Having missed the opening on Saturday, I was anxious to see this show. (Full disclosure first….I have two pieces in, one pastel drawing and one painting.) Like many artists, the submission of two works in different categories has become common place in order to play the system of selection to our advantage. The show is open to those who live in Stark County, are aged 16 and older and pieces must have been done within the last 5 years. So do we want the good news or the bad news first? Okay bad wins.
Because there are numerous shows in our area devoted to the exhibition of HS art, I see no reason to include 16 year olds in this show. I have no data to back up my next statement, but with so many high caliber adults in our area, is it fair to take the entry fees of hopeful high school students? Not many of these works appear to be from that age group. That being said, I have no idea who two thirds of the artists are in this show so they could very well be kids. Second point, the 5 year life span of eligible art needs to be shorted to 2 years (like most juried shows) to keep things fresh as I counted at least 9 pieces I’ve seen before. And the last point of observation is that there are just too many pieces in the show. Personally, I am no fan of salon style exhibitions when multiple artists are involved, however the curator had no choice but to hang the pieces close and stacked. Easily 10 to 15 pieces could be removed without changing the caliber or feel of the show itself. The jury processes was reported as being a long one with interesting dynamics and having read their bios, I can see the give and take displayed in the room. Okay, enough with the negative, let’s get on with the treasure hunt!
Numerous awards are so well deserved with only a few misses here and there and unfortunately some wonderful pieces got overlooked. The prints and drawings category by far outshined the others this year. A heavy emphasis on the skills of observational drawing, mark making and the principles of design and composition leap off the walls. The award winners of Zelinskas, Lindenberger and Vincenzo are not to be missed works of talent and sheer beauty and skill. The technical use of color theory by Amy Lindenberger in “Transformation Liberation” is stunning. Entries by Watson, Waltz and Slaughter receive an honorable mention by me as they too are not to be missed. Randall Slaughter’s “Spring Green” is in one of the two showcases, a well done vignette depicting a playful spring afternoon by the inclusion of Gary Howes’ wooden figure and Judi Longacre’s garden bracelet. (My spell check is going nuts with these names….)
The larger showcase is also a must see for its vignette feel. A bit of a wacky garden theme is created by the individual pieces included with well thought out placement to create shadows on the walls that further enhance the presentation. “Sea Worthy” by Mitchell Murphy looks like a Russ Hench exploded in mid air, a really cool effect that could make for an interesting show pairing at a later date. While on the subject of mixed media, it may be time to come up with a definitive parameter of what constitutes a mixed media entry as some pieces appear to struggle to be considered in this category. Terry Tannehill’s piece “Secret Girls” hangs above my own painting and his colors and shapes highlight and enhance mine in a way that compliments both our pieces, a time when salon hanging works as it should. “Amalgamation” by Sarah Shumaker should have won an award; her pieces are evolving in ways that make me look forward to viewing more works in upcoming shows. The first place award to Janet Baran’s “Waiting” is without question. Obviously based on personal experience, one cannot help but see the emotions in her use of texture and shapes. Notice the shadow at the very bottom of the canvas and also how the repetition of the word “waiting” is used to depict the passage of monotonous time. This piece echoes the substantial emptiness of an Edward Hopper.
Paintings in all media are the weakest category this year as some just look tired, overworked or dated. The issue of framing yet again caused some deserving pieces to be rejected according to the director. Big frames, elaborately colored mats and oversized proportions are a death knell for exhibition quality work. Many shows require white or cream mats only with a simple frame to even be considered. Save the decorator’s touches for after purchase and over the sofa. Yes, sometimes an elaborate mat or frame is part of the overall piece and can compliment rather than compete with the image just as the textured mat of Heather Bullach’s watercolor repeats the imagery within the painting, but for the most part, such selections hurt rather than enhance a piece. The presentation should never overshadow the art itself. If a piece can’t stand on its own without a mat and frame, then perhaps it is just not ready for gallery walls.
A few things to look for…..the way the wall with Emily Vigil’s piece is displayed. It is another vignette style arrangement to make the best of all the pieces needing to be included. The right hand panel of Fredlee Votaw’s piece…I bet anyone under 30 has no idea what those were used for or why we keep them. (I am not telling you many details in order to force a visit to the gallery!) And finally, only one piece is untitled so kudos on that point of irritation to my fellow artists.
I am hanging on to the program for future reference as I may need it come the Stark County Artist’s show at the MassMu. It appears that there are some new kids in town and the game just got a whole lot more interesting! Absolutely make sure to get to the North Canton Little Art Gallery to see this show.