The 2017 Academy Craft Show – Fired Up!

The 2017 Academy Craft Show – Fired Up! happening this weekend.

The Preview Party with the Artists on Friday, October 20, 6 to 9 p.m. Awards & Brief Program: 7:30 p.m.

Craft Show Hours: Saturday, October 21, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, October 22, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

70 Artists, Live Demonstrations, Raffle of Artists’ Works, and “Little Crafters” at the Academy Art Museum & Waterfowl Armory.

This weekend’s 2017 Academy Craft Show – Fired Up (AcademyCraftShow.Com) – the prestigious, juried show which has grown into a mainstay resource for the Academy Art Museum — is fresh and full of “firsts” for the Show’s 20th Anniversary.  This weekend, it brings 70 nationally-acclaimed artists to Easton from more than 18 states and a dozen fields of high-end craft. Breathtaking ceramics, sparkling glass, cutting-edge fashion and bags, precision-engineered watches, jewelry fused from meteorite and gems and much more.  The 2017 Academy Craft Show has more total artists than ever, more exhibits than ever; more artists-new-to-this-show than ever; more artists applying than ever; and even a larger wait-list than ever. And the Craft Show’s public Raffle of artworks donated by show artists has more high-end artworks to win, than ever.

All 70 artists will be at all events on all three days starting with Friday evening’s elegant and fun Preview & Awards Party featuring oysters, libation stations, and the music of Kentavius Jones.

The Craft Show is an important, major fundraiser for the Museum and a delightful way for the entire community to support its many community-based programs for all ages.

Spy Eye: Twenty Years of Art, Faith, and Friendship on Harrison Street

What has a Russian name, a Christian foundation, just turned twenty years old, and represents over thirty of the region’s best artists? If you answered the Troika Gallery in downtown Easton, you are correct.

In fact, Troika Gallery Fine Art Studio has been one of Talbot County’s most successful art galleries for most of that time. Humbly started in 1997 when it opened up in the Talbottown Shopping Center (now where Jo-Jo’s Cupcakes resides), Troika has matured to the point where it now offers art from less than a $1,000 to over $50,000. It is a remarkable case study of working artists coming together to build what Laura Era, one of the c0-founders, has called a special ministry, combining the talents of professionally trained artists and sculptors with a clear spiritual component.

The Spy has always been interested in this landmark art center on Harrison Street for some time, and finally had the chance to sit down with Laura and Jennifer Heyd Wharton, two of three co-founders (Laura’s mother Dorothy Newland retired in 2012) to talk about some of the history and personality of this popular art showcase, as well as their profound sense of faith, after twenty years of showing art as well as using the space to create their own work.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the Troika Gallery please go here

Mid-Shore Arts: Marc Castelli’s ‘Swinging the Lantern’ at Massoni Gallery Begins October 20

For nearly a quarter of a century, Marc Castelli has been exhibiting his stunning watercolors of the workboats, watermen, historic log canoes and sporting events of the Chesapeake at the Carla Massoni Gallery in Chestertown, Maryland.  Swinging the Lantern, his annual one –man exhibition opens on October 20 and continues through December 2.  Collectors and friends will have the opportunity to visit with Castelli and attend the Collector’s Reception on Friday, October 20, from 6-8 pm.

The festivities continue the following week with the Sultana Education Foundation’s annual Downrigging Weekend from October 27-29.  Massoniart is proud to have been an event sponsor of this premier tall ship and wooden boat festival since its inception.  The Gallery is hosting a reception for the opening of Downrigging on Friday, October 27, 5-7:30 pm where they will welcome the return of the Kent County Watermen’s Association to shuck oysters out on the sidewalk followed by Sultana’s Fireworks at the foot of High Street.  During the weekend we sponsor an Open House on Saturday from 10-7 pm and Sunday From 11-3 pm.  But wait – there’s still more – plan to stay in the party mood through Chestertown’s First Friday Celebrations November 3, 5-8 pm and December 1, 5-8 pm.

