Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The 13th Floor

The 13th Floor Gallery in Massillon (28 Charles Ave SE- around the corner from the MassMu) is a new space (opened just last month) devoted to filling a special niche of the art market. In the vein of the “something for everybody” gallery genre, those which carry paintings, prints, shirts, jewelry, sculpture and so forth, the 13th floor is not one for those in search of a house warming present. Well….unless the house is haunted or otherwise characterized by d├ęcor not found in a glossy magazine. I must say, the exterior reminded me of a quaint storefront on a Toronto side street, complete with awning, stained glass detailing and a cat (named Kitty) on the front stoop. Once across the threshold however, one becomes immersed in a world of the macabre. Not that that is a bad thing. I had a great time finding pieces from people I know as well as chatting with the founder and owner, Billy Ludwig.

He had just returned from a successful weekend show in Detroit, the Bizarre Bazaar, which if everyone had worn a brassier, would have been a complete hoot, but I digress. Such ventures are not for everyone, but there is a large audience and market out there for those who like the whole vampire and zombie scene, comic books and horror movies. Therefore, he will be bringing some of the artists from that show (in a blighted area of Detroit) to his gallery space here in Ohio. Now that is what art and art marketers should do, get himself and other artists into distant places while bringing fresh blood back home. Would I want his wares in my home, not really, but that does not mean I can’t appreciate what he has on the walls and shelves.

Do I have some artistic words of advice?, of course, not from a subject matter point of view as that is a personal matter, but from an academic one for sure. Several well known and successful artists show their work here, Billi Kribbs and Bad Girlz, Pinkerton and Mars, and the young Erin Meyer whom I know from her early high school years. Pinkerton’s dad is a friend of mine and we had a nice talk about his son’s career on a bench overlooking Lake Don Brown. Kribbs is to Massillon what Anderson and Joseph are to Canton.

Megan Mars has her niche. Her ability to paint the female human face is not in question, but I would like to see her push the images from standard cosmetic ad features, to more unusual, creative and challenging distortions of a real human face. I understand them being based upon standard gothic beauty imagery, but with an innate talent to capture something the way she can, now is the time to test her abilities and take the work to the next logical level. Groupings, full figures, and variations of beautiful faces, would take her art and message to a higher standard and where she should be. Add situations, backgrounds and events to her pieces and the work would be striking. The piece “Sweet like Candy” is a perfect example. A right balance of frame color, image color and overall proportions; it is a wonderful little gem, but so like so many others she does. That same face on a full figure and with a real exploration of how to use the limited color pallet would show us what she is truly capable of doing.

My other artist to mention is Erin Meyer, currently a painting major at the Maryland Art Institute. Her large scale faces remind me of the work of Lauren Tew, a Canton artist who died at 23 in a tragic drowning accident on Lake Erie in 2000. I knew her work and she was on her way to becoming a successful painter of specialized close-ups of faces. Erin is at the stage of finding her first voice, one of many to come over a long art career that lies ahead. Tew’s legacy would be a good place to start. Erin’s large canvases and unusual perspective would be right in line with what was an unfulfilled dream of another young woman.

A memo to all artists is that surfaces are important if you want your pieces to last. If not, then paint on whatever you wish and perhaps in this generation of instant this, and throw-away that, art is not meant to last either.

I have to talk about the coolest thing that Billy showed me before leaving. It is a Vampire Killer Kit by Shock Studios. Not for everybody, but if you have some friends getting married who are into the whole vampire culture, what better wedding present than a customized Vampire Killer Kit.? Seriously, it is well made, very clever and quite unique! Who needs another china place setting in this day and age, get your friends something different. I am sure Mike Skaggs would engrave the couple’s name on it and maybe carve some personalization on the contents in side. I am not being satirical here so don’t get me wrong. I think that suitcase presentation was awesome, clever, creative and well made. For $300 it would be neat to have if one likes that scene. With the whole vampire craze going on now, this guy has hit on a hot commodity for marketing.

Would the 13th Floor be a place I frequent for shopping?, not likely, but I will go to see each of his shows. Every generation has its own messages and imagery (Peter Max anyone?) and like music, the generation or two before it finds it abominable, loud, evil (Elvis’s hips!!) or whatever. As far as I am concerned, if it is not illegal, immoral or costs me more tax money, then go ahead and express yourselves. As long as we accept each other’s points of view, then all the arts will benefit. Congrats on the space and your vision Billy and thanks to the people (artists) who will make 13th Floor successful. Just don’t leave one of those creepy creatures by my door, although the dust bunny is a scream!


  1. At the risk of stirring up the proverbial mud, I cannot hold my tongue here.

    Let me please start by saying that I respect your opinion, and that you most certainly are entitled to have one. Every artist knows (or finds out soon enough)that the work they do will resonate with some, and repulse others. Yet we feel compelled to create, to sate the fire inside ourselves and express whatever it is we need to say.

    I'm no stranger to being artistically misunderstood and rejected, and I'd certainly see why a stranger to my work might conclude; as you did, that I only paint "the same" face over and over again.
    Sadly, that is not a very clear picture of my body of work. I've painted many elaborate scenes, from quite large to small, with multiple figures and very different moods and messages. Some without even a female face in sight if you can believe it!

    It is by sheer coincidence that in recent months, a few galleries have chosen only those facial closeup "standard cosmetic images" to show in light of most of my other work being sold to happy owners or tied up in other exhibitions.

    I would invite you to look at my Alice in Wonderland series, or the pieces selected for the upcoming Uncensored show at Anderson Creative for a contrasting view to what you've stated here before you pass judgement.

    And maybe what my artistic voice has to say is still not your cup of tea. That is, most certainly, your choice and your right. But I humbly offer my words here as a polite rebuttal.

  2. Judi- I am Lauren's sister, Jennifer. Thank you for remembering her. It still means a lot, even ten years later. ~Jenn