Tuesday, August 10, 2010

“Art” A Never Ending Journey at the Little Art Gallery

Wanda Montgomery, local icon of watercolor painting and workshops, has taken over the entire North Canton Little Art Gallery with her somewhat retrospective show that chronicles her journey from watercolorist to well….I’m not sure what word can capture all there is to see. There is one thing I did not see, and it is one of my top three personal peeves in the art world, and that is dates on work created. (My other two irritants are untitled art and art not signed by the artist on the piece itself. Both of which will warrant a posting at some point.) In a few moments I will elaborate on the stated peeve, but first, we must wander through Wandaland!

The sheer number of works is daunting to grasp all in one visit unless one has oodles of time. The number of media and processes represented are daunting too. There is jewelry, ceramics, mixed media creations and constructions, dolls, books, and watercolors. Not only are the items diverse, but so are the frames and methods of presentation that almost become a secondary statement along with the original.

I have to admit, I am no fan of brown, earth tones, grays or neutrals. Those colors sort of depress me so an innate bias exists right off the bat. I live in a house with a pink laundry room, purple bedroom, red kitchen, teal bath and a yellow office so brown is not even a part of my personal pallet. However, personal preferences aside, the show is consistent and strong in its presentation. And she is darn good at painting too, OWS signature status does not come easily. I am not a craft person either for a variety of reasons so I was drawn to her 2-D pieces right away. “Asian Invasion” is a large colorful canvas that seems to be reflected in many of the mixed media works, drawing color, pattern and textural inspiration. Its size, larger than most everything else, makes it feel like the mother ship for the rest of the show. I wanted to take the J12 kimono necklace out of the case and put it on the painting since it is the only canvas with no additional embellishment.

My favorite of the show is “2 ½ Pairs”, a pun after my own heart. 5 pears are lined up on a panel that is superb in its use of dimension, space, color, texture, scale, and composition, the essential bones of any true work of art. The viewer is drawn immediately to the back wall where it occupies prime real estate. Other gems include “Sax Man”, a simple painting in the showcase, “NY NY”, a small piece tucked into the corner alcove and “Catch me if you can” depicting a fish theme which reoccurs throughout the show.

What did I not like? The stupid kid on his wheelie shoes that was whizzing around the gallery oblivious to the inherent danger of knocking over a pedestal and his mom who did nothing about it nor seemed to realize it was not a good idea. I tried the sniff and snort with disgust technique to no avail. I tried the step into his space method only to get a glare from momma bear.

Finally, let’s get back to the issue of dating work. In a show such as this, I would have liked to have known what her earlier pieces were and in what succession did the new ones develop so I could look for growth and influences. Dating work allows people (especially if they purchase something) to know where a piece fits into the artist’s personal body of work. A date on the piece, along with a signature, tends to authenticate any work a bit more. In the juried show world, pieces often must be no more than 2 or 3 years old, but not dating a piece allows artists to submit works that are not fresh, but gets them in the show (resume builder) since the honor system is not always honorable. In 20 years, how will anybody know the year a piece was made? Paper records can be lost, but the date on the piece is its time stamp. Historians love dated works. I date all of mine by year on the canvas. In my personal records the order of works for that year is also recorded, it is my legacy of imagery. Paintings from the early years (2001+) have cell phones with antennas on them and some of the women wear big ear phones, remnants of times past. So in the case of this show, did the dolls come after the books or along with them? Did the jewelry grow out of the book covers or visa versa? Did the large undulating metal frame come after viewing the work of another local artist? These are the things I would like to know. Good work is good work, enjoyable to see and explore, I just like to know how it all fits together.

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