There he stands, in orange hued suspenders and sunglasses, Gingo, the life size woven wicker avatar of Dylan Spaysky, welcoming one and all to “Gingo & Sticks,” the artist’s latest exhibition at What Pipeline gallery. Gingo, per Pipeline, “refers to the name of Spaysky’s childhood imaginary friend who inhabited the form of Mickey Mouse. Sticks refers to the materials used in his latest carvings.” Gingo, with an upraised arm, like a barker, or expansive host, and his trusty carved foam mascot Mickey Mouse, are surrounded by a trove of wall mounted “sticks” featuring a cohort of familiar images of childhood (Donald Duck), summer revels (sunglasses, flip flops), celebrities (Melania Trump), and fauna (dog, cat, duck, bear).
Ringing the confines of What Pipeline’s modest space (think two-car garage), Spaysky’s nine lean, hand-carved, painted reliefs, measuring 10 – 48 inches in height, elicit a range of responses, from tender and sweet to sad and humorous to cute and demented. Each “stick,” harvested by the artist from the debris of tree trimmers on Belle Isle, bears, at its apex, a mini-sculpture, as if resting on a pedestal, but is in fact integral with its supporting branch. Perhaps some might recall a summer camp memory when the arts & crafts instructor suggested scouring the woods for twisty, knobby branches that evoked a face, contorted figure, or monster. Or of sticks serving as wands or cudgels raised aloft, though the import here seems rather more benign—and sophisticated.
One stick-pedestal bears a pair of red, upright Sunglasses, and another, the curled hand of a Backscratcher, and both are glammed up, respectively, with a dusting of glittery nail polish on lenses and thumbnail.
Animals, both real and imaginary also materialize, including a Duck, its back turned to the spectator (as if shyly paddling or flying away?); a diminutive brown bear (Smokey?) squatting on its haunches atop a tall, thin paint roller handle (a faux “stick,” admittedly), perhaps to suggest a lofty mountain peak; and the melting visage of Donald Duck who, with a mad gleam in his eye, appears over-animated. (In Disney World patter Mickey is sweet and Donald obstreperous.) Titled Dolan Stick (Dylan?), perhaps he embodies another imaginary friend of the artist-sculptor. Spaysky’s finessing of detail is evident in the tiny Shinola leather tassel of Donald’s cap, and his carving chops obvious in the adroit accommodation of the hole in the wood that extends from mouth through eye and top of head.
Looming at the crest of a rough-hewn limb Melania [Trump], at 7 ½ in., is the tallest of Gingo’s stick toppers. Spaysky’s replica of the inscrutable Melania is based on a larger than life linden wood effigy unveiled only a month ago by a notable chainsaw artisan in her native Slovenia. She wears her inaugural Alice-blue dress, and raises one arm in greeting, as if echoing, or returning the gesture of Gingo’s broad, expansive wave. Spaysky acknowledges that the appearance of the “original” Melania on a hilltop in Slovenia was like a serendipitous apparition just as he was in the midst of fabricating images for his show. And that he now had the chance to carve a wood copy of a wood original is not beside the point either.
Spaysky’s deft and meticulous wood working facility strikes a high/low point in Flip Flops, both in its heft and canny floor hugging footprint in lieu of wall mounting. It is in fact a two-by-four plank at one end of which neon green flip flops jut out, paralleling the flat footed board from which they extrude. Its placement in the gallery, slightly off to the side and arguably the last object a viewer might take note of, seems akin to drawing a line in the sand to underscore the artist’s ongoing rapport with what his eye fancies.
Detroiter Spaysky, a graduate of College for Creative Studies, and a prolific maker, has exhibited nonstop since 2007, most recently in Detroit in “Blobject” at Center Galleries in 2018. There and elsewhere, his penchant for converting an array of common objects and cast off materials into idiosyncratic artifacts has been his forte. In “Gingo & Sticks,” however, his unorthodox ways and means center on–sticks, carving, serial format, and spare presentation–the results of which Gingo beckons visitors to review. For indeed, within the snug gallery a roomy world opens up as Spaysky’s sculptures tack from global icons of yore (Disney et al.) to newfangled models (a contemporary diva in blue) and, in between, to the droll vernacular of dog, cat, backscratcher, and more!
So, plan to schedule a visit to “Dylan Spaysky” and Gingo at What Pipeline between now and August 24, on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 1 – 6 p.m., or by appointment.