Monday, May 24, 2010

Canton Artists League Summer Show --- The Johnson Center at Malone College

While everybody else is probably out at the National Show at the CMA or the Modernist Show at the MassMu, I decided to continue my quest to bring to your attention those exhibits that may go unnoticed for any number of reasons. The Canton Artists League was formed long before there was an arts district in town, before there were magazines to report on the arts, and before a whole new generation of artists settled here and set up shop. Members have come and gone over the years, membership itself as fluctuated, and the logistical aspects of location, time and purpose have had to adjust with the times, but one thing remains constant, their perseverance and dedication to the making of art and expressing their own ideas.

We run the gamut (yes, I am a charter member) from the derogatory term of “Sunday painter” to those of us blessed to have exhibited coast to coast. Some members work in the arts, some are lifelong donors to the arts, others are dedicated volunteers, some serve on boards, some teach at colleges or in public schools, and others just make art, happy to sit back and let others do the work (okay, guilty as charged). I have heard us called a bunch of old ladies (Fred….sorry about that, and frankly, I may have an AARP card, but I don’t consider myself old….), some have called us just bad artists who can’t paint worth a damn (by whose standards?) and some have called us unfocused and misdirected. Well….this is still America and we all have our opinions. So what do I think? I think we have guts and pride and the wisdom of a bunch of old timers who have done this a long time and realize that it just does not matter what others think. Everybody will get hit by the proverbial bus someday and if our obit says anything about being a lousy painter……as opposed to the good works we have done for our communities, families and children or friends, then as a haunting spirit, I promise you will never find those lost car keys again.

So what is this show all about at the Johnson Center? It is just an exhibit, nothing more, and never intended to be. Would one rather see bare walls or some colorful images? CAL asked its members to drop off a piece to display in an empty corridor for the summer. Sounds like a good idea. We all have a spare work lying around that may not be our best, or one that has never been outside, so why not hang it up for others to see, with no judgment, no “theme”, no opening event, just some work to brighten up an otherwise boring passage. That takes guts my friends. It also takes organization, some effort, some volunteered time, and a willingness to make it happen in the first place. One has to step up to the plate if the game is ever going to get started.

So, here is just a little review of the show because all art, no matter how good or bad or leftover, is just as important as the “officially good” stuff found at other venues. At least I think so. Maybe it is because I have taught art to children, seen them succeed, seen them fail, seen them disappointed, and seen them smile to outshine the sun. What others think of the work is not nearly as important as what one feels about himself when it is hung on a wall as an extension of their own heart and soul.

23 works of art are on exhibit but only 4 are dated(….ummm that needs to be changed, work should always be dated which is a blog topic for later). The works are arranged somewhat by theme or image. I always like to make three passes through a show if possible looking for buried treasures. The standouts are always obvious (hence why they stand out…duh), but it takes a bit of time to appreciate the more subtle contributions. Irene Rodriguez’s fiber piece, “Summer Dynamics” is quite the eye catcher. Kristine Wyler’s “Tea House” and Carole Mendenhall ‘s “Coral Reef” show works with luscious surfaces worth exploring. Kudos to Gail Weatherall-Sack for her “Kudos to Kandinksy”, a mixed media piece that is very graphic and bold, which also anchors the center of the show where people vote for fan favorite. It was nice to see Jim Grand work with his edges in “Purple Mountain Majesty” and allow them to fade rather than continue to the curve of the stretchers, a technique I hope he will explore further. My own work is quite old, over 10 years I think, but chosen specifically for the venue as it is a religious based work .

The day I went to see the display, a large group of people were attending a workshop. I bet most of them (based on the subject of the event) have never been to a gallery by choice. CAL provided a service to our community yet again. Nothing big and bold and “in your face”, nothing requiring a grant or money from others, just a little time and energy and ingenuity to brighten up an otherwise dull expanse of hallway. Quite a few votes were in the box so obviously people are paying attention. Now if you are still reading this, go take a nap, us old folks don’t want to do too much in one day and sap our creative energy! After all…I am writing this on Sunday and still have yet to paint.

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