NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – For the first time in many years, John Gaeddert of North Newton did not have a table of his creations in wood for sale at Bethel College’s Fall Festival.
However, the Regier Art Gallery was full of his work, in an exhibit that opened Sept. 30, titled “Revelations in Wood: The Sculpture of John Gaeddert, 1950-2015.”
The exhibit was curated by Gaeddert’s grandson, Nathan Bartel of North Newton. The sculptures range in size from around six feet to six inches, and are created from pieces of wood that Gaeddert found in Kansas or Colorado – Osage orange, black walnut, bristlecone pine, cherry, ash and others.
Most pieces are on loan from family and friends. However, there is one bristlecone pine sculpture that is for sale by silent auction, with proceeds to benefit Bethel’s visual art department.
For 65 years, since about the time Gaeddert graduated from Bethel College, he has been picking up pieces of wood and taking them back to his shop to listen to what each has to say to him.
“Wood is revelatory,” Gaeddert says in his artist statement – hence the title of the exhibit.
Wood is the everyday material of buildings and burnings, and it also tells stories of dry years and wet years, wildfires and lightning strikes. “Wood reveals our shared history because it is common, because it is watchful by nature,” Gaeddert continues.
“Revelatory – we see ourselves and our world written down in the eternal dance of wood.
“The paradox of wood – its commonness, and yet how unique each piece is – [kept] me coming back to the shop. It reveals more of itself, and more about us, with each cut from the knife or the chisel. The long-lived bristlecone pine and the iron-spined Osage, the rich black walnut and the soft ash, each reveals its story and speaks that story out.
“It has been my great joy to reveal these stories for the last 65 years.”
Gaeddert’s longtime friend Bob Regier, professor emeritus of art at Bethel College, recalls the many times Gaeddert would invite Regier for a cup of coffee in Gaeddert’s woodshop.
Regier would watch Gaeddert “slowly bringing to life an image that required his sensitive eye and hand for full flowering.
“These encounters with John were always special. They revealed the intensity and commitment he had to his work, his passion and pursuit of the possibilities in the forms around him, his imagination engaged in an unfolding process that revealed his personal vision, yet always made space for viewer participation.
“John is a community treasure. This exhibit celebrates that fact.”
“Revelations in Wood: The Sculpture of John Gaeddert” remains in the Regier Gallery through Oct. 28.
Regular gallery hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday, 2-4 p.m.. There is no admission charge.