In Rebecca Welz’s recent sculpture series, the sculptor reflects on the global phenomena of people who have been displaced from their homes due to a wide range of hardships—political, economic, climate change. The steel structures in her Displacement series represents a quest for safety and belonging. This body of work is featured at the June Kelly Gallery through January 4th, 2022.
What is the genesis of this exhibition?
I was in Guatemala a few years ago collaborating with a jewelry maker. I designed a silver cuff bracelet with 19 houses on it to signify the number of times I have moved from childhood through adulthood. It was a poignant experience to put my history into form. When back in my studio I started making houses out of steel. Reflecting on my own history as an Air Force brat and part of a family that moved a lot, made me see that I always had a place to go to call home. The houses changed but the objects inside stayed the same and were placed in different configurations. Observing the impact of pulling up roots and resettling so many times led me to consider, unlike my family, those who are forced to move.
The Displacement series is a tribute to the millions of people who have been displaced from their homes due to political unrest, tyranny, genocide, economic hardship, famine, and lack of resources in their native countries. Many people are forced to leave their homes as a last resort for survival without knowing if and when they will ever have the security of a home. The steel houses symbolize the sanctuary of four walls and the security of a roof overhead. They represent different lives, places, and times in the quest for safety and a sense of belonging.
Please guide us through the show.
The exhibition consists of freestanding steel houses of different sizes and colors. There are also strands of connected houses suspended from the ceiling. The houses are like archetypal line drawings. The line quality is expressive of various forces that can distort be they forces of nature, time or human emotions. The sculpture is made of hard, straight, round steel rods of varying thicknesses. The steel is heated with an oxy-acetylene torch so that it can be bent and kinked and curved. The pieces appear light but they have the weight of steel. This is the first time I have used color in my sculpture since 2010. The colors are vibrant and alive. The work has been sandblasted and painted, blackened or powder coated.
Against the wall is a group of large linear vine like structures with irregular circular elements that loop up the central stems. These are abstract and full of energy and movement. There is also a large steel sculpture with a dense ball of linear steel curved under and over in a combination of curves sending up soft looking vertical stems. This piece is creamy white.
Another floor piece rests on mangrove like roots and sends up arms that are dancing and growing. There are tendrils of steel that wrap and spiral to support the structure.
Lastly, is a large wall piece inspired by aerial views of landscape and rivers, roads and paths. It is drawn with steel and parts of it feel like tree forms. There is fine wire wrapped around some of the steel giving it another texture and a sense of time and journey.
These pieces are inspired by natural wonders and ecological processes that combine to give us biodiversity and about the hand that humans have in sustaining or destroying our biodiversity. This work grows out of the knowledge of the fragility of our planet, meshing nature and the impact that we have on our environment.
My process is completely intuitive, as if I had a piece of charcoal in my hand and was drawing curves of varying kinds, around and under and over. The making is an additive process, bending piece upon piece, attaching one to another until form is made. The intuitive and random nature of this building process gives the impression that there are no beginnings and no ends to the lines. These are three dimensional drawings that can be seen through and around on all sides.
Born in Sausalito, California, Rebecca spent her early life moving to many different places. She landed in New York City and has lived there longer than any other location. She has a welding studio in Long Island City, NY. Rebecca Welz’s work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout the United States, including the Grace Borgenicht Gallery in New York City; the Oakland Museum in California; the Heckscher Museum in Huntington, New York; the Butters Gallery in Portland, Oregon; the SciArt Center in Easton, Pennsylvania; the Cherrystone Gallery in Wellfleet, Massachusetts; and Sculpturesite Gallery, San Francisco. She has received grants from the Pollock Krasner Foundation, the Pratt Institute Faculty Development Fund and the E.D. Foundation. Currently she is a faculty member at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY where she teaches undergraduate as well as graduate students.
Displacement by Rebecca Welz at June Kelly Gallery 166 Mercer St, NY, NY 10012