Giving new life to salvaged items–as works of art

Giving new life to salvaged items–as works of art

Williamsport Sun-Gazette | February 19, 2015

By ERICA MOTTER

Sun-Gazette Correspondent

It’s very easy for us to walk past items that we consider “useless” or “trash” in our everyday lives without a second thought.

But to some people, scraps of wood and other debris are more than rubbish–they are remnants of the past, ready to be transformed into something new.

Laura Petrovich-Cheney, an artist who finds inspiration in salvaging old wood, will be displaying her unique sculptures in a solo show entitled Around the Block at Lock Haven University’s Sloan Gallery Feb. 23 through March 27.

Petrovich-Cheney usually discovers the materials for her works while walking in her coastal town of Asbury Park, N.J.

Her wooden quilts project began in 2010, when she discovered some debris on the shoreline and re-assembled the wood scraps in a geometric pattern to create her first quilt.

“A winter Nor’easter had damaged and tossed two boats –-an orange and blue one–onto the beach,” she said. “I resurrected those boats and gave them a new life as a work of art.”

Later, after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the New Jersey coastline in 2012, Petrovich-Cheney found a wealth of new materials in the scraps of wood from damaged homes, including floorboards, pieces of cabinets and window frames.

Around the Block, the name of her show and of the first quilt in the series, refers to both the geometric, grid-based designs that were the basis for Petrovich-Cheney’s quilts, as well as to the devastation in her neighborhood after Hurricane Sandy when the debris made it impossible to drive around the block without obstruction.

Since then, she has used mostly these materials to create her quilts, and has found both historic and aesthetic meaning in the individual pieces of wood, recognizing different colors and styles that were fashionable in particular decades or neighborhoods.

“The faded colors and tattered surfaces of the wood are a nostalgic glimpse into the past,” she said. “The sentimental association of the wood to its former owners is unknown to me-–but I feel it when I touch it.”

Petrovich-Cheney also sees her wood quilts as a twist on an American tradition, in the sense that she uses “traditional” men’s tools like band saws, mitre saws and sanders to craft a “traditional” piece of female handiwork–a quilt.

“My wooden quilts recall a past heritage of craftsmanship and labor,” she said. “Working with my hands is so gratifying.”

Petrovich-Cheney started making art as a child when her grandfather, a Pennsylvania artist, noticed her interest and encouraged her to pursue extra art classes. Since then, she has had experience working with a variety of materials over the years, including stained glass, fabric, oil paints, and more.

She has worked as a fashion designer in New York and Philadelphia, and has also worked as an art teacher in a public school.

Recently, she was awarded a merit scholarship to attend the Vermont Studio Center in Jackson, Vt., for a month, where she spent time working on new pieces for her upcoming show.

Petrovich-Cheney plans to show 15 pieces in the exhibit, and looks forward to filling the gallery space with her work.

“I can’t thank Lock Haven University enough for this opportunity–it is the largest solo exhibit for me to date,” she said.

The show will open on Feb. 23 with a reception and gallery talk at 6 p.m. To learn more about Petrovich-Cheney and see her art, visit her website at www.lauracheney.com.

Around the Block
Original publication (click to view larger)

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