Past Exhibition

Vince Skelly: A Conversation with Trees

Member Preview: Saturday, Feb 18, 5-6 pm

Public Opening: Saturday Feb 18, 6-8 pm

Art Walks: Mar 4, April 1

Exhibition Virtual Tour

The Claremont Lewis Museum of Art exhibition Vince Skelly: A Conversation with Trees will present recent work by Claremont artist Vince Skelly. Carving tree trunks, many harvested in the aftermath of the epic wind storm of January 2022, Skelly explores the space between sculptural form and functional object.

Using wood from sustainable sources is always an important part of Skelly’s process. The storm offered, not only a bountiful supply of wood, but also an opportunity to create new life out of incredible destruction and loss. Some of this work was first presented in a solo show organized by Tiwa Select in Los Angeles and featured in the June 2022 issue of Architectural Digest.

The exhibition will open with a reception on Saturday, February 18 from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. and will remain on view through April 23, 2023. The exhibition is generously sponsored by Gould Asset Management LLC with additional funding from West Coast Arborists.

The Artist

Born in 1987, Vince Skelly grew up in Claremont in an artist family and recently returned to live and work in his home town. Combining process, collective memory, and material, Skelly works reductively to shape each stool, chair, or abstract form from a single block. Following grain, patterns, knots, and other characteristics inherent to the material, Skelly teases out simplified and essential forms that emerge in concert with the uniqueness and singularity of each block. Skelly’s raw and minimal approach to carving and finish allow for the life of the tree to shine through in all of its imperfect splendor.

Skelly’s sculpture combines the natural forms and weight of ancient stone dolmens with the visual efficiency of mid-century modern architecture to create timeless and idiosyncratic forms. With a background in graphic design, Skelly also demonstrates his innate understanding of typography, the power of a bold silhouette and the value of restraint. His work displays a tension between twisting gnarled natural forms and a distinctively human captivation with geometric shapes.

The work navigates fluidly and playfully across the line between form and function. Some pieces are clearly for sitting upon, while others invite a more imaginative interaction between human and wood. Openings become thresholds and stool legs are at once anthropomorphic and arboreal. Never overworked or overwrought, Skelly’s work facilitates a relationship with its audience that is alive and full of delightful surprises.

The sculptures are inspired by various traditions of wood carving, both ancient and modern, as well as by disparate reference points such as megalithic dolmens, ancient figurines, the sculptures of Brancusi, and the figures found in the paintings of Philip Guston. With a chainsaw and traditional hand tools, Skelly slowly reveals biomorphic volumes, off-kilter angles, and carved portals within his glyph-like forms, each bearing their own spirit, rhythm and personality.

Skelly holds a BS from San Francisco State University. His work has recently been exhibited at Schneider Museum of Art, Ashland, OR, the Bellevue Arts Museum, Bellevue, WA, and the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art WSU, Pullman, WA. Learn more about the artist at

The Exhibition

The exhibition will feature abstract monolithic freestanding wood sculptures for visitors of all ages. The presentation will include new benches, stools, and sculptural objects varying in size from handheld to human scale. A minimal approach to exhibition design serves to emphasize the strength and simplicity of forms while allowing the grain and color of the wood to be fully appreciated. A short film documents Vince Skelly’s challenges salvaging wood from Claremont’s fallen trees last spring.

The exhibition is generously sponsored by

With additional funding from West Coast Arborists