By Geoff Gehman
Of The Morning Call
Michael Brolly is in a friend's studio near his Mertztown home, uncrating "
email@example.com:1999," a jewelry container he made to resemble an alien with a mahogany bra. The wood turner opens the bra cups, which are coated in 23-karat white gold leaf, to reveal a pair of rotating drawers. He slides the an- J viled head to reveal a tongue pierced to hold 10 pairs of earrings. The joints, he points out, are bicycle quick releases, for changing the stork-like creature's height and position.
It's the sort of piece that makes people think that Brolly is a science-fiction fanatic. It's the sort of piece that makes other wood turners think that he comes from outer space. It's the sort of piece that travels in prestigious exhibits of wood works that are really out-of-thisworld sculptures.
"I've been accused of being abducted and all that stuff," says Brolly with a smile. "Maybe I was, and I don't remember."
The comment is as sly as Brolly's creations, which are displayed at the Baum School of Art in Allentown, the third venue on a four-stop tour. A church lectern kneels to pray; a hooded, stacked residence for birds and bird dogs could be a model for the opera house in Sydney, Australia; a toilet seat is suitable for framing. All have gyrating shapes, musical grains and an effortless blend of wryness and spikiness.
Brolly, it turns out, is as independent as his creations. As a child in Philadelphia he carved things he should have turned on a lathe: boats, nails for his sister's jewelry box, even a chalice, a vessel of his Catholic upbringing. In his early 20s he made a cradle because his sister had recently adopted a child after five miscarriages, and because his father said he couldn't do it. Brolly simply taught himself how to cut a dovetail on a
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