There is an earnest will to survive that you can see in the eyes of any animal.

It’s more than patience. Rather, it’s a form of determination — a determination to be willing to stay still or to run or fly at any moment to survive. Capturing the emotive resting state of an animal is difficult to tap into unless you’ve spent years around them, looking, listening and seeing.

“Treacy Ziegler: States of Waiting,” on view at the Massillon Museum through Aug. 11, is inspired by the artist's experience coming upon 200 mounted birds in glass cases in the Cornell University science atrium and through her experience making artwork with and writing to people housed in the U.S. prison system.

Ziegler has lived and worked on 85 wooded acres in upstate New York surrounded by animals and nature for more than 20 years. She also teaches art in prison systems. Ziegler receives more than 20,000 letters annually from prisoners living all over the country with “Prisoner Express,” a through-the-mail project.

The pieces included in this exhibit are created with cast bronze and with cast paper made from many of the recycled letters Ziegler receives from prisoners. Both mediums provide an energy and pointed thoughtfulness easily related to with each work that has been made.

“Beast of Burden” is a small bronze sculpture in which a white bird is depicted carrying a wooden block. Like all the work in the show, this piece is emotive and tells a story or even a series of stories with the bird's unusual surface texture and in the way the animal seems to be expressing something more human than a bird might normally. The wood block is nearly the same size as the bird and this size ratio furthers your emotional response to the sculpture while adding a level of the abstract or even the absurd.

“When You Wake You Will Have Cake” is a moving series of over 20 life-size sheep heads paper cast from the letters of prisoners. The heads are all created like you might a human bust with each facing straight forward. The heads have been exhibited side by side on a long shelf that takes over nearly half of the available wall space in the gallery. Though the pieces are all made in different colors, they each possess a similar facial expression.

The individual sheep have a look of reticence about them. Because they are cast from the paper of letters from prisoners, the human scale of them and how they are placed at a similar height that is comparable to most people, these sculptures retain a personality that causes you to step back when you take the time to investigate them closely.

“I’m Reading Them Again, the Ones You Didn’t Burn” is a large sculpture that dominates the center of the gallery and that is also paper cast from the letters of prisoners. The work is over 6 feet tall and features a gray-colored bird sitting on part of a bed frame.

Like many of Ziegler’s other sculptures, there is an inescapable stillness that comes over you when you look at this piece. However, there is also a level of hopefulness in the sculpture, which is attributable to the slight smile the bird appears to have and in the work's substantial size.

The exhibit is on display in the museum's Studio M gallery, now located in a new home on the second floor. It was formerly in the basement of the museum, but it was brought upstairs amid renovations. It’s a wonderful new gallery space for Studio M, which showcases the artistic talents of local, regional and national artists.

“Treacy Ziegler: States of Waiting,” with its thoughtfully created sculptures that range in size from small to large, exemplifies why the choice to put Studio M in a more prominent and at the same time more intimate location was a good one.

 

Contact Anderson Turner at haturner3@gmail.com