by Richard Speer
With poeticism and concentrated emotional potency, Raine Bedsole’s sculptures and works on paper speak directly to the human heart by channeling the power of enduring symbols and archetypes. The oars, boats, bird’s wings, and other motifs that recur throughout her exhibition, Ghost Fleet, at Gallery Bienvenu address the viewer in a language not limited to earthly tongues and time periods. While creating this body of work, Bedsole remembered a foggy day many years ago along the Tensaw River in Alabama, where she happened on a flotilla of abandoned World War II-era ships. “These majestic, imposing creatures were just sitting there, rusting and rotting,” she recalls. “When I first saw them, I didn’t know what they were. They were so mysterious... They had such a presence.” Inspired by the memory of this eerie, unforgettable sight, she began thinking about the phenomenon of memory and the dynamic between the objects and experiences that anchor us to our past and those that liberate us to let go.
A prizewinner in the prestigious Florence Biennial and a grant recipient from the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Bedsole is widely exhibited and collected throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and the Americas. In recent years her work has grown more spatially and thematically expansive, sometimes verging on the abstract. A lightness and ethereality pervades, evoking the hushed, contemplative serenity that flows from what award-winning architect E. Fay Jones once called “thinking our best thoughts, regardless of whatever faith we choose to subscribe to.”
Many of Bedsole’s sculptures incorporate fabrics, twigs, found papers, and texts that hold profound personal significance for the artist. Her works on handmade watercolor paper, some of which gleam with flat copper foil, incorporate many of the same materials and processes she uses in her sculpture. Many of the works have luscious patinas and textures as a result of being soaked, salted, mud-caked, dried, and enriched with passages from poems and books, further distilling the rich roux of meanings they embody. The pieces, she reflects, “are about letting go and releasing the past—trusting that there’s a compass to guide us through the fog, so we can let go of the shore and trust the sea.”