Passion for art helps reunite father, child

Pair teams up for a gallery exhibit

May 14, 2002|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

Orazio and Artemisia Gentileschi may have been the first famous father-daughter team of artists, but that was way back during the 17th century in Italy.

Today, the tradition is carried on in Baltimore by R.G. Book and his offspring, Darsie Book, whose show at Mount Washington's Beveled Edge Gallery is a family reunion that brings the art of father and daughter together after years of separation.

Book pere is a sculptor whose meticulously crafted works of wood, metal and stone are all permutations of the skeletal structure of the human spine.

It's a theme he adopted partly in response to his own experience as a youth, when he underwent a delicate surgical operation to rectify a congenital back disorder.

His sculptures, which take the form of a central arc from which cunningly wrought rib-like forms radiate outward into space, create the illusion of great mass and solidity despite their minimalist structures. They remind one of the light yet tough skeletons of aircraft or boats - or of human beings.

Darsie Book, 20, is a painter and second-year student at the Maryland Institute College of Art, where she has been creating diminutive photomontages, waxed-paper prints and paper sculptures as well as oil paintings.

Darsie had lived with her mother, who is also an artist, in California since her parents separated when she was 3. During much of that time she saw her father only rarely.

The opportunity for a reunion - both domestic and artistic - arose 1 1/2 years ago when Darsie, then a student at the California College of Arts and Crafts, decided she wanted to come east.

"It was time," she recalled thinking. "I thought it would be interesting to live in the city where I was born, and also to reconnect with my father. And, of course, a big part of it was that MICA is here. So it seemed like everything coincided to make it the right time, even though the decision itself was really quite spontaneous."

As might be expected, the younger Book's art is not as well-defined as her father's, evidence that there's still lots of experimentation going on with different approaches in various media.

She betrays her prolonged stay in the West, for example, in a charming montage of 24 Polaroid landscape photos of cactus and desert, each photo about the size of a playing card. The pictures cling to the frame by virtue of small refrigerator magnets attached to their backs; this allows viewers to lift them off the wall and rearrange the grid however they choose.

Darsie designed this piece to be interactive. There is no "right" way to arrange the grid and, unlike most artworks, the photographs invite the viewer's touch. Even the small marks of handling left by the imprint of repeated use are meant to be part of the image's expressiveness.

Also on view from Darsie are paintings based on autobiographical incidents, small works on paper that have been dipped in beeswax, and diminutive paper sculptures that also have been stitched with thread and stiffened with wax.

As a father-daughter exhibition, this show is easy on the eye and quite heartfelt. It runs through June 30. The gallery is at 5909 Falls Road. Hours are Monday through Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 410-435-1427.

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