Sunday, May 1, 2011

69th Annual May Show, North Canton Little Art Gallery at the North Canton Library

If you are familiar with Cleveland, you would know about and understand the “East Side” vs “West Side” mentality and cultural differences. Having lived in Stark County, Ohio for just shy of 20 years now (and being a former “Clevelander”), I can no longer deny that this duality exists here with just as much intensity as in our city up north. I will not elaborate about that issue in this posting because I do not want to detract from the purpose of this blog.  Suffice to say, what a difference a juror can make as well as a venue.  (Full disclosure, I do have a piece included in the show….)

The jurors for this year’s annual May Show are both professors from Ursuline College in Cleveland which is a Catholic based women’s institution of higher learning. Any artist, who has been in a juried show or been a juror themselves, knows that it is a very subjective situation and no matter how impartial one tries to be, personal perspective is an inevitable part of the process. Hence, the two words that I wrote down to express an overview of this exhibit are “traditional and typical”. Overall, the show did not rock my world or explode with color, texture and innovation. It did feel “comfortable” and accessible.  A few works do stand out as incongruous to the overall presentation which is a good thing, and the number of unfamiliar artists did outnumber the names I knew, so that is a positive note as far as spreading the exhibition wealth around our community.

What did stand out as being gems worth noting were the two showcases both as far as work and as far as display are concerned.  Each display case exists almost as an independent installation that truly highlights the work contained within them. Had the pieces been on their own and shared wall space with some of the other pieces, I fear their details would have been overshadowed by some pretty hefty framing going on.
Case number one just inside the library door has the First Place winner in the three dimensional category, "Blue Heron" by Pat Waltz. It is an intricately made fiber replica of the bird that compliments the watercolor "Wheat Field" by Ron Watson and the digital print "Landscape Revisited" by Scot Zaher as they seem to all share one environment. The watercolor is small and delicate whilst the print is deceptively intricate, both with dune grass color schemes for our heron. 

The larger case holds the 2nd place winner for three dimensional works, “River Piece #5” by Robert Gallik and the paper lithography piece, “Archetype Chairs” by Amber W. Schafer.  One will also see a wonderful colored pencil drawing by Lauren Puls entitled "The Golden Boy"and a patterned glass bowl by John Boyett called "Black Cane".  The colors, patterns and textures of these four works are extraordinarily complimentary to each other; my kudos to the display team for really thinking about how to best present these pieces. As far as dimensional works are concerned, so concludes our tour, a whopping three pieces. Where are the ceramics, the sculptures, the jewelry, the metals and so forth? But like I said, jurors are a tricky lot to figure out and also, who knows if the artists even submitted such things for judging. Not a single print is included either as in mono printing or woodcut with the exception of the aforementioned lithograph.  The jurors‘ statement does mention that some pieces were excluded due to presentation issues.

Familiar faces (okay, names and styles) are included in the show such as Dr. Fredlee Votaw (a double winner), Isabel Zaldivar, Chris Triner, Kristine Wyler and Ted Lawson.  Marjorie Lutes, a frequent exhibitor in these parts has a really fun mixed media piece, “Willful” that added a bright spot of humor and color to the show.  Dan Linder’s large oil painting “Medallion” had a luminescence created by the painting technique itself and not by a varnish. 

If I wanted to invoke my teacher’s voice, I would ask why some artists chose to add colors to pieces that really did not need them and encourage some others to check for appropriate proportions. A technique may be spot on, but the feeling that “there is something not right” comes from the brain knowing that a certain scale just does not make sense.  Speaking of proportions, I want to point out how the wire and stone sculpture of Robert Gallik is a perfect example of how a piece can fit so well together logically and emotionally when the artist thinks through proportion, scale, texture and spacing.  Take a few moments to study those four compositional elements when looking at his winning work. On a final note, I don’t know who you are Richard Huggett, but I hope I see more of you and your work around here. “Have You Been Eating Tacos?” is the piece I mentioned earlier as being incongruous to the whole show overall.  I am not sure why these two judges included it considering the overall vibe of the show, but I am sure glad they did. 

If I could make a suggestion, it would be that venues need to select judges who are not from the same institution.  When two or more jurors have to work together and they do not know each other and do not share a common environment, it forces a more objective and sometimes lengthy and contentious consideration of all the pieces submitted for jury.   The merits of art “making” then become part of the discussion, not just the imagery and the presentation, as well as perhaps taking into consideration the why and the how behind some pieces. The 69th Annual is a decent show to go see, it has variety and some excellent examples of craftsmanship and a few works that will provoke thought and discussion. Congratulations to all the winners and to each of the 32 artists of the 37 pieces in the show. Oh, one other suggestion, all works should be for sale to be eligible for inclusion in the show. Many juried shows make this a requirement in order to make money if at all possible and to keep artists making new pieces.  A showcase of work is fine to include things NFS, but when a venue relies on a commission of works sold to help keep the lights on, then we need to do our part as artists to offer works for people to purchase.

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