Space 204, Vanderbilt University • Through September 10

by Keeley Harper

Duane Paxson’s La Strega—Italian for “the witch”—immerses the viewer in an eerie story with a setting reminiscent of a dark woodland. The exhibit’s twisting trees and their shadows prompt the viewer to question what exactly may be residing in this grim yet beautiful forest.

La Strega (detail)

La Strega (detail)

Inspired by tumultuous historical events, such as the Salem witch trials and the Inquisition, events that appeared with the “ferocity and randomness of storms,” Paxson’s seventh major series reflects on the ways in which civilized societies commit horrendous acts. Relying on funnel shapes and hooks found throughout the structures, the works symbolize how these events can “grab ahold of you so you cannot get free.” Despite its grim yet insightful origin, the twisting beauty of each piece displays art’s ability to extract beauty from raw ideas.

An art instructor at Troy University, Paxson incorporates fiberglass, steel, and wood materials from the area near his studio in Comer, Georgia, to bring this inspiring work to life. Michael Aurbach, curator of the exhibit and professor of art at Vanderbilt University, speaks of Paxson’s high standards. “I have been familiar with Duane’s work for two decades. We try to present a variety of work with Space 204 throughout the year and knew that his work offered something special.”

La Strega will be exhibiting at E. Bronson Ingram Studio Art Center in Space 204 at the Vanderbilt University Department of Art through September 10 with a closing reception from 4 to 6 p.m. and gallery talk at 5 p.m. To learn more about the exhibit, visit To see more of Duane Paxson’s work, please visit

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