I have been waiting to see Elisabeth Higgins O'Connor's giant sculptures for as long as I can remember, and the opportunity finally came along at one of the best shows I've seen in a long time. The Bedford Gallery is the only reason I've ever visited Walnut Creek, and it's always worth the drive. Their latest show is called Larger than Life: Exploring Scale in Contemporary Art and it's all about the big stuff.
Larger than Life is my idea of a dreamy wonderland designed by some of my favorite artists. There's a giant pink inflatable elephant, a yeti hugging a unicorn, a big blue head, and more than five sculptures by the unstoppable O'Connor. Her mangy monsters, made of a huge variety of found scraps, are awkward and loveable, downtrodden but proud. It was really hard not to hug them. Her work feels haphazardly constructed at first, but every detail is so very intentional. I could stare at those sassy beings forever; they seem so full of life.
I originally thought some nearby big dogs were also O'Connor's work because they seemed to be in direct dialog with her ragtag bunch, but they were actually the work of Robb Putnam. One of his dogs had a pink bag for a tongue and sacks of pom-pom balls for cheeks. The layers on these pieces are incredible; uncut threads hang from the stitched-up fabric junk that binds them together. Like O'Connor's work, they felt relatable.
A giant ceramic suited man holds court in the gallery, an amazing creation by Viola Frey, the master of going big. But another blue chip piece by Chuck Close felt like a sore thumb. His huge weaving of a Brad Pitt portrait seemed to be there purely for its star power, when the real stars of the show were Tristin Lowe's pink Dumbo, O'Connors motley crew, and Tara Tucker's aforementioned bigfoot hugging a unicorn.
We interviewed Tucker in 2009 when she had a show of animal drawings and a large hooked rug. Her technical skill is incredible, and it's always interesting to note she grew up working with taxidermy as a kid, alongside her mother. The bigfoot is massive and endearing, and it was nice to see how Tucker's work has evolved over the past few years. The mix of drawing and fiber sculpture is unique, especially at the enormous scale.
I'm gushing about this show because I really loved it and you will too. If you don't, we probably can't be friends. I would give anything to see all the sculptures come to life and start walking around, maybe in the gallery after dark, or better yet, in an enchanted forest.
Larger Than Life: Exploring Scale in Contemporary Art is on view through August 18, 2013 at the Bedford Gallery in Walnut Creek, CA. For more information visit bedfordgallery.org.