The Herald-Sun


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View a mix of the arts in downtown Durham by Blue Greenberg


Apr 28, 2002


"Roger P. Halligan: cement drawings; Kelly Popoff: oils on panel; and "Resonance in 3 D: Ursula Goebels-Ellis, Kristin Gudjonsdottir and Dawn Stetzel," Durham Art Guild, through May 12.


"Collaborations in Color: Group Quilts by New Horizon Quilters," Durham Arts Council, through April 29.


Roger Halligan embeds found objects in his cement slabs, which he calls drawings. They also remind the viewer of the roadside altars placed by the devout for the occasional traveler.


In his gallery statement, Halligan notes that these smaller pieces are a restful change from his large-scale sculpture. They also allow him the opportunity for a good pun. For instance, "Ribbon Cutting" includes a pair of scissors nestled at the crossing of a painted pink ribbon. In another one, a small black ball settles deep in its slab under the title, "Blackballed," and in "Arms Length," a reproduction of the armless "Venus de Milo" shares the surface with a male and female satyr battling it out under the rubric "Arms Length."


Halligan is also not above editorializing. In "Superior Model 150," there is a small model of Michelangelo's "Pieta" and a newspaper clipping that quotes a spokesman of the Vatican, who declares that other "beliefs are defective and inferior."


I have never seen his large sculpture, but these small pieces have piqued my interest.


Kelly Popoff elongates her figures and works them into a thick impastoed surface. Her titles help us to follow her whimsical themes. For example, in "Everyone Grows Up," a cityscape floats in the background while the figures of a mother and a little girl also defy gravity. One of the buildings has windows filled with yellowish lights, which turn out to be tiny collaged images of such famous faces as Einstein and Franklin Roosevelt. The composition also includes animals that seem to stand on top of each other and a child whose flapping arms help her levitate through the ambiguous space. Popoff charms us with her characters and their delightful world.


Sculptors Ursula Goebels-Ellis, Kristin Gudjonsdottir and Dawn Stetzel have joined forces to mount a three-person exhibit called "Resonance in 3D." Goebels-Ellis works in clay, sometime with a low, earthenware glaze and sometimes adding a high-fire glaze to the same piece. Most of the pieces are ceramic spheres that she handbuilds.


Sometimes, Goebel-Ellis arranges the spheres on platforms of sand. At other times, she combines them with war relics that she has found, like gun shell cases. In her tour de force "Im Westen Nichts Neues: Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970)," she has fashioned dozens of spheres and piled them into a large glass case. Goebels-Ellis works with a technique of precision, and the cracks she produces in her otherwise perfect orbs relate them to nature and its mysteries.

Gudjonsdottir is from Iceland and writes in her gallery statement that she returned to her native country to make connections with her past. In a visit to a family farm, she found old farm machines that had been reworked many times in order to keep them operational. She said that visiting her native land and finding out that her ancestors had to recycle everything has made her more aware of the importance of renewing our natural resources. Some of her work resembles old farm machinery, and her materials are clay and recycled glass.


Fertility II

While she continues with her recycled materials, her pedestal pieces show other influences. These heavy balls with their spiked glass projections look like sea mines that might explode on contact.


Stetzel is the third artist of the trio, and she combines ordinary materials to make site-specific sculptures. In one piece, she attaches air-filled bags made of plastic and string to the windows of the gallery; in another, she uses chicken wire to make a mobile of see-through balls.


These five artists use different media in a variety of ways. The work is excellent. Make a point to get to downtown Durham to take a look.


While you are in the building, visit the Semans Gallery upstairs to see the fabric show by the New Horizon Quilters. Using the famous painters Manet, Vlaminck, Picasso and Van Gogh, and a signature painting from each as a beginning, they create similar compositions from stitchery and fabric. This is a very talented group, and even a quick look will convince you of that.


Blue Greenberg's Art column appears each week in The Arts. Blue can be reached at or by writing her in c/o The Herald-Sun, P.O. Box 2092, Durham, NC 27702.