Columbus Dispatch  (January 21, 1996):  p. 8 G.

“Carvings Offer New Look at Pierce.”
By Jacqueline Hall


A small but carefully selected exhibit of works by celebrated Ohio woodcarver Elijah Pierce is on view at Keny Galleries.

Pierce’s art is well-known in Columbus, his adopted city, where he spent most of his long, productive life.  Shortly after his death in 1984, the Columbus Museum of Art acquired some 200 of his carvings and in 1992 organized a major exhibition that toured nationwide.

Pierce was a prolific artist, and every so often another infrequently seen piece, jealously guarded by its owner, surfaces.  Such is the case with several carvings in this show, especially Girl Scout, a varnished rather than painted carving; Lady, a simple, serene image of a woman (perhaps Pierce’s mother); and Guardian Angel.

In some instances, works are similar to pieces previously exhibited.  The White House, for instance, is a variation on a work that is part of the museum’s collection.  So is Suffer the Little Children.

Eight of these 18 works have rarely or never been seen in public.  They were selected for quality – the cleanness of the carving and richness of the images.

The works also were chosen to represent Pierce’s favorite themes: religious subjects and political, civic and historic commentaries.  There is one striking departure:  Anniversary Flowers (Birthday Flowers), dated 1970.  Made for Pierce’s wife, it is a floral composition in a softer palette than usual in Pierce’s work.

Regardless of subject, Pierce always showed remarkable compositional sense, which gives great value to his work.  He liked to arrange elements of his images in a circular or elliptical pattern.  The viewer’s eye keeps moving, capturing the details of vivid, forceful scenes.  This is particularly noticeable in the complex Christ With Angels and in Hear No, See No, Speak No Evil.

The Power of Prayer and Guardian Angel are crisp images that reveal Pierce’s emphasis on composition.  These works offer exceptional unity, which dramatically strengthens their messages.

While the rich palettes and animated scenes of Pierce’s carvings delight the eyes, the works also are intellectually stimulating with the observations and commentaries born of the artist’s faith in God and concern for his fellow men. 

Copyright 1996 The Columbus Dispatch