Earthy exhibit at the CVA will get you Stoned


No, the new exhibit at the Center for the Visual Arts in Wausau doesn’t have anything to do with a certain leafy green substance. Despite the double entendre of its name, the CVA’s latest offering is quite literal: all about art work inspired by, and employing, rocks and stones.

But if the name draws some attention, explains CVA Director Rose DeHut, well, all the better.

Stoned features the work of artists employing the mediums of painting, sculpture, photography and fiber art all focused on either working with stones or depicting stone and stone landscapes. The timing of the exhibit happens to pair well with the nearly completed stone garden in back of the CVA, created by the Grand Theater Foundation, where the former Foster building once stood.

For those walking into the exhibit, one thing is important to keep in mind: the real intrigue is in the details.

Take for example a collection of rocks lent to the exhibit by Jim and Susan Beck, who are volunteers at the CVA. Their half-cut polished stones might not catch your eye at a distance, until you get up close, and see the almost cosmic-looking details contained within each stone’s grain: the bright coloring and layers contained within each stone, brought out by the polishing process.

And then, as you start navigating the gallery, you notice the necklaces also contain those details. The stone in one particular necklace contains a number of concentric circles that are so perfect it’s hard to believe they aren’t manmade.

That’s the point of the exhibit, DeHut says. The jewelry, paintings, photos and sculptures are all meant to capture “the Earth’s natural jewels,” according to the exhibit’s description.

Taking the beauty of details further, perhaps one of the most intriguing are those found in the jewelry of Donald Kelman, a retired surgeon from Marshfield who collects stones. He makes necklaces out of them, but the “hardware” of the necklace is as minimal as possible to highlight the stone’s beauty. And with good reason. Inside the stones that he polishes you’ll see scenes that resemble small landscapes. One looks like a lithograph of a swamp, another a tiny mountain scene. It’s uncanny enough that they look almost painted on, yet these are the natural rock colorings, simply coaxed out by Kelman’s work. OK, that is pretty trippy.

Perhaps the one piece that will jump out to a person right away is the large stone sculpture. But even here, the beauty is in the details. The 75-pound stone, slightly larger than a bowling ball, features a hand-carved design that’s both a simply swirling pattern and a series of faces—you have to look for awhile to get it. The stone rests in a pit of sand, across which the stone has been rolled to create patterns in the grainy surface.

The one set of artwork that might seem out of place — again, until you notice the details — is the fiber art created by Sandra Hopkins. The piece resembles simply scraps of old clothing and cloth sewn together into a collage-style “painting.” Step back and you notice that you’re looking at a mountain landscape.

If there’s a theme to be found in the CVA’s latest exhibit, it’s the reward of noticing the little details, which is what makes stone and mineral collecting interesting in the first place.

The CVA’s Stoned exhibit runs through Aug. 12. Gallery hours are Tues.-Fri. 10 am-5 pm, and Saturday noon-4 pm.  While you’re there: Head upstairs to the Loft Gallery and check out the submissions for the 7th Congressional District Art Competition. Some of the work of these area high school students will astound and amaze.