Artist's Steel Sculptures on Display at Sawhill Gallery

James Madison University's Sawhill Gallery and the School of Art and Art History are hosting "Roots: The Hidden Half in Black and White," a site-responsive exhibition featuring seven large-scale works by the acclaimed Israeli-American sculptor Dalya Luttwak. The exhibit runs through April 2.

Luttwak, who currently works and lives in Chevy Chase, Md., was born in Israel's northern Galilee and moved to the United States in 1972. Her work, ranging from metal jewelry, Judaica and small sculpture to large-scale welded steel sculptures, has been featured all over the world. With her current exhibit in Sawhill Gallery, Luttwak recreates the natural configuration of plant roots through the medium of mild steel. The ideas for the structures of each piece are based on actual roots that the artist digs out of the earth and then examines and recreates. Luttwak's 30-year experience working with metal has allowed her to see the beauty of the structures and shapes of the plants in order to "explore the differences and relationships between the parts above ground and parts below."

Each piece is unique and invites the viewer to enter the world of the artist. Luttwak opted to paint the roots sculptures black and white instead of natural, earthbound colors for the JMU show. According to the artist, the inspiration for this sprang from her viewing the Sawhill Gallery space for the first time in March 2009. "It became clear that in this space, with its heavy black, industrial ceiling, thin slatted wood walls and cold concrete floor, the ‘right roots' would have to be painted not in natural colors, but rather in stark synthetic black and white."

The hours for the Sawhill Gallery, located in Duke Hall on the JMU campus, are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and Saturdays by appointment.

Luttwak will return to Harrisonburg in March for three events:

  • On March 15, she will talk about her work at a reception in the Sawhill Gallery from 5 to 7 p.m. For further information about the free public event, contact Gary Freeburg, director of Sawhill Gallery, at (540) 568-6407 or
  • On March 17, the Arts Council of the Valley will sponsor an artist reception from 5 to 7 p.m. at Smith House in downtown Harrisonburg, where Luttwak installed another piece from her "Roots" series.
  • On March 27, Sawhill Gallery will host a reception and curator's talk from 3-5 p.m. Dr. Laura Katzman, associate professor of art history, will discuss Luttwak's show. Katzman and Freeburg are co-curators of Luttwak’s JMU show.

Published February 2010