SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

June 20, 2013

Finding balance

Danvers gallery/studio celebrates 40 years of sculpture

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — Whether Michael Guadagno is creating a sculpture or founding a school and gallery, the process is the same.

“You tap into your inner self,” said Guadagno. “And that’s really very simple.”

That’s what he teaches his students, and that’s how he got the idea for the Barn Workshop Gallery on Maple Street in Danvers, which will host a 40th anniversary sculpture show starting June 23.

“The concept was in my head of a studio and gallery,” he said. “That’s been a 40-years process. We had to do a lot of work, interior and exterior.”

The exhibit will feature sculptures by Guadagno and 28 other sculptors he has invited and will be held partly on the grounds around the Barn Workshop and inside its gallery.

An equal number of works will also be displayed inside and on the lawn surrounding the Peabody Institute Library at Danvers.

“I wanted to have a great mix of abstract and representation, but I wanted to have very good quality work, in terms of people that have national and international exposure,” Guadagno said. “I want to have people that have (the) structural quality I’m looking for, structural composition, aesthetics. That’s an overriding theme with me.”

The creative process draws from many different sources, Guadagno said, but the best ideas ultimately come from nature.

“Nature is a wonderful resource for imagery, concepts, ideas,” he said.

Nature also provides the best examples of how things should be put together, so that they will communicate with students and viewers.

“Nature is a great teacher for aesthetics,” Guadagno said. “Everything in nature is very balanced, very structured, and it’s natural, so we respond to that. The language of aesthetics is communicated in all of us.”

The traditional language of aesthetics includes basic elements such as composition, color, arrangement, contrast and balance, he said.

As an example of the latter, Guadagno pointed to one of his sculptures, “Balance,” which suspends three partially glazed ceramic ovals in a rectangular aluminum frame.

“All the elements that are part of the sculpture are in balance with each other, just like a human being, a system,” he said.

When our bodies and spirits are in balance, Guadagno said, we feel good, and art affects us in the same way.

While the title of “Balance” simply describes what the sculpture expresses, Guadagno would prefer not to name it at all.

That’s because names can interfere with the viewer’s perception of a work, distracting from its presence as a unique, sensual creation.

In contrast to conceptual sculptures, which substitute ideas and messages for aesthetic experience, viewers are invited to touch Guadagno’s sculptures, to feel their textures and surfaces.

One piece can even be strummed like a musical instrument, while another is kinetic, spinning with the wind while casting rays of light from colored glass.

Many different types of sculpture will be displayed in the anniversary exhibit, but they will all share Guadagno’s commitment to the sensual language of traditional aesthetics.

A few of the guest sculptors have been affiliated with Barn Workshop Gallery since the beginning, when Guadagno founded it with four other artists he had known as an undergraduate or in a master’s program at Tufts.

“We had an organization,” Guadango said. “It was a bunch of friends getting together.”

Local artists affiliated with the Barn Workshop Gallery have been part of a vibrant arts scene on the North Shore, especially in the ’70s and ’80s, and often showed their work at Old Town Hall in Salem as part of the Salem Arts Colloquium or in galleries at Montserrat College of Art or at Salem State.

The workshop always served as both gallery space, where artists could exhibit in Christmas shows, shows of women artists and shows featuring works for $50 or less, and as a studio where they could teach classes.

Sculpture, ceramics, macrame, basket-weaving and other arts and crafts have all been taught there over the years, at times to as many as 100 students per week.

“The environment was an exhibit of artwork, so the students were influenced by what they saw and how they did it,” Guadagno said. “It was a unique concept. It’s not just a gallery; it was a school, so the two were combined at all levels.”

If you go

What: Celebrating the Art of Sculpture

When: June 23 to Sept. 13

Where: Indoor/outdoors at Barn Workshop Gallery, 245 Maple St., Danvers, and Peabody Institute Library, 15 Sylvan St., Danvers.

Information: Visit www.barnworkshop.com, or call 978-774-3042, or visit www.danverslibrary.org or call 978-774-0554.