Walter Zurko

Walter Zurko's exhibition, "looking up to look down," opens April 7 at The College of Wooster Art Museum. (photo by Matt Dilyard)


Upcoming Exhibition by Walter Zurko Ponders the ‘Big Picture’

Wood sculptures evoke images of undiscovered natural wonders

01 April, 2015 by John Finn

WOOSTER, Ohio — Imagine what some of nature's greatest — yet undiscovered — wonders might look like, and you'll have some idea what to expect when Walter Zurko's upcoming exhibition, "looking up to look down," opens at The College of Wooster Art Museum (1220 Beall Ave.) next week.

The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, debuts April 7 and continues through May 10 in the museum's Burton D. Morgan Gallery, located in the Ebert Art Center. Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. The opening reception is scheduled for Wednesday, April 8, from 6:30-8 p.m. with a gallery talk by Zurko at 7 p.m.

In this exhibition, Zurko has crafted a range of works that reference Chinese scholar rocks, which are carefully selected limestone fragments or roots that first appeared in the "scholar's studio" in China during the Song Dynasty (CE 960–1279). These objects were intended for contemplation by the scholar, encouraging them, according to Zurko, to "look up and see the big picture — nature."

Zurko's new sculpture series plays on this idea through his rephrasing of the original objects that resemble mountains, promontories, and other natural wonders.

Surprisingly, Zurko's stunning sculptures rose from humble beginnings. He used man-made, cheaply manufactured products, such as oriented strand board, plywood, and even cardboard. This represents a slight change of direction for the artist. "I usually work with solid domestic woods and use hand-carving techniques," he says. "This time, I assembled cheaper wood-derived products and carved with power tools."

Zurko, who did the majority of the work in the exhibition during a recent research leave, will present 14 pieces, each with a unique display stand. Some of the works originated with sketches; others were created during the carving process. "There is always excitement at the start," says Zurko, "but it is often followed by frustration when things are not turning out the way I thought they would, so I ruminate for a while, then go back and add more detail to the object."

As for those who observe his work, Zurko hopes that they will pose open-ended questions about the evolution of scholarship. "I am interested in what people see and in what they say," he says. "Some won't see what I see or think, but other times viewers see or interpret the work in interesting or engaging ways I hadn't considered. Often such interpretations or 'readings' influence my future work."

Additional information about the exhibition is available by phone (330-263-2495) or online.