The challenge began with a Bible study, where Michael w. Howes was teaching the book of “Revelations.”
The proper title of the Bible’s final book is “The Revelation of Jesus Christ as made known to His servant John.”
“And John was talking about a bunch of images, and I started thinking about my wands and what it would mean to express some of these figures through them,” Howes said.
Howes refers to his wand figures carved from azalea bush branches. He’s created wand characters for previous exhibitions, but his show, “Ruga Heads and Wands of the Revelation,” in BREC facility Baton Rouge Gallery’s December exhibitions tells a detailed story.
Also featured is John Harlan Norris’ “Works on Paper.” Both exhibits run through Tuesday.
“The auditory descriptions and visual depictions that John relates are overwhelming in their magnitude and consequence,” Howes writes in his artist’s statement.
“From this source a contrasting mix is made, of saint and sinner, of angels and demons, of saving grace with eternal life or a second death of everlasting damnation — all within the plan of a single God who seeks us. This is the context from which these forms are derived.”
At first glance, the front gallery’s walls appear to be filled with tree branches arranged in a straight line. This is the kind of show that requires a closer look, revealing faces and figures carved in each branch.
“I became fascinated with it,” Howes said. “The wands happened as a medium for experiencing what it was all about. I liked the idea of their limits, the creative nature of the branch and how each branch suggested the character of what it would be.”
Howes has used azalea branches as his medium in previous shows. He developed the idea of using them after pruning some azalea bushes in his yard.
“The azalea canes stand erect even after they die,” he said. “I started looking at them and realized it’s a wonderful wood to work with. It’s high in grain, and it has a lot of color. It’s dense, but unlike other dense woods, it doesn’t split easily.”
Howes used an X-Acto knife to carve faces and bodies and small drill bits to create holes. He pairs the wands with a series of characters he calls Rugas, which Howes explains are creatures of “fin, fur and scale” that reflect the darker side of nature.
This series of Ruga heads originate from the idea of masks used in south Louisiana festivals and pageants.
“I was also thinking about the trophy heads that hang on hunters’ walls when I made them,” he said.