SEDRO-WOOLLEY — Communing with nature takes on many forms. For some, it is a spiritual endeavor; for others, it can be mental or even physical. The sights, sounds and smells of the great outdoors can be an uplifting and overwhelming experience.
Seattle artist Gary Carpenter relishes the outdoors. He spent 15 years living in — and exploring — Skagit County. Those experiences sculpted him not only as an an individual, but as an artist.
While on the banks of the Skagit River in unincorporated Sedro-Woolley, he attempted to grasp and put into physical forms what could not be said in words.
Carpenter managed to capture his interpretation of that fleeting stitch in time in a series of works in different mediums. He was “fueled by a lot of time alone in nature and readings in philosophy, poetry and the sciences.”
One of those works is an 8-by-10-foot low relief pounded copper wall piece titled “Emerging Dialogue.” Consisting of two large panels, the work hangs prominently inside Sedro-Woolley’s City Hall. Set upon a wood frame, the piece appears to float within its space.
“I used different tools and pounded from the back, because I wanted to give it the appearance of emerging texture,” Carpenter said. “There are all sorts of textures in nature — bark, plant life, decay — there is just so much activity under the surface. That is why all the action comes from the back. It gives the piece a sense of everything emerging.
“Copper has always intrigued me. It allows for another form of interpretation. Because copper is so malleable, actions are much more immediate. Then I used a chemical to get the patina.”
The work is the first official installation by the burgeoning Arts Council of Sedro-Woolley and was part of Carpenter’s Master of Fine Arts thesis at the University of Washington. He has been involved in art for about 30 years.
“Where the other sculptures took months and months to arrive at a mutually agreeable concept, and then create the work, this one was part of my MFA thesis work so it was not specifically commissioned for this space,” Carpenter said.
“I think that’s why I’m so excited about this piece. This is my personal work that is being displayed in a public venue rather than a negotiated concept that suits a specific project. It really does seem like it was made specifically for that spot.”
Elizabeth Fernando, president of the Arts Council of Sedro-Woolley, beamed as she introduced Carpenter and his work at Tuesday’s official unveiling.
“We are so excited to be able to facilitate this,” she said. “It’s a beautiful piece. There is just something striking about it. It is such a good fit for this space.”
Art is about interpretation as well as perception. Carpenter’s work lends itself to that ideal as the two symmetrical panels possibly mimic bark from a tree or pages in a book. It is up to the viewer’s perspective.
“It has the appearance of language,” he said. “It’s the conversation I have with nature that I really can’t put language to. It is all about perception. You have to discover by exploration. Anyone who sees this piece can bring their own story and assign their own meaning.”
A full-time lecturer at the University of Washington’s Bothell campus, Carpenter teaches drawing as well as public art. He said he was pleased to have the opportunity to gift his piece to the Arts Council of Sedro-Woolley.
“It’s great to have something displayed in the Skagit Valley,” he said. “I lived here for 15 years and I went through some tough times. I always had great support from the people in this area.
“It’s great to be able to give something back. It’s important to me because I love this area. I love the connection to nature and the connection with people. I have a lot of friends here and now there is a local place for them to view my work.”