In the Woods
In the back room of Rachel Uffner's gallery, beneath a yawning skylight, a forest of plinths prop up whimsical, clay objects appearing as though from a fantastical universe both akin to and unlike our own. Sally Saul, who has been sculpting for more than three decades, probes themes of innocence, sorrow, vulnerability, and mortality during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic through a selection of whimsical clay works presented in her second solo show with the gallery.
The pieces in "In the Woods" center on imagery gleaned from the natural world, with works' mottled and textured surfaces enhancing their organic feel: from a basket of thick-petaled sunflowers in Untitled (2020)—to a figure resting at the base of a large, burly tree in Meditation Tree (2020). Owl (2020) might look to be at home in any New England curio shop—but other forms bring to mind much darker scenes. One such instance, Transformed (2020), depicts a bust of a woman who has been beaten, her tongue lolling, a bruise blooming across her temple.
No less troubling are the vignettes that offer glimpses of our current reality, even as they inhabit Saul's imagined one: Hard Times (2020) portrays a masked woman beside a spent latex glove. Figures throughout the show can almost seem stuck—as if forcibly submerged—in their pedestals: Take Troubled Waters (2020) [pictured], in which a woman in a swim tube, bobbing at the surface of her plinth, panics as waves rear around her.
Sally Saul, Troubled Waters, 2020. Clay and glaze, 12 1/2 x 28 x 17 inches. Courtesy Rachel Uffner.