Thursday, June 19, 2014

Somerville's K. Gretchen Greene: An artist happy with soot in her face and steel at her feet.

K. Gretchen Greene

 Somerville's K. Gretchen Greene: An artist happy with soot in her face and steel at her feet.

By Doug Holder

 In Gretchen Greene’s artist statement she writes: “ I am a sculptor; and in that work I see all the other things I am, all the other things I have done. As I carve and twist steel, face covered in soot, scraps of golden steel at my feet, I know I’m home.”

Forty something Gretchen Greene does not look like someone who works with steel. Tall, slender, with a slight build—she seems like someone who is cerebral rather than physical. Yet, this accomplished woman is both. Greene was educated at Yale, Princeton and Oxford among other institutions of higher education. She also has a work history that includes work as a government mathematician and  a corporate lawyer for the tony Boston firm Ropes and Gray. But Greene left the corporate world  to pursue a career as a  sculptor of steel. She often includes fragments of poetry to soften the hard surfaces of her medium.

Greene has a small studio at Somerville’s Artisan’s Asylum, an innovative warehouse of artists and creators in the Union Square section of our city. Of Somerville Greene says: “ I love the mixed zoning aspect of Somerville. By this I mean the mix of shops, residential space and industrial space at reasonable rents. I love the concentration of creative people who live in this area, and their impressive educational backgrounds. Of course this might change in a couple of years with the gentrification of Union Square. In that case people will have to move to cites further away from the hub of the action.”

Greene told me that she left the Brooks Brothers- corseted world of law to pursue the development of her own business. While she majored in math at UCLA, she also took courses on sculpting on the side. When she attended Yale Law School she took classes in printmaking as well.  She told me that she uses her mathematical and legal analytical/ research skills she picked up from her education in her work. Such challenges as how to bend and manipulate forms are met with her knowledge of Geometry and other skills in her formidable knowledge bank.

I asked Greene about the process of making her abstract steel sculptures. She said: “ First I get a 4 foot by 8 foot sheet of steel, which is only about a sixteenth of an inch wide. I then take it to a welding bay and use a plasma cutter to heat the surface. Then on the surface I sort of make an abstract painting on the steel. I have been trained in traditional brush painting and I need to have a very fluid motion to make it work." The text or poetry she places on her pieces are abstract, fragments of her memories. One work is titled "Tide Tables." Greene said: The poem concerns the ebb and flow of the tide. I used to live on the coast of Rhode Island with my partner. The poems are visceral reflections of my memory."

Greene said that the Artisan's Asylum is a great place for her to make things; it provides the resources and access to creative people essential for her business, as well as media exposure. All of these are elements needed to fertilize the seed of her nascent enterprise.

Greene has had exhibits in Somerville at the Nave Gallery, Artisan's Asylum, Brooklyn Boulders, as well as the Todd Merrill Gallery in New York City, and other venues across the country and internationally.

Greene said her works go from anywhere from 500 dollars to 6,000. She feels this a range  that people with some disposable income can afford. Greene had to leave our table at the Bloc 11 Cafe in Union Square to unload a shipment of steel that was to be delivered to the Asylum. She will undoubtedly use her well-honed skills to create something enigmatic and beautiful here in the Paris of New England.

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