Form, function and fun
Rockland — Wine corks, teak and mahogany scraps, randomly turned table legs, pieces of stained glass … Geoffrey Vollers’ workshop at Sharp’s Point South is filled with possibilities.
The longtime artist and more recently installed night watchman combines these found variables into, among other things, Art That Thinks It’s Furniture.
“I’m holding a sale right now, I have so many,” he said on an October afternoon when the sun streamed into his workshop, landing on intriguing angles and surfaces.
The Art in question is for the most part small tables and benches that have attractive but utilitarian tops set over imaginatively constructed supports. Also tucked into the workshop is Furniture That Thinks It’s Art, which switches the dynamic by topping more simply supported pieces with geometric constructions that rise like small cityscapes — no taking a seat on these.
Vollers has been creating small-scale buildings for years, as well as painting landscapes, making stained glass works and assembling bits of wood into wall and tabletop collages. He has a master of fine arts degree from Rochester Institute of Technology but did not study architecture, as one might think from seeing his work. What drives him to that may have deeper roots.
“Well, my father’s name was Ludwig, and Ludwig did build that castle,” he said, referring to the Neuschwanstein Castle built by “Mad” Ludwig II of Bavaria.
Voller’s castles, which were exhibited 20 years ago at Tiffany’s in New York City — some will go on view in November at Washington’s Gibbs Library — were made with cardboard, card stock and painted paper. The structures he builds now are made of more substance but still material Vollers finds as cast-off or is given by others.
“I have some beautiful mahogany and teak scraps from someone, who was given it to be used for kindling but just couldn’t burn it — they knew I’d do something with it,” said Vollers.
Another donation was a bag of wine corks, which the artist has begun working into a wooden wall collage.
“They’re all exactly the same length, something I couldn’t have done if I tried. I’m still figuring out what to do with them,” he said.
Vollers has spent some time recently figuring things out, after what he calls “My Country-Western Year” in which he lost a relationship, home, cat and tooth — “and my truck just rusted out too!” Becoming de-facto artist-in-residence at the South End shipyard-cum-museum-complex is something that fell into place at the right time for all concerned.
While the workshop is filled with pieces finished, in progress and still being imagined, Voller’s spartan quarters upstairs provide more of a gallery presentation of both his works and large abstract paintings by Marti Reed, who lives and has a studio in Owls Head. Booklovers will remember Reed as the longtime owner of Thomaston’s now-closed Personal Book Shop. During recent years, she did 9-by-12 inch paintings and cut them up to serve as calling cards. But Vollers, who showed colorful wood sculptures in the shop, thought they deserved better.
“I said, you’ve got to stop cutting them up and made her a canvas. Right out of the box, she started painting these abstract paintings that I think are wonderful,” he said.
Vollers has framed the Reed works on view, and the upstairs “gallery” also has a number of his constructions. One features a wooden shoe he found a few years back at the South Thomaston dump; he calls the work “Chateau Sabot.” The humor intrinsic in Vollers’ work has a particular attraction to young imaginations; he has three sculptures installed at the Coastal Children’s Museum, a stone’s throw from his Sharp’s Point South workshop.
Vollers was part of a small stained glass artist conclave in Portland in the 1980s and recently did a small piece from glass scraps he had found tucked away.
“It’s a nostalgia piece, really. I don’t actually have enough glass to finish the edges,” he said.
That is not really an issue; Vollers comes up with new ways to combine what he has at hand as a matter of course. In several spots in the workshop, he has small piles of materials he’s been given or found that he is experimenting with. At some point, what they are meant to be used for will emerge.
“I look at shape and form, that’s what decides it,” he said.
Of course, some shapes suggest their future more clearly than others.
“Someone gave me a bunch of axe handles — now what do I do with those?” he said with a laugh.
Visitors are welcome to stop by the workshop and peruse the upstairs “gallery.” Vollers said he is around most of the time, but it is a good idea to call ahead to 691-4025. Those interested in speaking to Reed about her work may call 594-4748. Sharps Point South, home to the Coastal Children's and Sail, Power and Steam museums, is located adjacent to Snow Marine Park at 75 Mechanic St.
A&E editor for Courier Publications, LLC
(207) 594-4401/4407, ext. 115
Dagney has been providing Courier coverage of the local arts scene since 1985 and has helmed the multi-paper A&E section since it debuted in 2003. She has been a local performing artist, community and professional, for almost 30 years and spent a decade writing, producing and announcing on-air for several Midcoast radio stations. When not in the NewsNest, Dagney likes to be in motion.