‘Of the Earth’ brings outside materials into gallery

Wood, clay pieces featured at Auburn’s Arts Building Gallery
By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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A new show at The Arts Building Gallery is bringing the outside in. With “Of the Earth,” PlacerArts’ Downtown Auburn gallery showcases creations by seven area artists sharing a common theme — natural materials. Six of the seven artists worked with wood. “Wood is ubiquitous in our lives, it’s outside the door, it’s outside the window,” said Shawn Baldwin, gallery program specialist for The Arts Building Gallery. “I kind of wanted to bring it inside.” From now through Sept. 24, Arts Building visitors can view wood creations by Nathan Cordero, Tom Haskin, Al Kalian, Krishna Khalsa, Barry Peterson and Elias Tuma. In addition to wooden wonders are the clay creations of Auburn’s Marianne DeMartini. Baldwin said it’s one thing to pass a tree while outdoors — you might appreciate, for a moment, its leaf structure, patterns in the trunk. Bring that tree, in some form, into a gallery and it has a whole other meaning. “It makes you think twice about nature,” she said. “Something you might take for granted, you’re putting beautiful thought into.” The roughly 60 pieces that make up “Of the Earth” make Baldwin’s workspace quite pleasant, she admits. “This show is just so warm, the colors,” she said. “It’s getting me ready for fall.” Tom Haskin, of Cool, has been working with wood for more than 30 years, creating wood sculptured oil painting. Haskin takes pieces of pine, carves designs out by hand with tools, and then applies oil paints not with brushes, but with his fingers, warming the paints with his hands before working the colors into the pine’s soft surface. He works with the wood’s imperfections, turning knots into suns and clouds in his pieces, which take months to complete. “He uses those knots to bring out the beauty of the wood,” Baldwin said. Words are hard to come by when it comes to explaining his love for woodworking. “There’s just something about the wood,” he said. “We just work well together.” Haskin demonstrated his methods during the Aug. 14 Auburn Art Walk, and is working with Baldwin to schedule another demonstration. Al Kalian’s pieces demonstrate a harmony between function and art — chessboards, for instance. “It’s kind of metaphysical,” said the Roseville resident. “You’ve got this marvelous structure of the wood and you get to do something with it. It’s like Michelangelo — he knows the sculpture is somewhere in the rock.” Kalian is fond of the concept behind “Of the Earth.” “I think it’s a great idea because the people who make stuff out of wood are doing it by themselves, without a hoot of attention,” he said. DeMartini, the lone “Of the Earth” clay artist, is also delighted by the show. “I think it’s a wonderful idea, to bring those natural materials together,” she said. “They’re really not pretentious in any way. Wood, it’s just like clay. It’s totally natural, and I like that. It’s sort of naked.” DeMartini’s artistic process starts by combining two clays of contrasting colors together. Once she’s shaped the clay into its desired shape, she uses tools to “trim” a little bit of the exterior layer of the clay, revealing a clean piece with bold contrast. “What I like about it is, it’s always a totally different piece, and I find it fascinating to work with the contrast,” she said. DeMartini began working with clay in the 1970s. “It’s just very satisfying,” she said. “It’s just down to earth when you sit down with a ball of clay and know you can make anything. There’s just a real creative process going on there for me.” See the creations of DeMartini, Haskin, Kalian and the other “Of the Earth” artists now until Sept. 24. The Art Building Gallery is located at 808 Lincoln Way in Downtown Auburn. The gallery is open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Call (530) 885-5670 or visit for more information. “It’s just like a little nature walk, sort of, and I like that feeling about it,” DeMartini said of the show. The Journal’s Loryll Nicolaisen can be reached at