Before he started making his own in 2001, artist Cameron Zebrun had never set foot in a kayak before. But he was attracted to its shape. “I just thought it was a beautiful abstract form,” he says.
Opening this Saturday, Zebrun's show at Kolman & Pryor Gallery, “Singular Nature,” features seven of his kayak sculptures. While he has shown his kayak works publicly in the past, this is the first time he will be dedicating a whole show to the series, which he has been working on for 15 years.
The impetus to create kayak sculptures was born while living in Chicago, where he worked at the Field Museum handling anthropological objects. “I wanted to use tools to represent a human presence in my work,” he says.
Zebrun builds his kayaks from scratch, and they are always the same size: six feet tall by 12 inches wide. From there, he uses a process of layering thin sheets of birch plywood to create textures and surfaces that resemble how topography is depicted on models. “It looks like river basins or craters or thermal pools,” he says.
In addition to the kayaks, the exhibition will also include 17 related photographs. “I’m exploring different ways of looking at landscapes, maps, and schematic drawings of one of my kayaks,” Zebrun says. These works start with his photography, and are then manipulated to make a continuous composition.
The landscapes are drawn from Zebrun’s travels, often to the North Shore but also including various trips to Glacier National Park, Yosemite, and other outdoor locations. In 2005, Zebrun won a Minnesota State Art Board Grant to travel to the western United States, and he’s still using the photography he took on that trip as source material. He also won a Minnesota State Arts Board grant last year to travel to northern Minnesota.
Quite often, he’s exploring water in his work. For example, for one of the pieces in the show, Glacial Flood, Zebrun was inspired by run-off waters, which are turbulent. “I was attempting to reproduce that kind of river on the surface,” he says.”
While he had never floated in a kayak before he began using them as art objects, he has since become a kayaker. “I wanted to experience the actual floating around in a boat,” he says. However, he won’t be taking of his art pieces out on the water anytime soon. IF YOU GO:
Cameron Zebrun's "Singular Nature"
The opening reception takes place on Saturday, February, 24 from 7 to 10 p.m.
Kolman & Pryor Gallery
Through April 9