Julie Friedman is always on the lookout for lone trees. She lives outside of Medina and drives more than 400 miles each week to teach art classes at various schools in northeastern Ohio, so she has ample opportunity to enjoy the landscapes outside city limits.
Friedman photographs her subject, projects the image onto a giant roll of paper and then cuts out its silhouette. Trees, telephone poles and roots are the subjects of her exhibition, “Convergence,” at the Cultural Arts Center.
The title hints that these subjects are related: Roots resemble inverted trees, and telephone poles supplant trees as civilization radiates outward into the countryside. Though many people consider poles and wires ugly, Friedman said she finds the way wires cross and coil appealing.
“It becomes beautiful, just because you want it to be,” she said.
Trees are easier for us to embrace. The image of a tree is ubiquitous in art and design, perhaps because there aren’t many trees around us thanks to urban development, Friedman said.
“People just feel comfortable or familiar with it, or it takes them to another place,” she said of trees.
The negative spaces created by the holes in Friedman’s works are just as important as the silhouettes. Scrolls of white paper on white walls become a forest when the gallery’s lights flick on. Delicate branches and leaves cast shadows that give the works dimension and depth.
Friedman started working with cut-outs of trees and poles years ago in artist books, some of which are also featured in “Convergence.” Stand-alone shapes of clustered roots are a newer direction for Friedman, the idea harvested from the soil of her garden and a desire to break free from paper’s rectangular format.
Though this exhibition features her paper cuttings, Friedman works with many other techniques and media, which she says is both freeing and more challenging than working in one medium.
“I want to get an idea and then explore it in different media. For me, it’s harder to find the idea than to figure out what to do with it once I find it. I don’t like to limit myself,” she said.