Paula Wenzl Bellacera’s exhibit is the culmination of her imaginative foray into the realm of local wildlife such as hares, hawks, and owls. Capturing movement and character through her precise charcoal drawings and lively ceramic sculptures, Bellacera pushes the strengths of each medium to great effect.
In creating her ceramic sculptures, Bellacera lets the malleable nature of clay direct the form. She emphasizes the distinctive character of each bird or rabbit, exaggerating their eyes or ears, to give them a bit of personality. As she notes, “the spontaneity and plasticity of the medium makes hand building a process of discovery- full of surprises.” While inspired by photographs, her three-dimensional work is more based on her imagination, rather than scientific measurements of animal anatomy. Feathers are hinted at, through loose brush strokes and suggestive marks, rather than painstakingly detailed.
The exhibit includes Bellacera’s castings in bronze, a pygmy owl and a stretching hare, as well as her raku-fired owls. The raku firing, together with her experimentations with various glazes and wax-resist, produces a wonderful smoky surface that is riddled with color and luminosity. Equally impressive are her large-format drawings, one of a quiet wetlands scene devoid of animal life, and another of two ‘March hares’ fighting, a nod to some non-native wildlife.
Choosing these particular animals for Bellacera points to their opposing positions on the food chain. Whereas raptors tend to be seen as aggressive and less friendly, rabbits are often viewed as playful and warm. To the artist, these categories mean little. The odd hairstyles or head positions of an owl are reminiscent of various people in her life, and each animal evokes a different emotional state. These expressive animals point to our natural connection to the creatures living around us. Bellacera also often installs the animals in tight configurations with each other, to give them a social setting in which their personalities can better play out.
It is truly amazing how Bellacera’s sense of experimentation and investigation into the animal kingdom in this region, combined with a great sense of humor, has resulted in a world of characters full of charm and action.