Brian Pardini: Listening to Wood
Trees, water, sand, time, and small miracles
Brian Pardini's driftwood sculptures seem sentient. They stretch, perch, and fly. Sit, contemplate, and brood. Some are small and meek, others monolithic and imperious. All carry on an intense conversation in the intimate space of the Little Things Gallery on the main floor of the Erie Art Museum.
More than 100 sculptures occupy the three small glass cases of the gallery. From a few inches in size to more than two feet in height or width, Pardini's works are studies in form, texture, and mood. Many are weather-worn and smooth; others have gouged, knotted, gnarled, and frayed parts. There are mammals (including humans), birds, plants, reptiles, and many mythical creatures that defy categorization as any particular species.
The discovery and the process of creating is as equally valuable as the final product to Pardini. "I love the whole process, the physicality of being outdoors and carrying home, sometimes, large pieces." Speaking of his beach walks and pursuit of treasure, he says "I am open to what's there; the pieces I find tell me what they want to be. I am not overlaying humanity onto them."
Neither is he merely mounting pieces of driftwood for display. He brings an extraordinary amount of artistry to each work. Additions include eyes, tails, and more, even though the viewer cannot often discern the alterations or junctures. That the viewer sees a seamless work is testament to his more than 20 years of crafting experience and his abilities with wood.
Pardini is most satisfied, though, when he doesn't have to modify his sculptures much. "Oftentimes," he offers, "I feel like I found a cave of prehistoric paintings and I am just bringing them into the light. There's something miraculous about the combination of a tree, water, sand, and time that creates the remarkable pieces I find."
When looking at Pardini's works, a person with knowledge of local artists can't help but be reminded of Gary Spinosa's art (whom Erie Art Museum patrons will remember from his 2018 exhibit). It's as if he sees wood the way Spinosa sees clay. Pardini acknowledges Spinosa's influence and calls him a good friend. "His work has a sense of magic," says Pardini. "His ability to access the luminosity of things ... to show how a work of art can communicate spirit and soul is just astonishing. Spinosa's work has definitely influenced mine."
For Pardini, there is joy in the recognition of something palpable in the driftwood — a person, emotion or attitude — and then bringing it to life. To him, these are small miracles. "I feel connected to a long line of seekers and finders of gifts from nature that may touch the ancient soul in all of us."
Now it's our turn to discover what Pardini has found. Our turn to experience small miracles.
Thurs. & Fri. 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sat & Sun., 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. // Erie Art Museum, 10 E. 5th St. // Admission prices vary // (814) 459-5477 // erieartmuseum.org