City Sketch: Michael Stevens

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Wood sculptor Michael Stevens’ latest piece is titled “Roscoe Finds Baby Jenkin’s Arm” and is typical of his satirical eye: A dog is halfway up a tree, cocking his cartoonish head at a human limb sticking out of the top. A fish flops at the trunk, a hunting knife wedged in its gut. The unsettling ensemble, from the chubby doll arm to the pine-and-enameled pup, captures one of Stevens’ favorite topics: predicaments and the questions they raise. Who was Baby Jenkin? What happened to his arm? And what are we going to do about it? “What I like to do is take the innocence and work hand in hand with the macabre,” explains Stevens, who lives in Arden Arcade with his artist wife, Suzanne Adan. He has made a name for himself the past four decades doing just that. His artwork is in the permanent collections of the Crocker Art Museum, Oakland Museum and the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, among others. He is represented locally by JayJay gallery and by Braunstein/Quay Gallery in San Francisco. Stevens’ primary medium is wood, but he often uses paintings as a backdrop. Most of the canvases are found secondhand, and many are landscapes. “For me, it’s theater and I treat it as such,” says Stevens, 65. “I can do anything I want and create my own atmosphere.” Stevens’ and Adan’s art will be part of the reopening exhibition of the renovated Crocker Art Museum. Tomorrow’s Legacies: Gifts Celebrating the Next 125 Years runs Oct. 10 through Jan. 9, 2011. For more on Stevens, visit michaelstevensartist.com.