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Queens Chronicle

Artist crafts a serene world, with some surprises

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Posted: Thursday, September 19, 2019 10:30 am

The imagination of artist Chris Bogia can be found in between these days.

Bogia says he was aiming, as he tends to do in his practice, at a place in between the decorative arts and fine arts when creating his pieces for “Under the Bonsai Tree.” The exhibit is showing now through Nov. 2 at the approximately two-year-old Mrs., an independent contemporary art gallery in Maspeth. He was also seeking relief from the anxiety of the American political and social scene.

“I have this kind of social practice component to my work,” said Bogia, who runs an LGBT art residency on Fire Island, the first of its kind in the U.S.

Bogia wanted to step away from negativity and create “work that’s about balance and peace,” he said.

“It’s really fresh and really fun,” Manhattan artist Michelle Arlos, a painter who doesn’t know Bogia but visited Mrs. for the first time to attend the exhibit’s recent opening with her two kids and husband, said of his work. Bogia is using forms in a very playful and enjoyable way, she said.

“Big Bonsai” is his largest sculpture to date and has inspired Bogia to consider making additional large-scale pieces or even creating outdoor sculpture, he said. His previous sculptures were always small- to medium-sized.

The piece demonstrates the strength of the middlemost. It’s taller than the smallest of real trees, and it’s off-center the way some naturally grown trees can be. The far-right leaning angle of Big Bonsai’s thick trunk fully offsets the heavyweight fullness of its limbs and leaves that blossom to the far left. In between the two, gravity wins. The center holds.

“His craft is so technical and it’s so precise,” said Ryan Wilde, a sculptor who moved with her family to Maspeth to follow the family of her friend, Mrs. co-founder Sara Maria Salamone.

Yet “Big Bonsai” is, in fact, a representation in wood, steel, plastic, grasscloth wallpaper and lacquer of a bonsai pruning. Bonsai is the art of a human molding a tree or shrub into a chosen shape and preventing it from reaching its natural, full size. So we must consider that the imaginary bonsai artist conjured up a vision of an unbalanced tree and may have corrupted what was destined to be a naturally symmetrical member of the forest to create this off-center topiary in all of its unlikely stability.

Nearby is “Pruning Hand,” made of wood and lacquer. The white claw-like extremity is flat on the ground near the tree, as if exhausted, but still holding its tool aloft. As with some of the other bonsai-inspired pieces in the exhibit, the evidence of intrusion is blatantly visible near its product. It feels like we’re challenged to decide between recoiling and laughing — and come out closer to a happy chuckle — when viewing the overly long, pale and skinny disembodied hands that hover near the scenes of their manipulative little crimes.

The calmly intricate still life “Archway VI” gives another view of how much fun Bogia must have in his studio. You can see very close-up exactly where he placed colored yarn in the straightest lines and smoothest curves possible, considering he was working with a twisted streak of fibers, to draw on wood. Two armless chairs with tall backs face each other across a table laden with objects.

A rendering of Mr. Fussy, a character created by the children’s book author Roger Hargreaves, requires a good hard laugh. Bogia has drawn his left hand hanging straight down by his side, while his right hand, with one very oversized finger, appears to be resting, sans arm, near his groin — but oh wait, that’s not his hand. Ha ha.

For more fun and games, you can search LaGuardia Airport for another of Bogia’s sculptures, which has been placed in what he says is a public and readily visible space. But he won’t name it or give the precise location yet, as it hasn’t been officially announced, so happy hunting.

‘Under the Bonsai Tree’
 
When: Through Sat., Nov. 2
Where: Mrs., 60-40 56 Drive, Maspeth
Entry: Free. (347) 841-6149,

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