See This Art: Threading uncommon beauty at Austin's Lydia Street Gallery
In a mere photograph, it's not easy to capture the liquid beauty of Amy Scofield's suspended sculpture, "Topo Chihu."
Seen at the still-new Lydia Street Gallery, it bristles with light. Scofield has manipulated greenish plastic bottles into explosive patterns and attached them to a horizontal metal carriage.
The mind wanders to deep undersea creatures caught in a trap; their transparency makes them all the more vulnerable. It does not take long, however, to see the actual material nature as potentially destructive. If washed out to the sea, these tangles of plastic and metal could do real harm to underwater beasts.
In "Amy Scofield: "Un/Common Thread," the artist chooses some materials of extraordinary delicacy, others of muscular durability. At first, the art seems to overwhelm the narrow front room, until you are told that there's a second space in Deanna Miesch's gallery, which opened in January.
(Miesch retains a third room at Lydia and Juniper streets as her personal studio.)
Creation story: Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, Miesch was eating at a local Thai joint, when she got this fortune cookie: "Now is a great time to open a gallery." Miesch, who practices art therapy, could not ignore a prophecy so specific and personal.
In that gallery, suspended near "Topo Chihu," is a more demure grouping of greenish plastic hung on multiple filaments. It, too, conjures up snared sea creatures.
Scofield is particularly good at threading and dangling things. For "Trickled," she hangs small white cardboard boxes, some punctured or divided, on strings of chrome beads. I'd be temped to use it as a mod room divider, but the boxes look fragile.
Find some of Scofield's darker, heavier stuff in the next room.
For "La Tornade," she wraps rubber tire tread around thin pieces of lumber, as if we were seeing the aftermath of a wind storm. For "Urchins," smooth lengths of rubber form what looks like a mask, into which the artist has fixed spiky metal cylinders that could be auto parts. I imagined this as a full-facial crown of thorns.
The same materials come into play in "Asteroid," a big ball of bunched rubber with just a few of those steel spikes poking out at you.
Delicacy returns for suspended rings wrapped in red cord, also for a snake-like tendril of what looks like old vine curling around a cone that extrudes into a light mesh sack that holds three tiny stones. Other pieces recall outdated technology, or predict technology that hasn't been invented yet.
Back in the front room, for "Acid Rain," Scofield stirs up a bundle of aging metal ribbons from which she hangs curls of new copper wiring. Her most elegant and fragile work in this show resembles an oversized and complicated copper necklace decorated with tiny copper leaves. I could stare at it for a long time.
The artist includes some bold prints, but I hesitated a little at the title, "Endangered Austin," applied to a 2007 series of digital prints of local landmarks. Only two of the eight spots, Las Manitas Avenue Cafe and what looks like an old Dillo trolley-shaped bus, went away for very different reasons. Indeed, 2007 was when we lost the beloved Tex-Mex cafe Las Manitas, where the powerful and the powerless sat side by side on Congress Avenue. The other spots hardly seem endangered in 2021.
Scofield has a tremendous eye for objects or materials that others might not notice, and she couples that sensibility with a talent for combining them in ways that endow them with entirely new personalities and meanings.
Michael Barnes writes about the people, places, culture and history of Austin and Texas. He can be reached at email@example.com.
If you go
"Amy Scofield: "Un/Common Thread" continues noon to 5 p.m., or by appointment, through June 24 at Lydia Street Gallery, 1200 E. 11th St., No. 109, LydiaStreetGallery,com, 512-524-1051.