Artist Julia Kottal, in Abstract Paintings, refers to the landscapes of her childhood, young adulthood and current day, inspired by abstract artists like Rothko, Diebenkorn and Clyfford Still. “Reaching back into memories of motor travel as a child with my dad, bare-bone backpacking through Europe as a young adult and my more sophisticated recent travels in adulthood further inspire my view of landscape. This collection of work reflects the curiosity that is ignited by this recurring iconic vista that I have traveled… or perhaps it foreshadows an impending dream.” Kottal is a Cedar Rapids resident.
In Juniper Tales, Works in Wood, artist Nancy Romalov explores the historical and mystical associations of the Juniper Tree as she creates works from this ancient wood. Romalov, an American Studies professor, came to woodworking later in life and has received accolades for her unusual and creative ideas. “In making furniture, I have always been interested in the narrative of the wood. Where is it from? What place has it had in the cultures in which it thrives? My Women’s Studies background leads me to ask particular kinds of questions about my place in this mostly male world of woodworking. In putting together this show-- in which I pay tribute to the wonders of the juniper tree, and my relationship to it-- I realized that several threads of my variegated history are woven together through the stories of each piece.” The pieces included in this show are the Juniper Tree Hat Rack, Wildhorse Will Music Stand, Fish Forest Sculpture and Hall Table with Stones. Romalov is an Iowa City resident.
Background on The Juniper Tree, by Nancy Romalov:
Of the more than 200 tales collected by the brothers Grimm, perhaps none is more horrific than this one. For good reason it is absent in any fairy tale anthology for children, but it has long inspired artists as well as folklore analysts (for example, Philip Glass’s 1985 opera by the same name.) I have been fascinated with this tale ever since my graduate studies in German when my master’s thesis led me into a study of the famous fairy tales. More recently, I incorporated this tale in a university course I taught on “Feminism and Fairy Tales.” My students were less taken than I in the restorative powers of the juniper tree and understandably got hung up on the cannibalism and gore of the story. There have been many interesting commentaries on this tale, ranging from an examination of the shamanistic elements to the cultural meanings of evil step-mothers. For me, however, it is crucial to the meaning of this story that the tree is a juniper—so crucial that the story as a whole is named after it. The tree’s German name, “Wacholder” comes from Old High German, loosely translated as meaning the “awake tree’, i.e. the tree that is a guardian on watch, acting as intermediary between the living and the dead, between the humans and the invisible spirit world. It is in the spirit of the “awake tree” that I made “Juniper Hat Rack”, adding a whimsical touch that is not suggested in the tale. In the story, the mother and son find solace under the juniper, a place where they “hang their cares.” My hat tree should also be a place to come home, a tree that offers support for whatever one wants to hang there.