Mixed Material Metaphor

An exhibition of mixed material constructions at Arts on King, Toronto, October 1 - 30, 1993

Ben Goodman steers away from the terms mixed media and sculpture. This may be unnecessary modesty from a professional artist, but it does reveal Goodman's characteristic attitude toward his choice of materials and themes.

While roaming the woods near his studio in rural eastern Ontario, Goodman collects both the raw materials and the inspiration for his art - knotted chunks of wood, pieces of stone smoothed by time, the rusted arching tines of a retired hay fork or a ploughshare. He refers to these humble materials as "nature and man's cast-offs," and it strikes Ben that these things still have something to say. They deserve another chance and he decides, through his constructions, to respectfully extend or renew their life.

Not surprisingly, he has titled a recent series of work "Collaboration." They are sympathetic compositions of weathered wood, Goodman's own cast glass and occasionally stone. Wood and glass are not usual partners. One earthlike and the other fire, it takes skill and insight to make the aesthetic marriage work. What could they have in common? Goodman, a graduate of the Ontario College of Art, shows how a wood column can culminate in a glass crescendo like a beacon, or how glass like flashing eyes, can function as windows in the soul of wood. Pedestals are a constant feature in Goodman's constructions, and he observes that "I'm always trying to lift up the materials, to pay homage to them."

Wood and glass are also both structural materials used in our urban environments. In Ben’s eyes, man's architectural efforts pale beside the wonders of nature. "Collaboration #3" uses the contrasting qualities of wood and glass to express this view. Rich, undulating wood stands opposite a stark, angular glass panel buttressed by steel. Triangular, screw-like and washer-like elements project from the glass. Only its rippling, textured edge keeps the glass from being completely at war with the wood.

Collaboration Number Three
"Collaboration #3"
cast glass, found wood, steel
14" L x 38" H x 10" W

Never Again - Ben Goodman
"Never Again"
found glass and iron
36"L x 23"H x 13"W

With "Never Again" he reminds us that not only wilderness but also human nature is not safe from mankind's inhumanity. Created as commentary on the Holocaust, it uses the rusted tines of a hayfork to convey the sense of threat. An abandoned ploughshare is the base and completes the ironic reference to harvest. A split glass rock acts as a metaphor for both the fragility and the resilience of the Jewish people.

In "Clayoquot", Goodman asks his viewers to make a choice between the majesty of an old growth forest and its potential as timber. Within the bolted jaws of a V-shaped timber construction is a lyrical piece of wood, the vulnerable limb of a tree.

Clayoquot - Ben Goodman
found wood, wood, steel
102" L x 70" H x 6" W

By avoiding colour and keeping to familiar or natural materials Goodman's compositions strike a reserved, emotional tone. He is to be credited for tackling difficult and potentially negative themes without sentiment or shock tactics.

Gloria Hickey, Art Journalist and Curator


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