During Downrigging, Marc Castelli will be honored with a special exhibition, Building Sultana – A Selection of Marc Castelli Paintings, at the Sultana Education Foundation’s new center. Between 1997 and 2001, Castelli captured the construction of the schooner SULTANA in more than 50 vibrant watercolor paintings. Taken together, these works represent one of the finest and most complete artistic surveys of the construction of a traditional wooden schooner produced over the last half century. Most of Castelli’s paintings of Sultana’s construction were rapidly acquired by private collectors, and haven’t been seen by the public for almost 20 years.  With the assistance of Marc Castelli, MASSONIART, and multiple private collectors, the Sultana Education Foundation is assembling a selection of these paintings for a special Downrigging Weekend exhibit. Also of note, Castelli’s “Building Sultana” exhibit shares its name with a new limited-edition book of his pen and ink drawings of the construction of Sultana that will be released during a special event at 6:00pm on Saturday, October 28 at Sultana’s Holt Center.

Castelli is considered a master of his genre.  He is on the water over 100 days a year gathering material to paint. Forty years of crewing on racing sailboats, and over twenty years actively participating on workboats has enabled him to get past the spectator view that represents the majority of marine and regional art.

The potential for abstraction, still life, figurative, atmospherics and sharp focus vignette, may exist in all the subject areas he explores but for Marc it is the strongest when on the water. It is the light, as it moves on and in water and is then reflected back on the watermen and their boats, that pulls at him.  Wherever he trains his focus, from the Sultana to the simplest of skiffs, he brings to the viewer a deeper understanding of the magic of the Chesapeake.

This year his annual exhibition, Swinging the Lantern, features over forty new watercolor paintings with a full range of subjects guaranteed to delight both collectors and those new to his work.

For additional information please contact Carla Massoni at 410-778-7330 or visitwww.massoniart.com. To learn more about Sultana Downrigging Weekend visitwww.sultanaeducation.org

CFF Preview: Tom Horton and the Rising Sea Levels of Dorchester County

The Chesapeake Film Festival has gone out of their way this year to emphasize the important theme of conservation, and has consequently assembled a first rate collection of the most current documentaries on climate change, sea level rising, and other global warming issues to screen in the last weekend in October in Talbot County.

Ranging from Leonardo DiCaprio to short films on forestry and the fishing, the festival’s curatorial hand has carefully vetted out the the very best in international filmmaking, but it is suspected that the film that will have the most impact locally is case study of rising sea levels in Dorchester County.

The local dream team of filmmaker Sandy Cannon-Brown, photographer David Harp, and environmental author Tom Horton, who were responsible two years ago for the popular Beautiful Swimmers Revisited, a documentary inspired by William W. Warner’s classic book on of the Chesapeake Bay, have now reunited to tell the sobering tale of the disappearing landscape of Dorchester and the possible for the thirteen other Counties.

The Spy caught up with High Tide in Dorchester writer and narrator Tom Horton a week ago at Bullitt House to talk about the film and its mission to send an important warning to the entire Chesapeake Bay region.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Film Festival please go here

Theatre Review: Garfield’s “Sylvia” a Winner by Peter Heck

Cast of “Sylvia”: Bryan Betley, Christine Kinlock, Will Robinson, Jennifer Kafka-Smith              Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Sylvia by A.R. Gurney, opening this weekend at the Garfield Center, is a romantic comedy about a man, his dog, his wife, and his mid-life crisis. – and, once you get beyond the surface, about the role of love in the modern world.

Directed by Bonnie Hill, the play is set in New York City sometime in the early 1990s.

Sylvia had its Off-Broadway premiere in 1995, with Sarah Jessica Parker (Carrie of Sex and the City) in the title role. It ran for 197 performances and received a Drama Desk nomination for Outstanding Play. Parker was nominated for Outstanding Actress, and the costume design by Jane Greenwood was also nominated. Oddly enough, it was 2015 before a Broadway production took place, although it had a number of productions elsewhere – including one at Church Hill Theatre in 1999, also directed by Hill.

Reportedly, Sylvia originally had trouble finding a Broadway production because potential backers found the play’s main plot device – a young woman playing the role of a dog – objectionable. Gurney’s answer was that the play was about connecting in an increasingly impersonal, alienated world, with the dog Sylvia the means by which the other characters ultimately connect.

Sylvia is part poodle and all beautiful after Greg takes her for a grooming. – Christine Kinlock and Will Robinson      Photo credit: Jane Jewell

The play begins as Greg, a middle-aged New Yorker, brings the dog Sylvia home after finding her in the park. Greg has left work – at a financial institution – early, and we soon learn that he is on the edge of burning out at work. Sylvia, who says at the outset that she loves Greg unconditionally, is a welcome relief from the cold business of commodities trading that makes up his day at work.

