Abstractions That Accumulate Meaning

PAINTER and sculptor Lee Waisler works with deceptively simple abstract shapes. He says the shapes are almost always representational, referring to some object in our world. Indeed, the viewer's mind reads into Waisler's evocative paintings and sculptures such things as human figures, shelters, weapons, and vast horizons.Waisler says the shapes he uses come to him in dreams fully formed and then he experiments by using and reusing them. He slightly alters them in each successive work of art, so that an abstract shape accumulates complex meanings over time. The "Ploughshare" series features a jagged crescent form, which resembles a half moon or the curved blade of a scythe. In one canvas, the shape can cut a startling, eerie, red streak into Waisler's elegant backgrounds and leave the viewer with a tangible sense of danger and foreboding. In another canvas, the wedge suggests a benign tool for tilling the soil. Without ever painting any image that we can actually pinpoint or recognize, Waisler communicates - with quiet irony - the notion that modern man has subverted the Biblical aphorism "swords into ploughshares," turning nearly every tool into an instrument of warfare. It is always difficult to discuss the specific "meaning" of abstract art, and Waisler's work is no exception. By its very nature, abstract art is intended to be open-ended, allowing the viewer the greatest freedom to find his or her own meaning. Letting the viewer decide his own content is very much part of Waisler's concern as an artist. Waisler works with acrylic pigments augmented with finely ground glass in his paintings. The glass makes the surfaces and backgrounds shimmer mysteriously, appearing to recede infinitely, like deep, endless space. As Waisler will tell you, in medieval times glass and the mirror stood for alchemy, magic, the unknown, a suspension of reality, a place other than the here and now. In Renaissance art, the mirror often stood for a divine unpalpable presence, for transformation, the infinite and unfathomable. Just as his use of glass carries specific meaning for the artist, his other favorite materials - wood and sand - also play an intentional role. These materials counterbalance the shimmery glass and come off as hard, durable, and concrete. Wood and sand suggest earth, nature, objects crafted with the hand, growth, time, and geology, all concepts very much linked to our day-to-day world of finite time and place. "My hope is to not force the viewer to any point of view or to any conclusion," Waisler says. "Rather, just by the way I choose and work my materials, by consciously making art that combines visual and conceptual opposites and invites participation and thought, I hope to suggest that in everything there is a merger between earth and spirit, hand and mind, the tangible and the intangible. "Neither pole ever stands alone and if you really interact with my work emotionally and intellectually, this comes through loud and clear."

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