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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 mesh.

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

the environment.

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

New Jersey State Museum, 205 West State Street, Trenton,

609-292-6464. Tuesday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.; Sunday

noon to 5 p.m. Website:

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