Sylvia the dog sits on the sofa with Greg – but only when Kate isn’t there!    Photo credit: Jane Jewell

But when Greg’s wife, Kate, arrives home, she makes it clear she has no interest in adopting a dog. Her career is just taking off, and the couple’s children are now in college, so they can begin to enjoy a more independent social life. Having a dog in the city would only burden them, she says. Greg convinces her to let Sylvia stay “a few days” to see how it works out. Of course, the few days extend to a much longer period – and the strain on the couple’s relationship builds, especially as it becomes clear that Greg is on the verge of losing his job.

Meanwhile, Sylvia goes about being very much a dog —  although a speaking dog who makes no bones about what she thinks and how she feels about things. Sylvia also tangles Greg up in the leash when they go for walks.  Kate sarcastically calls her “Saliva.”

The name “Sylvia” – imprinted on the dog tag that Sylvia wore when Greg found her – is particularly ironic to Kate as she teaches Shakespeare to teenagers.  She can’t help but be constantly reminded of the famous Shakespeare lyric, “Who is Sylvia?  Who is she/ That all our swains commend her?”

The relationship between Greg, Sylvia, and Kate soon takes on many aspects of a love triangle, although Kate is at first the only one who really understands what is happening. Her husband sees no problems with having a dog in a small New York City apartment.  She sees nothing but. Of course, in the end, as all romantic comedies should, love wins out. But it’s a close race in determining whose love for whom will win.

Jennifer Kafka-Smith as the wife, Kate –    Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Christine Kinlock, who recently appeared in Earl Lewin’s Orlando Rising at Church Hill Theatre and Shore Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, delivers an absolutely winning performance in the role of Sylvia. The role demands a good deal of the actor, with considerable use of body language to put over the character’s canine nature – tail wags, jumping up on furniture, and so forth. She makes good use of her voice to suggest barking, and her facial expressions are icing on the cake. Her reaction to seeing a cat on the street is hilarious, as is her “romance” with Bowser, a dog she meets in the park. Her performance alone is worth the price of admission.

Will Robinson, one of the stalwarts of the local theater community, plays Greg. He puts across the character’s amiable nature – and his goofy infatuation with his new “friend” – with considerable warmth. He makes Greg’s half-understood bumbling through a mid-life crisis and ignoring his wife for “the other’ almost forgivable. A very good performance – as we always expect when we hear that Robinson is onstage!

Jennifer Kafka-Smith is the perfect pick for Kate, a sophisticated woman finding her way as an English teacher after spending her early adulthood raising a family. Her objections to bringing a dog into a New York apartment are in fact reasonable, and her frustration that Greg doesn’t’ recognize them is palpable. She creates a sympathetic, likable character out of a role that could easily be seen as a villain – not easy to do but she makes it look easy.

The marriage counselor Leslie – played by Bryan Betley,    Photo credit: Jane Jewell

The fourth member of the cast, Bryan Betley, plays three very different roles – and plays them all well.  There is the fellow dog owner Greg meets in the park, one of Kate’s society friends (in a fabulous dress!), and an androgynous marriage counselor the couple visits.  Betley makes them all distinct and believable, using different voices and clothes to set the characters apart. A nice show of versatility!

The set, designed and built by Earl Lewin and crew from a concept and sketch by director Bonnie Hill, consists primarily of Greg and Kate’s apartment, with a wonderful view of the New York skyline projected on the back wall. The front corner of the stage doubles as Central Park, and the desk plays double duty as Kate’s and the marriage counselor’s offices. Simple but attractive – and with no set changes needed, it allows the play to move along briskly.

Set of “Sylvia” – ta contemporary living room with a view of the New York skyline.      Photo credit: Jane Jewell

The play maintains a nice balance between laugh-out-loud comedy and a tender look at the importance of love in the modern world. While it could easily be played very cartoonishly, Hill’s direction brings out both aspects of the play, making for an unusually rich performance. With all four actors delivering excellent performances, area theater-goers should make every effort to see this one.

Sylvia is an adult comedy, with some sexual references and frequently salty language – mostly from the dog, who expresses herself very directly and without filters. Parents might want to leave younger children home. Hill said the Church Hill performance cut much of the saltier language, but here the original script is presented almost intact.

Sylvia opens Friday, October 13 and runs through Sunday, Oct. 22. Performance times are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with 3 p.m. matinees on Sundays. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for the military or seniors aged 65 and older, and $10 for students.

Tickets are available online on the theater’s website or by calling the box office at 410-810-2060. The Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre is located at 210 High Street, Chestertown.

