Marked by its jagged, multidimensional top and propped by three misshapen legs, Mel Kendrick’s ’67 “Three Leg Walnut” is one of the many pieces showcased in the Addison Gallery of American Art for his exhibition “Seeing Things in Things.” Created with a chainsaw and composed of wood, the sculpture is one of many emblematic of Kendrick’s sense of artistry and tactile feeling.
The project initially started in 2016, with former Addison director Judith Dolkart initially planning to launch the exhibition in 2019. While postponed for the creation of an accompanying book, Kendrick believes that the extra time spent, along with the essence of the space, allowed for the show to be more fluid and nuanced.
“This was an incredible opportunity because of the essence of this unique museum. Physically, the Addison has all these sky-lit rooms, and that actually led me into the structure and sort of how one can move through the show,” said Kendrick.
While living in New York City in the 1970’s, Kendrick found it difficult to get affordable materials for his artwork. The one accessible material he could find during this time was wood. Although Kendrick never formally learned how to weld wood, he uses it as a canvas for his art and enjoys its small margin for error.
“If you cut a piece of wood, it cannot be uncut. In other words, if you realize, ‘Oh, that’s not what I want’ you have to glue it back together. So this started the whole process of what I’m involved with––trying to see where things are coming from, see where they’re going, and where they might go,” said Kendrick.
During his time at Andover, Kendrick took many art classes and was a sports photographer for The Phillipian. Kendrick reflected that his interactions with classmates and teachers left a lasting impression on him that he carried into his professional career.
“About the other students—everyone at Andover is smart. They have to be. And the dialogue is very clever. I hadn’t found that again until I was amongst artists, because it was just the intelligence and the humor of the discussion––it wasn’t all the dogma you’d read in the books, but when you’re hanging out with them, famous people, you know, Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, they did not seem to mind having me along,” said Kendrick.
By displaying the imperfections and roughness present in each piece, Kendrick believes that the whole exhibition becomes more visceral, yet personal. This transparency, he hopes, will inspire viewers to embrace and create art as art itself.
“I think [my exhibit] is optimistic. I think that it serves and would maybe encourage people to think, ‘I can do.’ Because I don’t need much. I don’t wait for the perfect material or wait for even inspiration. You just work and you see what you’re doing. I think it’s maybe even the openness of this open entry,” says Kendrick.