Zebra Dreams by John Gunther

Art of the Week

Throughout the Nashville area, quarantine orders, widespread economic strains and general uneasiness about coming into contact with groups of people have taken their toll on art galleries. But despite the forces working against them, many of these local curators are remaining optimistic and doing what they can to continue serving their neighbors with creativity and inspiration.

“Here at the gallery our goal is to support all of our artists and share their handmade pieces with our many visitors,” The Copper Fox Gallery, located in Leiper’s Fork, wrote in a recent email update to patrons. “We now must ensure safety for you and our staff. We are closed as of now and available via email and look forward to hearing from you if we can be helpful and/or ship any of our pieces. Please continue to keep in touch and we will reopen as soon as we can!”

Despite the mandates and personal decisions that are keeping so many at home for the foreseeable future, The Copper Fox wants to continue offering visual art experiences. Its presenting dozens of pieces on its website and Instagram page, and even though it’s not the same as experiencing these works in person at the gallery, it’s an effort that will be appreciated by all local art enthusiasts who are stuck at home.

Recently, it has promoted Zebra Dreams by John Gunther as a piece that can be appreciated from afar.

Gunther has been a weaver and woodworker for almost 45 years, first gaining experience in a self-sufficient community in the mountains of Southern Appalachia where his skills were functionally necessary. In the 1980s, he began selling his work at regional and national arts and crafts shows and in the ’90s began artistically dying New Zealand Merino wool and weaving it into representative landscapes. As his artistic horizon expanded, he began incorporating a unique material into his weaving work: aluminum sheeting.

“John expresses his artistic creativity through the use of aluminum sheeting as a woven medium,” The Copper Fox explained in a statement. “Using two equal-sized sheets of aluminum, John paints two similar but not exact images. Then splicing and weaving the two together, he creates a unique and one-of-a-kind work of art.”

At a time when the nuances of visual art may be more difficult to appreciate because they cannot be viewed up close and personal, it’s worth reflecting on the years of technical practice and innovation that go into producing them. In this sense, Zebra Dreams is the perfect work to contemplate now.

To craft such pieces, Gunther hand primes two 0.01″-thick sheets of aluminum with a heavy metal primer that creates an underlying texture and durable base for applying color and texture paints. He then hand paints matching, but slightly disparate, patterns on the surface of the sheets and applies his distinctive aluminum weaving process.

“I then fabricate various styles of framing from flat to curved, glue-mounting the woven aluminum fabric to these frames and securing the edges with matching hand-painted aluminum tape,” the artist said in a statement via Copper Fox. “From the landscapes and vistas of Lake Michigan to the mountains of Wyoming and the Appalachians, these experiences combined with the skills and intuitions given to me through my wood worker/engineer father have provided me with a life path of pleasure and accomplishment.”

Though it may be some time before visitors can see Gunther’s work, let alone the scenery it evokes, in person again, this is as good a time as any to appreciate the passion and ingenuity our local artists express.

Gunther’s work has been exhibited at craft shows around the country and in galleries throughout the Southern U.S.

The Copper Fox Gallery is located at 4136 Old Hillsboro Road in Leiper’s Fork.

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