In the summer, relief can come in the form of air conditioning, but in this case it is art as the City of Slidell hosts the Olde Towne Arts Center’s exhibition “What a Relief” at the Slidell Cultural Center Gallery, 2055 Second St.

To experience a high level of artistry and a high level of relevance, visit this show of work by nine artists of local and regional renown who coincidentally work in and love relief sculpture.

Relief, from the Latin term “relievo” to raise, means work that projects from a supporting background. Raising to the occasion are Rick Brunner, Charlotte Collins, Ben Diller, Suzanne King, Paul Kronlage, Nelle Landry, Nolan Lefort, Andy Leonard and Martin Needom.

OTAC Director Charlotte Collins said, “Introducing the public to varied styles and artists is a goal to which we aspire.”

She credits Nelle Landry, who is a member of the OTAC Board, with inspiring the idea for the exhibit.

“People on our board as well as artists we knew were immersed in their dedication to relief art,” Collins said. OTAC was asked to partner with the city of Slidell to present the exhibit and chose the theme as a way to highlight these innovative artworks.

The artists in the show each displays a vision and a purpose in their creations. They are dedicated to a form, the environment, a message, or a piece of history which requires research and passion.

For instance, Brunner is focused upon the comparison of a Samurai warrior’s purpose and the beauty of his armor and weapons which have soul or chi. “Suspense” is a shield that suggests human qualities which he considers a natural outgrowth of the piece since shields were made to protect the human body in battle. All of his works begin with wood, some found and some of purchased.

He also makes furniture of wood that he collected on his studio property in Bush, where Hurricane Katrina leveled everything. Thus, he creates the rebirth of the beauty and functionality of his trees.

Also working with wood are Andy Leonard, Lefort, Diller, King and Needom. Leonard is a wood turner who brings wood through an evolution to a decorative work of art as he does in “Celestial Palette.” He dedicated his efforts on this piece every day for weeks in order to get just the look he desired. He explained, “Sometimes the wood dictates the final product, and sometimes I do.”

Lefort, both a scientist and artist as well as a retired teacher, is well-versed and original in all forms of art production. In “A Touch of Fall” he presents a wood carving and a print of the falling leaf. His works are emotional and interpretive, and highly sought-after.

Diller, a Southeastern Louisiana University instructor of art and design and drawing coordinator, has dipped into the world of gears, belts, and pulleys. In “Assembly Line-Up,” he presents 10 workers, each with a different tool hanging on his work overalls. The imagery is representative of a 1930s chart of US workers showing Social Security projections through productivity.

“The piece invites us to consider the driving force of the economy, manual labor and innovation and/or technology and its every evolving connection to our development,” Diller said.

King’s “Wood She Dream Tonight?,” she said, “is a variation of a theme of a series of pencil drawings I did at Tulane back in the 70s.” The work is created of chinks of wood that represent a woman in repose.

Ever creative, Needom sculpted the relief, “Coastal.” In this work, he combined wood shaving packing materials that he thought “would someday be useful,” shellac, plywood, cherry wood, paint, spackling and a profound imagination. He was reminded of waves on beaches and with overhead clouds.

Collins, Landry and Kronlage delved into other mediums. Collins’ great love in art revolves around sculptural papermaking. In “Unfurled” she creates a visual language using form, color and line to infer the meaning. It is a departure from reality, but not so far that we cannot sense the flow of pride in freedom.

Landry is the only artist in this exhibit to combine her painting skills with the relief of scenery as in “Shelter.” She said that she works from several photographs for inspiration of scenes meaningful to her experience. Then she uses plasterboard to create the layers in her image to produce a three-dimensional view of a time and place.

The first time Kronladge showed his work was for Arts Evening at the First United Methodist Church in Slidell.

“I was a bit shy about it because I only did work for my son Steven, the orthopedic hand surgeon, to hang in his office,” he said. “I used to paint in oils 40 years ago and recently returned to art, but in relief work.” The accuracy in his clay images like “Potter’s Hands” is stunning. He has successfully broken the exhibition ice.

“What a Relief” will be on display until Aug. 1. The gallery is located on the first floor of Slidell City Hall. Hours are from noon to 4 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday.

For information, email OTAC at info@OTACenter.com or call the Department of Cultural Affairs at (985) 646-4375.

Kathleen DesHotel writes about the cultural arts in St. Tammany. To reach her, email kathleenfocused@gmail.com.