More than just a wooden boy …
EDWARDS – Rendering a likeness to an object can’t be easy when dealing with hard materials, but the Italian artists in Unika know no limits when they sharpen their tools.Seven sculptors from Unika, a group of 60 artists from northern Italy, will be flaunting their skills this weekend, sculpting masterpieces from wood on the lawn outside of Philinda Gallery in Edwards, the only establishment in the United States which imports art from Unika.
According to the gallery owners, the Unika artists are fluent in Italian and German (because of their proximity to Austria), but mainly speak to each other in a Latin-based language called Ladino.”Some of these guys have histories that go back 1,000 years,” said Phil Waldbaum of Philinda Gallery. “Their grandfathers were sculptors and their grandfathers were sculptors. It’s not typical wood chiseling. These guys do many things – chairs, articles of clothing, figurative things from adults to children. They’re some of the most renown wood sculptors in all of Europe.”Although the majority of Unika’s pieces are made from pine and walnut, the artists sometimes work in other types of wood, bronze, glass and paint. While a few of the artists specialize in renderings of wildlife, others focus almost exclusively on nude figures, some use wood to make backpacks and jackets, with folds that look so much like soft cloth, they’re disconcerting to view as solid forms. A couple of the artists, like Teo Mahlknecht, are across the board as far as subject matter.
One of Mahlnecht pieces at Philinda includes a wooden cactus with a women’s figure wearing blue jeans. As if the mere appearance isn’t thought-provoking, the piece is equipped with a table part for a bar and the right breast pulls out to function as a towel holder, while one of the back pockets of the jeans pulls out as a drawer. Another multipurpose, bizarre masterpiece is Mahlknecht’s “Finger Cabinet With Light” – a 6-foot, ultra real wood sculpture of a finger whose plastic nail is a light and which opens into shelves.
“They create things that attract everybody and you will get to see the quality develop before your eyes when they’re here,” Linda Walbaum said. “They are returning to the valley – it’s the only association they have with the United States.”The sculptors will be on the lawn in front of Philinda from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday through Monday, with a reception from 5-8 p.m. Saturday. The Walbaums said a couple of the artists will also travel up to Beaver Creek to sculpt on the plaza during the weekend.The Unika artists range in age from 27 to more than 60, and each has his own, distinctive style.
“They all have to work by hand and they’re all full-time artists,” Linda said. “Their work isn’t just almost living. It’s alive. You have never seen a jacket so leather-looking or a figure that looks like it could start walking like these. Each piece speaks to the artist. They all have completely different styles. Everybody loves to watch an artist at work.”
Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or email@example.com.Vail Colorado