Sylvan Forms

March 31 - July 8, 2012

The word ‘sylvan’ — relating to or characteristic of the woods or forest; made, shaped, or formed of woods or trees — describes the congruence of the apparently divergent work of the two Vermont artists presented in this exhibit. Michael Foster of Springfield sculpts wood to express the beauty of mathematical and scientific concepts, and the patterns of minute life forms revealed by electron microscopy. Peru resident David Utiger’s drawings of New England forests and fields reference both his personal spirituality and the innate spirituality of the forested landscape.

Michael Foster’s artistic passion is wood turning, which he began in 1989 shortly after completing dental school. Following a 20-year career with the Indian Health Service, which took him to South Dakota, New York, Arizona, Colorado, and Alaska, Foster and his family moved to his wife’s ancestral farm in Springfield, where he continues to practice dentistry. In a barn that he converted into a wood-turning shop, he creates sculptures of wood cut from the family’s land or bought from exotic-wood dealers.

Sylvan Forms features pieces from three of Foster’s recent series, “minimal surfaces,” “diatoms,” and “Fibonacci.” Compelled to realize in wood the complex, symmetrical forms he encounters in his readings on astronomy, physics, and biology, Foster creates a unique amalgam of science, nature, and art.

David Utiger’s mixed media drawings represent a stylized vision of Northeastern woodland and farmland vistas. He develops natural forms with tiny dots and lines of black ink on white illustration board then colors them with watercolor or acrylic washes. In many drawings, his method and compositional structure give the effect of numerous transparent layers, one over another, describing forests fading deep into the distance. Particularly suggestive in this way are Gothic Spires and Cathedral; both recede from a foreground of large, well-defined tree trunks and branches to an increasingly divided and subdivided background filled with small renditions of the trees, the colors becoming diffuse and atmospheric. In Memories of Finland, this effect of receding depth combines with the black and white of hundreds of birch trees, creating an almost abstract pattern of sinewy, snake-like vertical forms.

Utiger’s trees reference ancient and subliminal comparisons of plant form with human form — roots, feet; trunk, torso; limbs, arms; twigs, fingers. The crown of the tree is akin to the head and hair of a person. We see this anthropomorphism in Sugarbush and Meander, where the trees have such character, they look as though they might walk… or dance!

— Susan Calabria, Curator

Sylvan Forms is one of six concurrent exhibits that explore our physical and metaphorical relationship with trees — seen for millennia as botanical analogues for human life, spiritual touchstones, and expressions of family connectivity.


March 31 – Members’ Opening Reception & Champagne Brunch

Michael Foster website
David Utiger website