Sculpturist Gina Telcocci Mimics Life Cycles in Her Art

The West Oakland artist resurrects materials from the natural world, turning them into intriguing new life forms.


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Photo by Lance Yamamoto

West Oakland sculpture artist Gina Telcocci resurrects materials from the natural world, turning them into intriguing new life forms. Her work reminds viewers of the omnipresent life cycle — birth, death, decay — and where simple beauty resides within each part.

Telcocci grew up in Oklahoma City, received her MFA from the University of Colorado in Boulder, and lived in Santa Fe, N.M., for many years. After moving to the Bay Area 17 years ago when her husband accepted a job here, she discovered new fodder for her work.

“My art embodies a profound sensitivity to the environment — wild and domesticated — and awareness of the beauty, terror, and mystery of life,” Telcocci said.

Combining natural and manmade materials like plywood and fibrous plant matter with bits of metal and miscellaneous detritus collected from the waterfront along Jack London Square, Berkeley, and Albany, Telcocci assembles her sculptures into organic shapes. Using ancient crafting techniques of basketry, woodworking, sewing, and weaving, she transforms each piece from something at the end of its life cycle into something altogether new — objects at once strange yet completely familiar. Reminiscent of archaeological finds from old civilizations, her sculptures are shaped like baskets and vessels, shells, tools, flasks, and wheels, suggesting a once primal world.

“I love the work of Ruth Asawa,” Telcocci said. “Basketweavers, landscape designers, and urban architecture interest me, too. And, of course, the natural world is my muse, especially the sea coast, high desert, and red rock canyon country.”

Her work lends itself equally to indoor space — galleries, libraries, and college campus buildings — and outdoor installations. Her large Willow Vessels, for example, have taken up temporary residence in symbiotic relationship with their natural surroundings at various sites in New Mexico. Blending seamlessly into yet adding a playful mystery to the environment, the vessels woven from grasses and willow fibers create movement in swirling, seductive shapes and earth tones. And despite an ephemeral quality, these works sometimes find permanent homes in indoor spaces.

Telcocci counts among her influences site-specific, nature sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, whose work feels evident in many of her public art installations. A work at Memorial Park in Albany was built into the lawn and constructed of stones, turf, and concrete complementing the adjacent architecture. And she completed a wetlands installation along the river on the Pojoaque Reservation in New Mexico in one day as part of a festival and comprised of sand, sticks, river, and grass supported with chicken wire. “The idea was to use the flow of water on sand to create a striking visual design, suggesting the critical role of water in the arid Southwest,” Telcocci said.

In September, a piece for a temporary exhibit at the Leonore Curtin Wetlands outside Santa Fe was installed for a project of Axle Contemporary, a nonprofit mobile gallery with an extensive program of art shows across New Mexico. “My sculpture for the show was titled Mudma. All work in the exhibit was to be site-specific and made from native materials on the site. Mudma is a kind of manifestation of the spirit of the region’s mud — what I think of as sacred dirt and water,” she said.

In Oakland, she works both from her studio in the basement floor of her house and in her backyard, working several pieces simultaneously. Telcocci wants those who experience her work to find it worthy of contemplation and in some way reinforcing and inspiring. Telcocci has shown her work since she was a teenager and exhibits widely across the United States, Mexico, and South Korea, including public commissions. She is represented by GearBox Gallery in Oakland and Ernesto Mayans Gallery in Santa Fe, N.M. She teaches 3D design at Santa Rosa Junior College and is planning workshops around the Bay Area and beyond including participation in the 2019 National Basketry Organization conference. For more information, visit her website at GinaTelcocci.com or and Facebook or Instagram.

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