Unexpected Destinations

New work by Lori Goodman at Piante

Our experiences shape us, and we all have different ways of processing and sharing them. Some of us blog about travel or culinary discoveries, some compile photo albums, others prefer telling anecdotes around the water cooler. Whatever the vehicle, this kind of sharing is an important part of how we connect with others and to the world at large.

It also allows us to see the world from different perspectives.

Lori Goodman’s exhibition of new work, “More Journeys,” at Eureka’s Piante gallery is, in a sense, a catalog of experience. Goodman draws upon adventures and observations, directly and indirectly, to fuel her art. Her travels around the world, and around our county, are distilled in her abstract, mixed media sculptural work. Using handmade paper and techniques she has honed over the last 30 years, Goodman offers the viewer a glimpse of her distinctive, often surprising, perspective.

“People ask me what the work is about and I rarely know. All I know is what I do. I do a lot of hiking and a lot of traveling and a lot of looking,” Goodman said. Curiosity is often a catalyst. “I love to see how things are done,” Goodman explained, “I’m fascinated with process,” whether that’s how they thatch a roof in a Mayan village or how they make cheese in the Himalayas. Processes like these fascinate Goodman, in part, because of their often-overlooked sophistication. She is drawn primarily to techniques shaped by necessity. It’s the interconnectedness of practice, culture and environment that she finds intriguing – that she internalizes and strives to capture in her own process and product.

Most often, her work comes out of an accumulation of experiences. They gather and distill then surface in her work in unanticipated, unplanned ways. “I don’t come home [from a trip] and make something … I let it fester,” Goodman laughed.

Her triggers are usually natural and her work often feels organic in form. The sculptures are certainly abstract, but due in part to these natural influences many of Goodman’s pieces feel simultaneously foreign and familiar. Some of the sculptures in “More Journeys” have handmade paper surfaces suggestive of stretched hide or husks and pod-like shapes.

As in nature, there is also a great deal of formal repetition. But this repetition doesn’t feel calculated or machined. There is irregularity and imperfection within Goodman’s repetitive tendencies, like the way all the apples from one tree are round and red, but the character of each apple’s roundness and redness is unique.

Other times, experience and observation take a very direct route into Goodman’s work as with her new hanging piece, “Cheese.” “I don’t make any secrets about it,” Goodman said, holding up a photograph she’d taken in Bhutan of cheese strung up outdoors to age.

It looked remarkably like the sculpture hanging behind her. “[The cheese] was hung beautifully. It was attractive to me … I loved everything about it. I learned the process of cheese making. It’s yak cheese, which tastes terrible – like putting lard in your mouth,” she recalled, wincing.

In pieces like these, Goodman demonstrates her ability to identify pre-existing forms that resonate with her aesthetic and then present them in new contexts. She enjoys playing with perspective in this way. By recognizing beauty and visual interest in utilitarian or often overlooked natural forms and then placing them into the new, unnatural gallery environment she pushes us to view them differently. She draws attention to the formal beauty we might not have the opportunity, or the instinct, to notice in its original context.

The art of papermaking itself is an important component of Goodman’s creative process. Making the paper herself, using primarily kozo (bark from the Japanese mulberry tree), provides Goodman control over texture and color that wouldn’t be possible if she simply purchased paper. But more than this level of control, the act of papermaking provides a sense of balance in her process. Goodman explained, “If I’m just making paper, I’m not stressing over the artistic end of things. It’s kind of nice … It’s very meditative.”

With “More Journeys,” Goodman creates, out of her internalized experiences, a new entirely other environment. She assembles small components creating much larger works. This assembling draws the viewer in, encouraging them to explore the parts that make the whole. These sculptures pique the viewer’s curiosity in a way that seems to mirror Goodman’s own.

“More Journeys” opens at Piante (620 Second St., Eureka) on Friday, June 6 with a reception for the artist to be held in conjunction with Arts Alive on Saturday. The exhibition will run through July 12. Gallery hours are noon to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, or by appointment.