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This article by Pat Summers was prepared for the December 19, 2001
edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
`Natural Selections’ by Elaine Lorenz
Her sculpture may start with a wisteria vine, both
and menacing at the same time. The shape of the work derives from
that of the vine — often thick, twisting, and strong. After
the vine, Elaine Lorenz forces metal mesh into its openings, creating
a kind of armature. Then she will push heated, colored wax through
The resulting sculpture is likely to be large, coral colored, and
non-figurative although highly suggestive. Of what? Oh, maybe an
body part, seemingly trussed with a vine. Or an enlarged wound from
which cross-hatched wire might be showing. Or maybe an artery.
"Natural Selections," Lorenz’s exhibition of 15 sculptures
and wall pieces, is on view through December in a second-floor gallery
of the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton.
"Wounded" and "Linkage" are both heavily, curlingly
vertical, each taller than the average person, each with pendulous
parts and an air of menace. Like ropes, vines appear to wrap the wax
form — even though they are the first element employed, not the
A Lorenz wall piece will still be abstract and may not include wax
among its ingredients. The vine might be peeled to a natural wood
shade, and the mesh, where Lorenz torched it to finish and soften
the jagged edges, is accented with iridescent hues that can look
against the wood.
"Constriction/Flow 1" suggests physiological origins. The
vertical, hanging work in dark, blood-red beeswax, is somehow lashed
at the top and looks open at the bottom. Much more playful,
features a ribcage-like structure of pale, peeled vines and curving
bark pieces — one of which is punctuated with a dried Osage
Her process is intuitive, Lorenz says. She has no pre-idea of shape;
working with her materials determines that. She knows, though, that
her sculpture reflects both the frailty and the resilience of nature,
of our bodies, of relationships. Her forms are made of both natural
and fabricated materials, she says, echoing interacting forces in
Down feathers, bark, reed, an orange: besides her basic beeswax, these
materials are among the "natural selections" in Lorenz’s
Rubber figures in one piece, plaster in another, and throughout the
exhibition, she has used different metal meshes: steel, aluminum,
brass, and the copper that she has come to prefer for wall pieces
because of its color potential.
Lorenz’s work with wax coincided with her return to college for her
MFA degree in the 1990s. Although encaustic painting (pigment mixed
with wax) dates back to the Egyptians, she has adapted the use of
wax to her own sculptural purposes — which sometimes include
of personal experiences. (In fact, the wisteria vines she uses trace
back to her reclamation of a family house and garden.) To the long
tradition of wax in art, she has contributed the notion of using
colors for a translucent finish.
A resident of Cliffside Park, Lorenz has taught sculpture and
design at William Paterson University in Wayne for about 10 years.
This show is the second time her work has appeared in the state
Two years ago, one of her pieces, "Beyond" (also in this
was part of the New Jersey arts annual exhibition. On the basis of
that work, she was invited to mount "Natural Selections,"
a show which can be seen through Sunday, December 30.
— Pat Summers
609-292-6464. Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday
noon to 5 p.m. Website: www.njstatemuseum.org.
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