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In some ways mixed media sculptor Gabriel Kulka is a writer when he creates. His pieces usually incorporate three elements: a subject, an environment and a floating predicate that all fiercely shed light on the darker and scary parts of life, despite their miniature size.

“Somewhere along the way I realized that the human brain sees things on three levels, the overarching environment, the eye to eye level and a small fictitious level,” Kulka explained. “My small pieces are almost like watching television or reading a book, where for a brief moment you leap into it and exist on its terms.”

Kulka tries to mirror the need for people to connect to their surroundings by placing clay figures that could stand on their own into open wooden boxes, precisely cut to fit the emotions behind the figure. His pieces rely on the fact that many times our environment is a reflection of our minds and hearts. In this way when viewers look into the small box, they look into the figure’s story.

“I can’t describe that internal reflection about one’s experiences in their life in words,” Kulka said. “I can only show the viewer the invisible complexities and layers of my own meaningful memories with the language of my art.”

Kulka’s exhibit, aptly named “Invisible,” is showing now until August 7 at the tart gallery, in the Emerson Center. The 34 pieces on display use content of little wood or clay women in proportionally large dresses hanging by strings from the top of their wooden case, wooden male figures with long block like wings weighted down against their box and long legged girls with a perched bird inside their open chest, like a cabinet. All of which, Kulka says, symbolize his own personal stories and experiences.

“I never sell anything that is not personal,” Kulka said. “The only time my work resonates with people is when it is an absolute truth for me and I just poured myself into it. The pieces that I still have a vibrant spark for are the pieces that other people get excited about too.”

Kulka’s concepts behind the pieces are universal. They are themes of lost love and fear, themes to which people relate. The uncertainty about what the day will hold and even the fear of being in love are all daily occurrences that can leave someone absolutely terrified, he explained

“My art shows the moments when we realize our individuality, our isolation, our loss of something wonderful and how we can do nothing to change that,” Kulka said. “These unfixable moments of lead clouds or leashed birds all show our lonely limits, but they also point a finger at what it was like to have that happy wonderful time.”

To better portray these unfixable situations some figures are holding on to spooled stars with long strings, or to an extremely long string attached to a cloud made out of lead, others are trying to hold back leashed birds. The uncontrollable nature of birds, clouds only add to the powerless figure.

Synonymous with hearing a breakup song on the radio and feeling hurt about it, while also remembering the good times, Kulka’s work illuminates both sides of the sword.

“The reminder of a relationship and a connection is the brightest moment because that is when we are still our own small little planets, but we figure out how to navigate the limitations,” Kukla said. “My little pieces do just that: they remind us of life.”

Ali Everts is an avid art consumer who would love to hear your comments or suggestions. She may be reached at or 582-2632.

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