San Francisco

Barbara Spring

Richmond Art Center

Mrs. Springs wooden foods bespeak the little girl who used rocks and roots as playhouse foods, and, growing up, retained a sharp eye for food associations in natural objects. She also retained a sense of humor and enough courage to indulge her seeing eye. She has no inhibitions about her concern with food—as a wife and mother she must deal with it constantly.

Her show here comprises sculpture and assemblages of wood burls, knots and roots which have been selected and refined into the shapes of common food item—hams, hot dogs, cakes, cookies, bottles of cola drink, even vitamin capsules—then arranged into witty set-ups. Wood dough has been used, but very little foreign material has been added. Nor has association been forced with polychroming.

Although she does not work tongue-in-cheek, and disclaims any special commentary, Mrs. Spring’s works relate to that phase of Pop Art pioneered by Wayne Thiebaud, whose penetrating commentary on America’s eating habits launched a whole art movement. Her giant-sized slice of watermelon suggests some monstrous mutation—or a monstrous greed. The pan of burnt food, titled “Divorce,” and the coke-and-hot-dog supplemented with a vitamin capsule, titled “Balanced Diet,” are more than just whimsical arrangements. These are American genre with a dry twist of humor. Barbara Spring may be more astute than she realizes, although her more traditional wood sculptures, such as weed pods mounted on polished burl slab, are not extraordinary.

––Elizabeth M. Polley