Costa Mesa artist’s reclaimed wood sculpture coming to Brandstater Gallery

Detail of “The Poem the Lumberjack Whispers to His Ax,” mixed media, assorted scavenged woods, baling wire
“He Dreamt of Trusting Himself,” Douglas fir flooring, re-purposed from demolition and remodel of a university fine arts building classroom
Detail of “The Genome of Joseph Merrick and the Secret of White Burl,” Holly, Myoporum laetum, glass with silkscreen image of Joseph Merrick (silkscreen printed by artist Kimiko Miyoshi)
Wood sculptor Fred Rose

Oct. 10, 2013
By Darla Martin Tucker

When residents of Costa Mesa and other Southern California cities cut down their trees, the tall woody plants may end up as intriguing works of art in a gallery rather than as landfill trash.

At least that is the desire of artist and Costa Mesa resident Fred Rose whose friends and reclaimed wood supply contacts help keep the wood sculptor supplied with trees and logs for his life’s work. “I just picked up a Chinese elm from Torrance,” said Rose in an August interview. The elm wood is difficult to work with because it warps, “but it smells amazing when it’s cut,” Rose said. The elm is currently seasoning and will become carving and turning blanks.

Rose’s artwork will be exhibited in a show titled “Fred Rose: Journey of a Curious Lumberjack” at La Sierra University’s Brandstater Gallery Nov. 11 – Dec. 11. An artist’s reception will be held Nov. 11, 6 – 8 p.m., with an artist’s talk at 6:15 p.m. This exhibit is curated by Michele Cairella Fillmore of caire/LArts and will include approximately 25 pieces.

Rose mills logs into a combination of lumber, carving and turning blanks, or specimens of wood oddities. He sometimes combines his crafted wood with other plant forms and found objects. In his artist’s statement Rose says he “collects evidence of how we deal with living trees by pruning them or how trees as living things respond to adversity as a source of poetic and conceptual inquiry.” Rose states he is interested in the complex combinations of memories invoked by simple materials and forms such as a branch, a chair, or a shovel which produce a sense of familiarity. He works to re-combine these familiar things in ways that invokes strangeness to them, in turn, encouraging re-evaluation.

Rose inherited his artistic ability and interests from his parents. His father was an architect and his mother studied art in Paris. He grew up in the Carmel Valley, an idyllic community in Northern California where the town of Carmel offers pristine beaches and numerous art galleries. He attended Carmel High School and lived in the seaside town while studying at Monterey Peninsula College.

“I was also kind of a loner,” Rose said. He spent a lot of time as a child playing along a nearby river where he often carved patterns on pebbles. He had an interest in reptiles and amphibians and initially thought he might become a herpetologist.

But Rose also enjoyed working with his hands and knew he had a knack for it. He eventually settled on an artistic career path. At Monterey Peninsula College he took a jewelry making class. The teacher noticed his abilities and encouraged him to take other arts classes, ultimately connecting him with a ceramics teacher. “I couldn’t decide between a jewelry-making or a ceramics major,” Rose said. Meanwhile he began carving wood and discovered an interest in that medium as well. After earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in ceramics from California State University, Long Beach, Rose discovered it was easier to use wood for his artistic pursuits than setting up an expensive ceramics studio.

As he delved into the world of artistic wood working, he discovered the limits of his medium. “There are only so many places you can take wood,” Rose said. “Wood comes with the history of its life that you don’t find in metals or clay. I came to really love the challenge of that aspect of it.” He relates the limits of working with wood philosophically to the cycle of life. His work alludes to the utilitarian emphasis of wood – such as incorporating a suspended mallet, shovel or garden sheer-like objects into his pieces – to wall tile sculpture that incorporates stones which harkens back to his days as a child gathering stones along the river, to whimsical carvings of stumps with small tables that evoke elements of magic and functionality. “In woodworking, most artists develop a theme around the mastery of a specific technique,” Rose said. “I make my work about the broad idea of the history and field of woodworking.”

He has been sculpting wood for the last 20 years. His work is influenced by the writings of Eric Sloan and John Seymour, the works of such artists as Isamu Noguchi, David Nash, Martin Puryear, Guiseppe Penone as well as his own childhood exploring nature along the river and in the forest.

Rose received his Master of Fine Arts in sculpture from California State University, Fullerton.  He taught woodworking at Cal State Long Beach for seven years.  He recently completed work for a traveling art show this spring organized by the Center for Wood Art in Philadelphia using wood from Bartram’s Garden, one of America’s first arboretums and botanical gardens.
Brandstater Gallery admission is free. Gallery hours are Mon. – Thurs., 10 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. For further information call 951-785-2170. The gallery is located at the Visual Art Center 112, Building 1. La Sierra University is located at 4500 Riverwalk Parkway, Riverside.

  • Last update on  October 22, 2013