The Totems series shares a formal vocabulary and material palette to the traditional wood sculptures of the Tlingit Indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, but they have different function and genesis. This foundational interaction first developed in Wingren’s youth in Ketchikan, Alaska, home to a large collection of Tlingit totems. To Wingren, these works were the catalyst for a distillation of form and potential that led to the soaring wood sculptures that float above his mountainside studio. These figures balance gently, seemingly shaped into fluid motion by the wind.

Avoiding any clear referents or representations, the simple shapes allow questions of lightness, movement, and even velocity to become prominent. Varying in scale, angle and direction, each Totem seems to play with a different “flight” pattern of gravity and weightlessness. Hanging alone or flocked together, the works highlight the three-dimensionality of viewing; the sculptures respond to the character of the space in which they are hung, drawing attention to the height and breadth of the room and the grounded perspective of the viewer.
With their eerie, singular presence — exaggerated by the way they are set in motion by the slightest draft — the hanging sculptures that make up the artist Jerry Wingren’s ongoing series Suspended Totems are both familiar and wholly strange. Executed in dense, brilliantly grained cedar, the series play with the idea of the origin of forms— lines, textures, and shapes from which the ultimate design of a natural or man-made object is built.

— Elizabeth Marglin
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