Photography by Jane Jewell

Greg warily eyes the marriage counselor as Leslie asks him “What gender do you think I am?” (Will Robinson and Bryan Betley)     Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Greg and a fellow dog-owner discuss pooches and their partners. – (Will Robinson and Bryan Betley)      Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Sylvia at the park – where she meets Bowser, another dog, (Will Robinson & Christine Kinlock)      Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Kate & Greg – He sees no problems with a dog in a small New York City apartment.  She sees nothing but. (Jennifer Kafka-Smith & Will Robinson)  Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Phyllis is the friend Kate confides in about Sylvia. – (Bryan Betley)      Photo credit: Jane Jewell

Sylvia after her session with the dog groomer. Isn’t she beautiful? Greg thinks so. (Will Robinson, Christine Kinlock, Jennifer Kafka-Smith)                    Photo credit: Jane Jewell

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Taming the Monster at St. Mark’s for Fifty Years with Dr. Bill Wharton

There are very few examples of a partnership that has lasted 50 years where one partner speaks of the other as a “monster.” But that’s what Dr. Bill Wharton says about the St. Mark’s United Methodist Church’s 1962 Tellers organ that he has worked to master since he arrived in Easton as the Church’s principal organist in 1967.

In Bill’s case, however, the use of the word monster is one of great affection and respect. In his interview with the Spy to celebrate his fifth decade not only playing the organ there but also a lifetime career in teaching music on the Mid-Shore, the Centerville native talks about harnessing the power that comes with this colossal instrument with its 2,437 wood and model pipes.

By his own admission, Bill does not put himself in the 1st tier of organists but is extremely grateful that he studied with some of them. The first being Clarence Waters, his college organ tutor and mentor at Trinity College. And it was through his relationship with Waters that he gained access to the famed Marcel Dupré in Paris, considered one of the finest organists of the 20th century.

Bill also talks about the exceptional spiritual connection that music provides a church and its congregation, as well as his personal experiences of sensing the divine when witnessing the masters perform in the World’s great cathedrals.

In celebration of Bill’s 50th anniversary, St. Mark’s has commissioned a unique composition that will be performed by Bill in late November one of a series of official acknowledgments by the Church of how valuable his service has been to the music on the Mid-Shore.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about St. Mark’s and its music programs please go here.

TAP: Rocky’s Horror Comes to Oxford

To provide some historical context for the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which the Tred Avon Players will be offering this October, the play is almost twice as old as Talley Wilford, the production’s director. The lead, Mike Sousa, who plays Dr. Frank-N-Furter, was born twelve years after the original started in London in 1973. You get the idea.

While one still thinks of Rocky Horror as a very contemporary piece of work, the fact is that it’s been around for almost five decades. That’s both the charm and the challenge when the classic is brought back to the stage year after year.

The exceptional charm comes with a story that has been told thousands of times on screen and in the theatre, and yet not only seems as fresh and humorously shocking as when it debuted but continues to attract new generations to sing along with the mad scientist and his servants.

The challenge comes to any director or actor who wants to take the ionic material and make it their own, and that is what Talley and Mike talk to the Spy about in our latest interview with the Tred Avon Players.

Talley and Mike also talk about how they first encountered Rocky Horror and the indelible imprint it had on their love of theatre and musical comedy.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. 

Performances for the  Rocky Horror Picture Show are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thurs., Fri. & Sat., Oct. 19, 20 & 21, & 2 p.m. Sun., Oct. 22; and 7:30 p.m. Thurs., Fri. & Sat., Oct 26, 27 & 28, and 2 p.m. Sun., Oct. 29.  And A special MIDNIGHT SHOW on Friday Night Oct. 27 Call 410-226-0061 or visit the Tred Avon Players website for more information and ticketing. 

 

Mid-Shore Arts: Climate Change a Focus of 2017 Chesapeake Film Festival

The 2017 Chesapeake Film Festival highlights the environmental and social issues of our time with a full day of film and expert discussion focused on the topic of climate change. The high public interest intensified by the contradiction between the denials of climate change by President Trump’s Administration and recent disastrous weather events and rising temperature against keeps the topic in the news and a part of nearly any conversation.

