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THE NEW YORK TIMES, SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 24, 2006

Art Review / BENJAMIN GENOCCHIO

A Voyage in Bronze and Bamboo

“Arden Scott: Breaking the Line,” Anthony Giordano Gallery at Dowling College, Idle Hour Boulevard, Oakdale, through Oct. 8


 

 

 

 

There are only six works by the Long Island sculptor Arden Scott in the current show at Dowling College in Oakdale: four free-standing metal sculptures and a pair of mobiles made of bamboo, cloth, resin and other materials. But that is more than enough to make a formidable exhibition, for some of the pieces are quite large, and each has its own discrete beauty and charm.

Her environment provides much of the inspiration for her artwork, which most recently has centered on the creation of elegantly simplified sculptures of boats, canoes and other pleasure craft. These are what have been assembled here.

Ms. Scott’s free-standing metal sculptures, all dating from the last decade or so, are the stronger works in the exhibition, which is at the college’s Anthony Giordano Gallery. They are archetypal forms, little more than riblike frames that remind you of the skeletal remains of ancient sailing vessels recovered during archeological excavation. Even the titles evoke the misty-eyed Romanticism of the past. They have an undeniable nostalgia.

The most intriguing offering is “Infinite Pacifics” (2003), a canoelike structure 21 feet long made of narrow strips of welded bronze, lead and stones. Though its presence in the gallery is redoubtable, it has a quiet weightlessness, the work seeming to float on the floor. How does she achieve that quality?

Then there is the structural design, which is perfect. Ms. Scott knows all about boat-building; some years ago she built herself a 28-foot wooden schooner in which she likes to sail around Greenport.

She has also taught drawing and maritime literature on training voyages for Southampton College’s Seamaster program.

The artist also knows her way around welding equipment, for to make her metal sculptures she has cleanly and elegantly fitted together dozens of machine-rolled bronze and steel rods. She first heats the rods, then hammers them so they are less rigid and do not appear machine-made. Besides softening and loosening the line, that makes them look nicely weathered.

Other metal works look like sculptural drawings, the artist bending and twisting elongated pieces of steel to delineate the bare outline of a boat. They possess a near-effortless sense of composition, for the lines are always fluid, smooth and elegant.

An especially lovely work of this sort here is “Some Wednesday Afternoon” (2003), the first piece you see when entering the gallery.

The mobiles, or suspended sculptures, don’t engage the viewer with the same intensity as the freestanding metal sculptures; they look to me more like roughshod models of ancient sailing vessels.

One of them, “Strait North Beyond” (2000), has decorative oars and is somewhat reminiscent of the Phoenician round boat, a merchant and trading vessel used throughout the ancient world.

All this is no mere dilettantism. Looking at the works here, you get a sense that this small exhibition, as poetic as it is conceptual, is a concentrated meditation on world maritime history. For Ms. Scott, it is the artistic voyage that counts, not the destination.

“Arden Scott: Breaking the Line,” Anthony Giordano Gallery at Dowling College, Idle Hour Boulevard, Oakdale, through Oct. 8; (631) 244-3016 or www.dowling.edu.

 

 

 

© Arden Scott