Etchings create art from bark and branches

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The etchings of Scott Kieffer, currently on exhibit at Expressions Graphics, are beautifully detailed. The etching process creates a grainy black and white image similar to newsprint, which serves to accentuate the artist's interest in texture. He's particularly fond of rendering trees, often in wintertime, when he can really capture the texture of the bark and the crooked, tangled lines of tree branches.

Kieffer's tree etchings include "Winter Sleep," "Two Willows," and "Walnut Grove," a particularly fascinating example because the walnut tree is caught off center at the right edge of the canvas. Its nearness to the viewer is contrasted with the faded imagery on the left, which includes the distant outline of a tree, and, even farther away, the suggestion of a house.

On a branch of the walnut tree is a squirrel eating a nut. We normally think of a squirrel as a small creature, but on the canvas it appears much larger than the house. Its fuzzy body and fluffy tail are intricately detailed and provide a striking contrast to the heavily textured tree bark. This is further contrasted to the more distant imagery, which is vague and completely lacking in texture.

"River Roots" is another study of texture and pattern. The tree, viewed from above, has an odd, foreshortened appearance, making the texture of the bark vague, while providing a privileged view of the tangle of tree roots crawling along the ground. In between these strands of root is a pattern of pebbles and rocks, varied by the inclusion of fallen branches. The background is formed by the river itself, sporting the texture of water rippling. While this clearly isn't a winter scene, like many of the other tree etchings, the downward view serves to emphasize the trunk. The few leaves visible along the top of the canvas are richly rendered.

In addition to trees, Kieffer takes an interest in animals, particularly his own cat, the subject in "Window Cat" and "Teen Cat." "Window Cat," is a little too perfectly centered and stiff, and fails to come to life. "Teen Cat," however, is a beautifully conceived close-up of the cat's face. We can see, by the ribbon entangled in its legs, that it was just playing. But, like a feline Mona Lisa, its eyes seem to follow the viewer, appearing distracted by our entrance. The smooth whiteness of the cat's whiskers traverse the canvas and are a startling contrast to the fuzzy, tiger-striped fur. The artist's attention to detail is further apparent in his careful rendering of the fur trimming the cat's ears and the sparkle in its eyes.

Kieffer's prints will be on exhibit for the remainder of the month at Expressions Graphics, 29 Harrison St. Gallery hours are Thursday through Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. In addition to exhibits, Expressions Graphics also has a printmaking studio, available to the public on Sundays, and classes in art and printmaking for children and adults. Kieffer teaches copper etching. For more information, call 386-3552.

?#34;Anna Poplawska

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