The natural world takes center stage in October exhibits at downtown Medford galleries.
The Rogue Gallery & Art Center's "Elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Wind" combines abstract paintings and etchings with turned-wood sculptures in its Main Gallery space. Still-life paintings and landscapes in "A Moment in Time: Paintings by Trisha Stricklin" fill the smaller Community Gallery space.
Art du Jour Gallery will host a people's choice contest and let art enthusiasts choose their favorite watercolor painting. A feature wall celebrates "Autumn Bounty" with fall-themed artwork. Long-time Rogue Valley painter Dodie Hamilton is the featured artist in the gallery's Salon exhibit space.
Receptions for the artists will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, at the galleries. The artists will be on hand to discuss their work, and refreshments will be served.
The Rogue Gallery's "Elements" exhibit features wood-turned sculptures by Dan Tilden, subtle etchings by printmaker Eleanor Erskine and bold abstract paintings by Alx Fox, Zelpha Hutton and Keith Johnson.
Tilden got his start in woodworking while still a student at Ashland High School. He apprenticed under master wood turner Christian Burchard.
Tilden focuses on burls, the large knots or bulges that form on trees.
"Some people think of burls as being like a cancerous-type growth or like warts," he says. "They can be caused by things like an infection, fungus, lightning strikes or ant infestations. They are natural growths that occur on trees."
Tilden says burls produce interesting patterns, especially in comparison to straight-grained wood. He sometimes finds burls at places like It's A Burl, a wood furniture shop and raw wood seller along the Redwood Highway in Kerby. At other times, loggers felling trees save the burls they find.
The burls he takes to his woodworking shop in Ashland start out as either large chunks or smaller pieces of wood. Either way, he trims them down using a chainsaw or bandsaw, then mounts each burl on a lathe.
"I'll get into the material and decide where to take it — whether it's a sculptural piece or a more functional piece. I love absolutely every step of the process, and there are many steps," Tilden says.
After the wood dries, he applies a finish, usually made of oils or waxes.
His teardrop-shaped piece "Dracarys" at the Rogue Gallery is made using a manzanita burl. The wood ranges in color from tan to a dark, reddish hue. The surface is laced with crevices, while various holes in the surface allow viewers to look through the sculpture.
"With manzanita, it's not easy to find a piece that big," Tilden says. "Manzanita grows more like a bush than a tree. With manzanita, you get such a rich, red color. The amount of character in that wood is unreal. Manzanita is an extremely tough and dense wood. With all the cracks and voids, the only way it's able to stay together is because of the density of the wood."
Despite working in wood for more than 15 years, Tilden has occasional disasters, with pieces cracking apart. He's learned to listen to sounds and other signals the wood is under too much stress and is about to give way.
His favorite woods are maple, madrone, oak and manzanita — all of which are represented in the Rogue Gallery show.
"I try to pack as many natural features into each piece as I can. Those natural features from the tree let it speak as an individual," Tilden says.
Fox contributes to the "Elements" theme with abstract paintings that contrast smoky grays and blacks with fiery reds, orange and yellows.
Hutton's acrylic painting "Northwest Landscape: Turbulence" could be read as either frothing, grasping waves or churning storm clouds.
In the side Community Gallery space, Stricklin's still life paintings seem to glow with an inner light as flowers burst from blue Chinese vases and tangerines spill across a red book. In her landscapes, rows of lavender burst with color near a rustic barn and long shadows fall across an empty country road.
Visitors to Art du Jour can pick their favorites in a watercolor contest, with entries ranging from a butterfly sipping from a flower to a prickly cactus in a southwest-patterned pot.
The autumn-themed feature wall includes a photo of grapes ripening beneath reddening leaves and a child stooping in a pumpkin patch.
Hamilton's paintings in the side Salon space cover far-off locales to Rogue Valley scenes.
Art du Jour is at 213 E. Main St. Call 541-770-3190 or see artdujourgallery.com. The Rogue Gallery is at 40 S. Bartlett St. Call 541-772-8118 or see roguegallery.org.