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Sticks & Stones at The Bridge Gallery

As you may know, the Denver art scene includes a number of small co-op galleries where the artists themselves staff and manage the exhibitions, usually just on the weekends. The Edge Gallery and The Pirate, west of downtown, are examples of how these small galleries can provide low-cost avenues for cutting-edge artists to get their work in front of the public in ways not otherwise possible.

For those who do not yet know, Colorado Springs has its own small co-op gallery situated under the Colorado Avenue bridge, west of downtown. The Bridge Gallery is just across the tracks from Giuseppe's Depot Restaurant in what will hopefully be the Depot Arts District several years from now.

Each year co-op artists rotate their work, using the small but pleasing exhibition space, in between a number of group thematic shows. Inclusion in these co-ops is generally determined by a vote of existing members and, given the paucity of exhibition opportunities for innovative, but not necessarily commercially mainstream creative personalities, the shows can be intriguing and challenging.

This month the Bridge demonstrates that fact by featuring the work of two of its longtime members, computer analyst Lyle Heckathorn and Coronado art teacher Susan Risinger, in an exhibition titled Sticks & Stones.

As you might guess from the title, the common link between the two is that each is concerned with abstract representations of wood and stone. In the case of sculptor Heckathorn, stone and wood serve as the principal media while Risinger is more concerned, at least in her photography, with relationships between wood and stone.

Trained as a painter at the Art Institute of Chicago, Risinger has changed the emphasis of her work over the last year, partly as the result of health problems. "I think my work is always a metaphor for what is going on in my life," she said. Her photograph titled "Holdin' On" depicts a pine tree clinging tenaciously to a rock face.

Some of the most intriguing of Risinger's work comes in the form of three-dimensional pieces cut from rough wood. "Slice o Life," for example, is a plastic coated "slice" cut from the trunk of a tree. The slick commercial packaging complete with sales slogans like "No two alike" and "From a real tree" seem to serve as a counterpoint to Risinger's own feelings about the piece. "You can see a big crack in the wood and that the bark is coming off," she said. "Even though it's dead, it's still changing. I think that means there are always possibilities."

Heckathorn is an intellectual sculptor, combining an almost mathematical precision with an ethereal elegance. His limestone carving titled "Tetrahedral Fugue" is a three-sided piece with four openings and delicate-looking continuous ridges that weave their way in and out and around the mass of the stone. The effect is simultaneously erotic and architectural, concrete and feminine. "I am intrigued with abstract intellectual concepts realized in beautiful or playful objects," Heckathorn said. "Ideally they look as though they happened naturally, for their own reasons."

Heckathorn's other contributions range from a gemlike sculpture of chains and metal pipes titled "Frame for a Jewel" to a number of untitled stone-and-wood pieces that carry forward the continuous edges and other appealing formal elements of "Tetrahedral Fugue" to a pair of totem pieces that normally rest in Heckathorn's own sculpture garden. "Wedding Shrine" in particular is an engaging juxtaposition of the constructed regular angles of the wooden base with the organic shapes of the carved tree limb centerpiece and several complementary rounded stones.

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