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES), Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and Town Creek Foundation formed partnerships with CFF to bring expertise to the panel discussions and informal gatherings

Climate Change – Perils, Challenges, and the Future

10:30 am Environmental Shorts Program 1 (63 minutes)
· When I Plant A Tree, directed by Jonah Moshammer (5:31 minutes)
· Fisherman Without A Sea, directed by Lucas Bonetti (20 minutes)
· The Next Epoch Seed Library, directed by Candace Thompson (8 minutes)
· The Last Boat Out, directed by Laura Seltzer-Duny (29 minutes)

12:00 pm Welcome & Opening Remarks

George A. Nilson, Esq., Chair, CFF Climate Change Program
Charles O. Monk, II, Esq., Chair, Board of Visitors, University of Maryland, Center for Environmental Science

12:15 pm Before the Flood, directed by Fisher Stevens; produced and narrated by Leo DiCaprio
1:45 pm – 2:30 pm Panel Discussion followed by Q & A
· Benjamin H. Grumbles, Maryland State Secretary of the Environment
· Dr. Donald Boesch, Professor of Marine Science, President of the University of MD Center for Environmental Science 1990- 2017
· Moderator: Stuart Clarke, Executive Director, Town Creek Foundat

2:45 pm From The Ashes, directed by Michael Bonifiglio, NATGEO
4:30 pm Environmental Shorts Program 2

· Waterman, directed by Jess Jacklin (14 minutes)
· The Ballad Of Holland Island House, directed by Lynn Tomlinson (4 minutes)
· High Tide In Dorchester, Written & Narrated by Tom Horton, directed by Dave Harp and produced by Sandy Cannon-Brown (45 minutes)
5:30 pm – 6:15 pm Panel Discussion and Q & A

· Dr. William C. “Bill” Boicourt, Professor Emeritus, Horn Point Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
· Tom Horton, Writer, High Tide In Dorchester
· David Harp, Director, High Tide in Dorchester
· Jess Jacklin, Director, Waterman· Laura Seltzer-Duny, Director, The Last Boat Out
· Moderator: Brian Ambrette, Coastal Resilience Manager, Eastern Shore Land Conservancy
6:30 pm Reception – Art Academy Museum
8:00 pm Oyster, directed by Kim Beamish, Australia (81 minutes)

EASTON PREMIER CINEMAS– Saturday, October 28
9:30 pm An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power
EASTON PREMIER CINAMAS – Sunday, October 29
1:30 pm An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power,
CAMBRIDGE PREMIER CINEMAS –  Sunday, October 29
7:45 pm An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, directed by Bonnie Cohen, Jon

The 2017 10th Anniversary Chesapeake Film Festival takes place on October 27th – 29th, 2017 with its home base at the Avalon Theatre in Easton. Satellite screening locations are the Talbot County Public Library, Easton Premier Cinemas, Cambridge Premier Cinemas, and Art Academy Museum.

Grand Opening of Kent County Arts Council’s New Gallery Space

Join us on Friday, November 3rd – during Downtown Chestertown First Friday – for the opening of the inaugural exhibition in the new gallery of the Kent County Arts Council (KCAC). We are christening our new space with artwork from The Arts & The Military ART/ifacts Collection and from The Joe Bonham Project. Our inaugural show – War Front / Home Front: Through the Eyes of Our Military – is created in partnership with curator Tara Tappert, Founder and Principal of The Arts & The Military and Michael D. Fay, Founder of The Joe Bonham Project. It is funded, in part, by The Institute for Integrative Health.

The ART/ifacts Collection is the tangible legacy of art-making as activism, and the nature of the work allows for the exploration of military culture, and the history of war, and its costs. Themes include patriotism, nationalism, and perceptions of duty, suffering, heroism, and loyalty. Several grassroots veteran-art groups are represented in the Collection – Button Field Paper, Combat Paper Project, Peace Paper Project, Veterans in the Arts, as well as the work of individual veteran-artists. The Joe Bonham Project is named after the fictional, limbless, faceless protagonist of the 1939 anti-war novel, Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo. The project’s purpose is to show the real face of war and the aftermath of war with artwork that portrays the realities and human consequences of combat. The project distances itself from politics, preferring instead to be seen as apolitical “witness art.”

There will be three special events during the run of the show. All are free and everyone is welcome.
1) Grand Opening – First Friday, November 3rd, 5:00 to 7:30 p.m.
2) Poetry Reading – Medic Against Bomb: A Doctor’s Poetry of War, Frederick Foote, M.D. (CAPT, MC, USN, ret.) – Sunday, November 12, 2:00 p.m.
3) Illustrated Lecture – Beyond Stereotypes: War, Warriors, and the Creative Arts, by Tara Tappert, Founder and Principal, The Arts & The Military; and, Michael D. Fay, (CW02, USMC, ret.) Retired Combat Artist, and Founder, The Joe Bonham Project, Sunday, November 19, 2:00 p.m.

