When artist Wesley Reddick of Belfast thinks of white, he says it’s two Hostess Snowballs covered with coconut that first come to mind.
“I don’t know why I thought that,” said Reddick, one of the artist owners of the Aarhus Gallery. “I did, and I don’t even eat those.”
That’s how the majority of his sculptures come about. An image pops into his head, and he can’t stop thinking about it until he builds the image. In this case, the resulting sculpture was two Hostess Snowballs spinning in a glass box.
Reddick’s sculpture, “Two Snoballs, Twenty-four Cranks,” is a part of the exhibition “White,” on display through Feb. 27 at Aarhus Gallery in Belfast. For the exhibit, 19 artists working in a variety of media created art that is dominantly, if not completely, white.
The Aarhus Gallery is owned by a partnership of eight artists who display their own artwork in the space and also invite outside artists to display their work in themed shows and individual exhibitions. For the first show of their 2011 season, they usually choose a fun theme that may challenge artists to work outside their usual style and create something new.
“We kind of have a history of using February to do something a little different,” said Abbie Read, one of the Aarhus Gallery owners.
Two years ago, they had a similar exhibition titled “Red,” a show of dominantly red pieces, chosen to coincide with Valentine’s Day.
“Some of us were interested in working in the color white and seeing what we could come up with,” said Read. “Of course, it’s wintertime in Maine, there’s a lot of white around, and it seemed like a good time of year to contemplate the color white.”
While many people would consider this artwork to be void of color, white is actually the color of objects that reflect nearly all light of all visible wavelengths. In other words, it is technically a rainbow of colors.
In addition to Reddick’s “snowball” sculpture, he has one other mechanical sculpture in the show. It involves a footprint appearing in a bed of rice. Both sculptures are operated through cranks, so that the viewers have control over the kinetic nature of the piece.
“Its fun to watch people walk up to the pieces and think, ‘Is it OK to touch this?’” said Reddick.
Reddick inherited a mechanical mind. His paternal grandfather was a mechanical and electrical engineer and has several inventions to his credit. As a child, Reddick visited his grandparents’ home, which he remembers as smelling of vanilla custard. In their studio, he grew familiar with blueprints and watched his grandfather draw.
His maternal grandfather was an electrical engineer who later in life took up carving figures and building large-scale models of entire towns. He also encouraged Reddick to experiment with building.
“As a kid, I made mechanical toys for myself and rigged up my bedroom with strings and pulleys and gadgets that made my life far more complicated than it needed to be,” said Reddick.
Reddick attended Massachusetts College of Art and Design and he came to view his inventions as art.
“I’ve been making things since I was 4 years old, and I’m still making things and hopefully will never stop,” Reddick, 54, said. “My [maternal] granddad continued making things right up until he was 98 years old.”
Reddick was one of the six founding artists of the Aarhus Gallery, and used his carpentry skills to help renovate the space in downtown Belfast.
Now, eight artists run the gallery and usually show their work in all exhibitions.
Ingrid Ellison joined the gallery artists a year ago. She usually works in colorful oil paint, but for “White,” she decided to leave the canvas and build a 3-D representation of her paintings. Silver-coated sticks, stacked white fabric, glass beads and other materials dangle on wire and transparent line in the gallery front window. The ten rows of winter-evoking objects represent the layers of paint that go into her 2-D compositions.
“Typically, my paintings are really bright,” Ellison said. “It was different for me to think more of texture and shape.”
For the majority of artists in the show, using an excessive amount of white in their artwork was a new experience — and together, the artwork creates an environment that also may be a new experience for viewers. The white art displayed on the gallery’s white walls gives an overall effect similar to a bright landscape covered in fresh snow, emanating tranquility, purity and light — the whole spectrum.
Other featured artists in “White” are Ragna Bruno, Maryjean Crowe, Gabriella D’Italia, Kevin Johnson, Mark Kelly, Freddy LaFage, Marc Leavitt, Richard Mann, Karen MacDonald, Petrea Noyes, Willy Reddick, Mike Rich, Lesia Sochor, Prairie Stuart-Wolff, Simon van der Ven and Richard Whittier.
Aarhus Gallery, which will be celebrating their fourth year this summer, is located at 50 Main St. in Belfast. For information, visit www.aarhusgallery.com or call 338-0001. From February to May, Aarhus gallery is open 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday-Sunday.