louisville’s new arena – the KFC Yum! Center – is: are there enough toilets in the women’s lavatories?

In Jenni Laidman’s Perfect World, there would be twice as many women’s toilets as men’s. That planners  the world over fail to adopt this standard is just blinkered prejudice. But I couldn’t go into the men’s room for a full comparison, and I didn’t think to ask any of the men wandering around to go in and count for me, so the answer to this must wait.

My favorite things about the arena:

  • The views. Huge windows mean big views of bridges, buildings, and the river. A single dead sparrow on the balcony suggests birds will not catch onto this right away.
  • The Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame display on the walls on two levels. It’s simply fascinating to read.
  • The fact that the arena was not named “The Bucket.” When Louisville attempted to lure an NBA team to town around 2001, word was Yum! Brands (then called Tricon Global) would buy naming rights and call any arena “The Bucket.” While this is certainly better than calling it the Tricon – whatever a Tricon is — it makes me grateful that Louisville is not home to a major toilet manufacturer.

The Woodford Reserve Club

Jim Bunning -- today ending his U.S. Senate term -- in the Sports Hall of Fame.

I climbed to what I thought was the worst seat in the house. I didn't think it was that bad once I got used to thin oxygen.

I’m Melting!

Finished my Cheerios this morning and noticed the house was a little chilly. I thought, nobody is going to mind if I boost the thermostat a bit, given what we’ve been through. Went over to turn it up, but guess what? I had forgotten to turn it up when I got up this morning. It was 64 and I only found it “a little chilly.” Just shows what you can get used to.

We were sitting around Sue’s table in the dark last night weighing the relative merits of buying a generator, buying a kerosene heater, or getting a hotel room one night this weekend as we finished our third day without electricity. I didn’t like any of the choices. My choice would have been to move into a hotel room and stay there, and damn the expenses. But as I bit my tongue, the light went on in the refrigerator behind Sue and I heard the fridge burp into action. I pointed at the fridge and made noises. I couldn’t think of the word “electricity,” or “light,” or “hurray.” We were back in business.

I ran upstairs to see what had turned on. The electric thermostat now read 46. Joey called the neighbors, who had disappeared with everyone else around here, and let them know power was flowing. I called my mom. There were 16 messages on our phone. We didn’t have phone service during the outage, and weren’t able to retrieve them. And I also discovered a message on my cell from my University of Louisville colleague Christina Weaver. She was inviting us to come stay at her place, which warmed me up even more than the realization we were going to have hot water again. Yay Christina!

Other good news. I didn’t tell you, but I had to take Tula back to the vet yesterday. I was very worried about the amount of vomiting she was doing. And yesterday morning she added diarrhea to her problems. On Tuesday, the vet had warned she may have some kind of obstruction, but tried her on stomach meds before doing something more expensive. Yeterday’s vomiting and diarrhea told me this this wasn’t just a bad tummy. This time, the vet x-rayed and kept her for the day. When I picked her up later in the evening, he showed me her films.

X-rays are such beautiful things. I love the bright white of bone, the architecture of Tula’s pelvis. The shadowy things can be as scary as ghosts if you try to figure out what you’re seeing without some help. But Dr. Turns showed me her gas-filled secum and tummy, and then the long ribbon of who-knows-what making its way through her colon. This is the source of her troubles. But since it is in the colon, it should come out soon. We’re to feed her in small servings at intervals, which makes her cry. She is hungry. Since this vomiting started she dropped from 49 to 46 pounds. And she’s also on new medicine to help the object make its way through her system. We had an episode like this once when she was a puppy: Vomiting and lots of gas that lasted two days. Finally, she vomited up four of my socks. We’re lucky she’s alive.

This morning, no vomiting, no diarrhea, but no object either. But I’m more optimistic now. Sixty-seven degrees will do that to you.