Military Working Dog (for Dave Nevis)
by Patrick Sargent (United States Air Force), silkscreen on paper made from pulped military uniforms, 2015

Wed – Fri: Noon – 6 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sunday: 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Kent County Arts Council, 101 Spring Avenue / PO Box 330 Chestertown, MD 21620

Art Review: Review: Julie Wills at the Kohl by Mary McCoy

Wishes are weightless, ephemeral things, however urgent and heartfelt. We know perfectly well that they won’t get us anywhere, yet we still make a wish when we blow out our birthday candles or see the first star come out at night. In her exhibit, “Wishes Are Horses,” on view at Washington College’s Kohl Gallery through October 22, Julie Wills deftly shifts the gloomy phrase “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride” to hopefulness with a simple change of verb.

Julie Wills, “Untitled (for Felix González-Torres and all other lovers),” driftwood, found coins & domestic debris, party lights, birthday candles, matchsticks, ribbon, cloth, tobacco & twine on linen-covered supports, 54″ x 77″ x 11

The first thing you see at the exhibit’s entrance is a magical horse made of a piece of driftwood heaped with tobacco bundles and a string of lights called “Untitled (for Felix González-Torres and all other lovers).” Burnt matches and birthday candles provisionally stand in for its ears and mane along with a few coins and washers hammered into the weathered wood. It’s a kind of roundup of talismans ranging from ancient Greek to Native American, underscored by the words “wishing on every thing in sight” etched onto some of the lighted bulbs.

This sympathetic nod to the irrational urge to wish sets the stage for a deeply personal look at human yearnings so tender that we tend to keep them secret and unspoken. Like many artists before her, including González-Torres with his bare light bulbs evoking festivity, inspiration, revelation and impermanence, Wills uses the symbolic and associative power of found objects to summon up sensations and snippets of memory. Again and again, her choices of basic, no-frills materials familiar from earliest childhood trigger curiosity and rouse thoughts of how we might see things a little differently.

Julie Wills, “Zodiac (book of hours),” sandpaper and pencil on Stonehenge drawing paper, 22″ x 22″glacial pace of the changes we desire most dearly

Mounted on an old shipping palette spray-painted black, a spherical lightbulb stands in for the moon and a severed bird’s wing calls freedom and flight to mind. Wills often layers bits of text into her works, and around the bulb are a few words about the act of soaring. A feeling of beauty and uplift arises but it’s an odd sensation given that it’s stirred by a slightly disheveled bit of feathers and bone and a lightbulb unabashedly trailing its power cord. How the flagrant homeliness of this sculpture creates such magic is a puzzle, not unlike a Zen koan, and it has the same illogical effect of opening a previously unknown part of one’s mind.

Many of the show’s works are about the stars and how we like to gaze at these bright pinpricks hovering in the infinite sky and how we like to wish on them. The night sky is a place of dreaming, of possibilities, of the ancient stories playing out with the seasonal shifting of the stars overhead. But Wills brings it down to earth in funny, childlike ways. The dark, circular skies flecked with tiny stars appearing throughout the exhibit turn out, on closer inspection, to be nothing but worn black sandpaper. It has a gritty texture. It’s very physical. It’s nothing like the untouchable, unreachable midnight sky.

Magical thinking is what’s behind this show, but it’s very self-aware magical thinking. Wills is not concerned with seducing the eye with beautiful or inspiring images but with conjuring understanding from bits of the mundane world we inhabit day after day. Musing on these works, the feeling arises that the mechanisms of understanding life derive from living itself but that it takes a very pointed awareness to sort them out.

Do wishes work? Wills’s optimism about the answer shows in a horizontal row of lightbulbs etched with the words “The world tells me I’m darkness but I know I am light.” Confidence begets the power to act. It’s personal conviction channeled with focus and energy that keeps us wishing and working to make our wishes come true.

Mary McCoy is an artist and writer who has the good fortune to live beside an old steamboat wharf on the Chester River. She is a former art critic for the Washington Post and several art publications. She enjoys kayaking the river and walking her family farm where she collects ideas and materials for the environmental art she creates, often in collaboration with her husband Howard. They have exhibited their work in the U.S., Ireland, Wales and New Zealand.