This month at the Sande Webster Gallery on 20th and Walnut, features two prominent Philadelphia native artists and sculptors John McDaniel and Kathleen Spicer. Passage Marking: Vista and Fusion (respectively).

What’s most interesting about seeing these two exhibits together is the difference in both physical and artistic voice—while both aim to recreate some kind of naturally recurring process, McDaniel, through welded steel, recounts a story of erosion; and Spicer the story of rebirth via wood, relief and full-blown sculpture.

John McDaniel, Passage Code, Sande Webster
Passage Code by John McDaniel

McDaniel’s steel work was inspired by a trip he took to Yellowstone—namely, the typically lower-laying lay of many western states in the United States. Aside from a few of the free standing pieces in the gallery, most of McDaniel’s steel work recreates this feeling of textured and complex flatness.

“Out here on the east coast, everything is so urban and vertical and you go out to the west and it’s very flat and horizontal” John McDaniel is a Philly native. He told me a bit about the work he has done with the twenty years he’s worked with this gallery, and largely about this exhibit.

I was surprised to learn about the trip to Yellowstone. At first glance, the steel work looks very drenched in urban architecture. But as he spoke, and as I started to look closer, I started noticing the subtler patterns and the subtler connections to eroded rocks—and also to my own impositions and connections to art.

Natural Harmony, Kathleen Spicer, Sande Webster
Natural Harmony by Kathleen Spicer

“I’m always thinking about nature, birth and rebirth.” These were some of the first words that Spicer said to me when I asked her about her work and when you start to look at some of her work, these words are pretty well spoken for.

Spicer displayed a series of wood relief, relief paintings, and all-out wood sculpture. Each piece seems to draw heavily from seemingly infinitely small occurrences in nature—from seedlings and seed pods which seemingly and seamlessly bloom outward. Her work is very much alive—it appears to glow as a result of carefully placed florescent paint on the backside of many of her flat relief paintings.

“I like to make something that looks like it is organic and looks like it is alive. It’s not just stationary. It’s activating the space that is surrounding it.” Spicer says. Many of the pieces in Fusion also exude a sense of sound. Many of the sculpture pieces have a sense of music and organic rhythm.

Both artists seem to play with and engage the space (and space, in general) they work with—engaging not only your surroundings but encouraging you to participate and evaluate the surroundings as they pertain to your relationship with art.