This year’s Stark County Artists’ Exhibition has much to offer on many levels, some good and some not so much. The top prize is well deserved to be awarded for a painting, “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”, done so technically perfect that it could be mistaken for a digital image. And therein lies a dilemma…… why should a skillful work of art created by the hand of a talented man (Frank Dale), be judged against or with something that is made by the manipulation of digital media and perhaps not even from imagery created or owned by the maker? Better get your hooks out because a big old can of worms may be about to open.
As the art world moves further and further into the technical age, as colleges no longer stress the skills of drawing or painting for realism and (oh hell, I’ll just say it…..) that “talent” is no longer a necessity, what constitutes “art” has changed considerably. Perhaps it is old school versus new school or maybe just a thinning of the meaning to the definition of “artist”. Yes, I know, the 1950’s ushered in a whole new realm of art but the artist was still in physical contact with their media, even Pollack held the paint can with his hands.
As I have said in the past, this show needs to be divided into two…one for photography and digital pieces, and one for paintings, craft, and work made by more “traditional” media in which the artist is in direct contact with their materials. The mastery of Marty Chapman’s “Tranquility” does not merit to be judged against a photo in which the subject is caught in the moment. Happenstance versus hours and hours of labor are totally different skill sets. Now I will concede that there does have to be the “eye” of an artist to manipulate and thus manifest imagery into product so I am not suggesting that one form of art is beneath another in any way, they are just two entirely different ways to express ideas and as one field explodes onto the scene in ever more creative ways, needs to be separated so as to give both sides their due respect and appreciation. Both genres would benefit from having their own juries and their own shows. The public needs to understand that computers and cameras can do things which people cannot. So too is there perhaps a different intent behind using concepts and imagery found online as opposed to ideas born deep within the soul of the creator.
Some of the electronic or photographic pieces in this show are mesmerizing for sure, particularly Mark Pitocco’s “Equivalence” which is haunting in its simplicity of message. Unfortunately, hanging Emily Vigil”s red hued “Transformer” oil painting directly over it, does neither piece a favor. A definite color story happens along the back wall, which may explain the location of some pieces, but a few are overshadowed by their neighbors. Brian Robinson’s honorable mention award winning pastel, “June” is also worth taking the time to explore in detail as it is done on a rich brown toned paper that only peeks out here and there across the surface. Judith Huber’s pastel “Pam’s Antique Sax” is a beautiful example of pure drawing and Erin Meyer’s “Lips” is a humorous soft sculpture that proved to be too inviting for the younger attendees at the opening regardless of what the sign said.
Some questionable pieces can be found in the show but I will not mention them by name or any other detail for one man’s prop is another man’s piece de resistance. Along those lines, if one is going to use an iconic image that has been done thousands of times by others, then at least do it_______________. I will leave that blank for others to fill in as we all probably have an opinion.
I do want to encourage all to go see the show for treasures and gems can be found without a doubt. Clare Murray Adams “Green and Blue”, Isabel Zaldivar’s “Landscape in Black and White” and Kristen Lupsor’s “Flora” to name a few.
In addition to the main gallery show, definitely go upstairs to see the Massillon Tigers exhibition, but not for the reasons you may think. The story it tells is rich for the locals, but all of us need to look ever more closely at the front page newspapers mounted on the walls, not for the headlines touting the Tigers, but for the small stories below the fold. These single paragraphs mention “incidents” in France, Poland and Germany. Look at the dates of the papers then reflect upon what we now know about this period of history and perhaps how we should have been a bit more interested in reading between the lines. The second floor is always worth a second look anytime one visits the Massillon Museum!
121 Lincoln Way E. Hours are Tuesday – Saturday 9:30 – 5pm, and Sundays 2 – 5 and always free!
** I must also point out, in the fairness of full disclosure, that I have a piece in the show this year, pictured above.