A Tranquil Pause
by Betsy DiJulio
The Virginian-Pilot 07/09/10

My recent horoscope read, "The bustle that used to energize you now feels like a grind," and recommended a dose of tranquility in order to renew myself. Craving that kind of renewal on a recent Saturday, and remembering "Pause" from my Top 10 picks among spring art exhibitions, I headed for Norfolk.

When I entered Lorrie Saunders ArtGallery - a study in black and white, both walls and artwork - I did indeed discover the tranquility I sought, the kind that soothes and rejuvenates simultaneously. I was reminded of the movie Chocolat, in which the narrator says, "Once upon a time, there was a quiet little village in the French countryside, whose people believed in Tranquilite - Tranquility." Yet into that tranquil village comes Vianne with her special Mayan chocolate which, as Anthony Leong describes, "liberates the spirit of those who consume."

Just as Vianne and her daughter Anouk are "blown about by the north wind," two of the installations in "Pause" appear to have been blown in on a wind from another realm, a type of "magic-realism." At the entrance to the gallery, Ghost, a flurry of 1400 unglazed white porcelain leaves - each one unique - appears to have gently settled into a drift in the corner. Tiny tacks on the back of each gently curled leaf, attaches them to the wall in a studied and meticulous composition that appears entirely random. 

In the rear of the gallery, more expansive and liberating still is Sakura, an environment created from 3,000 tiny unglazed white porcelain cherry blossoms, each one hand made and unique. Attached individually and in small clusters to delicate copper wire inserted into the wall, the blooms seem to emit a heavenly scent. Just as exquisite as the blossoms is the lacey pattern of shadows they cast on the wall. In shallow drifts where the walls meet the floor are more individual blossoms and thousands upon thousands of petals.

"Pause" opened on the same day as the Cherry Blossom Festival in D.C. where Lukaszewski lives. When I told another D.C. area resident, my dear friend Sonya Harmon, about the installation, she had this to share which lends credence to the magical undercurrent I experienced, "They (the blossoms) are like a drug. Everyone walking among them has this beatific smile. Everyone is nice to everyone else. I don't know if the blossoms are emitting something that gets everyone high or if it's because they are just that beautiful (the latter, I'm guessing), but it makes for a wonderful communal experience." It comes as no surprise that the artist, who lived for a time in Japan and holds a degree in Asian Studies, is influenced by Japanese culture. In particular, the concept of ichi-go ichi-e, which is rooted in Zen Buddhism and expresses the notion of "in one lifetime, one meeting," holds particular poignancy for her. 

These installations alone would have been worth the trip, even if I'd had to walk from Virginia Beach, as I would have considered the journey a pilgrimage. But there is more: suspended, wall-mounted and free-standing ceramic sculpture in more unglazed white porcelain, as well as black stoneware. What may sound redundant - a black and white exhibition in a contemporary black and white gallery - was the opposite: subtle, sophisticated, complex and, yes, even magical. Not as referential as the leaves and cherry blossoms, but with nature-derived names like "Cloud" or "A Constant Wind II," these highly formal composite pieces of twisting and turning coils and ribbons - all variations on a theme - are at once contemplative and playful. 

Pause by Laurel Lukaszewski
Through May 7