Upon peering through the glass wall of windows of Stewart Gallery on Jefferson Street, you might think the place is some sort of odd toy store featuring a collection of Tim Burton-esque dolls for the Halloween holiday. Giant carved-wood heads on pedestals are split open like a book, the skulls filled with miniature dollhouse-like scenes. Lanky figures with cats' ears and blank red eyes lean crooked and mysterious, teetering on freakishly long legs. Tiny horse heads are mounted to the walls next to small paintings, which give a backdrop to creatures similar to their sculptural friends. While upon closer examination one finds that these are not toys but works of art, they still exude the same desire to be played with and manipulated, carried away into the world of storytelling.
Born in Spokane, Wash., in 1946 and raised in Coeur d'Alene, artist Terry Turrell's dad owned an automobile wrecking yard. As a little boy, Turrell used various discarded debris he found around the house to make pocket-sized toys and dolls, a practice that continued until high school when art wasn't really considered cool anymore. Upon graduating
and trying out college through an art class at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle Turrell discovered academia wasn't his thing, and Turrell moved to San Francisco in the '60s where he designed and sold T-shirts and leather bags. Surrounded by creative types, Turrell was inspired and began "making" again, a term he uses to describe what he does. A self-taught artist, Turrell once again turned to the toymaking ideals of his youth, fashioning quirky figures out of clay wood and other materials , like tin and paper. He's moved back to Seattle where he has been since the '70s and is now represented by some of the best galleries in the Western United States, including Sue Greenwood Fine Art in California, and Seattle's Grover/Thurston Gallery. Some of his Turrell's work can be found in prominent permanent collections, including a few pieces at the Boise Art Museum. Carefully curated in Stewart's sparse, clean space, it's hard not to be simultaneously haunted and amused by the recent works of Terry Turrell, on display through Monday, November 15.