Baran Mickle

Bill Baran Mickle Metalsmith 98110

Metalsmith Spring 1991 (Solo show review)

William Baran-Mickle
Arnot Art Museum, Elmira, NY
September – October, 1990
by Ron Netsky

AII of William Baran-Mickle’s pieces comment in some way on the forces of nature. In these works, he displays not only a concern for the environment but also a consideration of human beings’ place in the greater scheme of things. The pieces on display range from literal interpretations of natural forms to more conceptual works. Even the most representational pieces go far beyond mere mimesis and, refreshingly, Baran- Mickle’s conceptual works are not at all inaccessible.

Continental Drift, brass, wood, paint, carved and painted, forged formed, engraved, patinated, 12 x 25.75 x 13.5″

River: Cadence employs a striking combination of brass, bronze, nickel silver and sterling silver in an evocative sculpture of a waterfall. It is not complexity of form that makes this piece so arresting, since the work is surprisingly austere. The form itself manages to effectively convey the undulations of earth, rock and water. Not the least of its interesting aspects is the manner in which the piece turns from flowing horizontal to more turbulent vertical in a manner that suggests a bent human torso. When we see the reflective surface of these waterfalls and the textures of the rock cores, we must, at least subconsciously, consider the earth’s pockets of metals and the minerals suspended in water. We know the works are scaled representations, but the fact that they are composed of metals rather than wood or even clay makes for a more immediate relationship of material to content.

Continental Drift is perhaps the most complex manifestation of Baran-Mickle’s theme, combining associations of navigational instruments: an exploded world globe, the hull, masts, and sails of a vessel, and petroglyphs from all corners of the globe. While the sail shapes seem to be indicative of the drifting continents, the petroglyphs signify a unity of human culture that metaphorically brings together the land masses that separated eons ago. All of the above elements are balanced over a purposefully crude, painted ocean of waves. The result conjures up visions of a world out of balance and adrift despite, or because of, the progress of humans.

River Cadence, brass, bronze, nickel silver, sterling silver, marble base, formed, fabricated, 15 x 12 x 18″

In his artist’s statement, Baran-Mickle says his recent focus has been a dual image unified by an overriding form. Canyon Song contains a tension that takes Baran-Mickle’s concept a step farther. Here, there is a clear implication of two halves of a structure that was once whole. The V-shaped outer form seemingly remains standing only because of a series of rods that span its length, preventing it from toppling. The smooth, fluid exterior is effectively contrasted by the combination of the three oxidized metals that form a rough, disturbed surface in the center. In Overlook, the chasm is between two nude bodies, a male and female, both headless. What can be seen as the overriding form here is a bricklike – therefore manmade – structure partially surrounding the figures, which contours to the bodies as perfectly as the organic materials that seem to be oozing between them. The piece can be interpreted as an exploration of constructions of civilization encroaching upon and limiting the more natural aspects of human relationships.
Ron Netsky chairs the Art Department at Nazareth College and is art critic for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

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