Catherine Grisez: “The Skin Within” at Traver Gallery


“Leaf Installation,” 2017, Catherine Grisez
Copper and vitreous enamel sponsored by
the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture.
To be donated to Pratt Fine Art Center
Photo: courtesy Traver Gallery

Catherine Grisez continued to expand the limits of what can be done with hammered and welded metals. Since her 2001 Traver debut, she has been included in group shows at galleries and museums in Missouri, Florida, California, Tennessee and elsewhere. A metalworker specializing in copper, Grisez has expanded the medium’s purviews with a variety of techniques, extensions and variants of traditional forming such as the vase, vessel, platter and plaque. Her current work is her most varied, filling the inner gallery at Traver with vessels, wall works, and a suspended installation piece of individual leaf shapes. Among the vase and vessel shapes, three stand out: Bound, Burst and Prevail (all works 2017). Bound has striated outer strands of copper layered together with selected areas seeping blue-and-white fired enamel. Grisez successfully avoids historicist allusions to the decorative arts and uses deep external incisions to suggest contained energy. Burst shuts the top opening and fills it with numerous inverted 14-karat-gold-plated arrows puncturing inward, blade side down. Arrows cluster at the upper center and cover much of the rest of the top. They act as a metaphor for energy released into the vessel interior. Prevail is the tallest at 16 inches. Oval with a narrow foot, its shape is the most traditional and its outer pattern of blue and red enamel diamonds mimics a harlequin pattern clinging to the patinaed copper wall.

With art so heavily materialized, one pays attention to process and construction as keys to potential meaning. Exposed (2016) is a two-part wall work with a pair of unmatched, rectangular copper plaque shapes that contain more irregular, seeping ovals of colored enamel. Its companion, the single-panel Unveil (2017), suggests one possible direction: abstracted compositions containing a vertical oval of more harlequin diamonds but with a wider, more aerated palette than Prevail. Finally, another possible direction, installation art, ignites a body of work involving selected community members, each of whom was invited to make a metal leaf to suspend from above. Grisez’ Leaf Installation (2017) is both kinetic and monumental: the shimmering pile of colored leaves allude to nature and the passage of time. Their wired contact lines above disappear from a distance, leaving the viewer with a satisfying sense of hovering metal over a 10-foot and 15-foot high area.