By Rex Rutkoski Staff Reporter, 724-226-4664 Published: Tuesday, May 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
When Stacey M. Schultze learned the Hillman Center would be hosting Michael Pollan, she offered to display a series of her paintings inspired by the his classic book “A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams.”
“She sent me a link to look at her art, which is phenomenal, and I jumped at the chance,” says Sarah York Rubin, the center's executive director. “Stacey drove up from Virginia with her husband (a career Marine), two children (whom she home-schools) and dog last weekend to hang the show in our lower lobby.”
Schultze has never met or spoken to Pollan, but is looking forward to that changing May 10.
“I am thrilled to hear him speak,” she says. “I certainly hope he sees my work as a wonderful tribute.”
The 12 works of mixed media on paper, which she calls “Tiny Houses,” reflect the themes and concepts in Pollan's book, in which he recounts building, without any training, his writing studio — the “tiny house” — and his reflections on the power of place to shape our lives, what constitutes “real work” in a technological society and other subjects.
“Michael has a respect for his environment, humanity and the other-worldly that inspires me to keep it real,” Schultze says. “My pieces are layered. I try to capture more than what lies on the surface.”
She employs a direct, gestural approach that is counterbalanced by an underlying delicate intimacy. It is, she says, a modern form of expressionism, primarily abstract in nature.
Nearly all of her titles are direct quotes from the book or ideas presented in it. Through line, color, texture and form, she attempted to capture the weighty concepts addressed and also “the concrete rawness” of dirt under fingernails and physical labor in creating a structure with character.
The artist says the concepts explored in the book and her exhibit each fill a space, creating a conceptual “tiny house” in her mind, which she has tried to convey in visual terms.
“It is very thought-provoking,” Rubin says. Each piece is based on a known figure who struggled to create a space of freedom within the existing social structure, such as Henry David Thoreau, who classically retreated to Walden Pond to find his own space.
Schultze says there was a sense of nostalgia that swept over her as she read the book.
“It brought me back to my childhood when I would accompany my father to his job sites, where he constructed not just houses, but spaces in which we live,” she says.
She hopes people who see the free showcase — from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through May 9, and during “A Conversation With Michael Pollan” — will contemplate the limitations and freedoms drawn from the places we fill, acknowledge the influence the structures impose on our lives, “and value the gift of those who create the spaces we inhabit.”
“We take for granted the impact we have on our environment and underestimate the influence our environment has on us,” she says, “both inside and outside the places we dwell.”
Schultze will be available for questions before and after the program.