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In art world lingo, an “artist’s artist” is someone greatly admired by his or her peers, earning accolades from other artists that are oftentimes followed by critical and/or commercial success.

With his innovative use of plywood, fake fur, sawdust, foam, model-scale trees, and other familiar goods, Jared Pankin might inspire a new term: the “crafter’s artist.”

This is not to say that the art world hasn’t also embraced Pankin’s whimsically wild sculptures; his three solo exhibitions in Los Angeles got the stamp of approval from several contemporary art critics. But it’s this combination of art and craft that make Pankin’s chunky pseudo-naturescapes so compelling.

Pankin’s tableaux are both serious and light-hearted. Constructed from wood that is either found or easily available at the local hardware store, his works often resemble floating landscapes. These reference and refute nature at the same time, as if their maker’s knowledge of the organic stemmed from photographs or postcards, during an era when the natural world had been fully supplanted by the manmade, the constructed, and the built.

But before we take this apocalyptic scenario too seriously, Pankin — who actually lives and works in close proximity to the majestic Sequoia National Forest — steps in with tongue-in-cheek titles and visual puns. Hog Wild (2008) is a big hog’s head made from patched-together fake fur and mounted on the wall like a hunting trophy. In Half Knot (2008), the front of a fox is completed by a chunk of dark wood in back, which doubles as a tail that eases effortlessly into a tree, stretching into the air above the animal as it teeters on a tower that seems part Tinkertoy and part craggy mountainside.

The environment is endangered, but Pankin isn’t waiting for it to disappear. Instead, he leaps headfirst into a sea of imaginative re-envisioning, creating neither replica nor homage to nature, but a playful fusion of the organic and the manmade, of art and craft.

More Pankin: makezine.com/go/pankin


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