Monday, November 26, 2012

Canton Artists’ League Fall Show : Stark State College 2nd Floor Main Building

Had Their Tubes Tied    40 x 30 Acrylic on Canvas 2011

Currently on view is a collection of pieces by members of the Canton Artists’ League who provided one or two pieces to be displayed during the next several weeks at Stark State College in Jackson. No jury was in place to accept or edit works, but 2 local non-affiliated artists served as jurors and awarded ribbons.  Yes I am a member, yes I put two pieces in the show, no I did not get a ribbon, and no that has nothing to do with what is written here just for the sake of full disclosure. I went early because the official opening conflicts with other events going on right now so I will not be a spoiler of any surprises. 

                There are some spectacular pieces in the show, a term I do not use lightly, and there are some clunkers….there are pieces by people I have never heard of and pieces by old timers (as in having been a member for awhile) that surprised me in pleasant ways.  There are some tired looking works in that process and outcome have become formulaic, and there are some old fashioned methods that still produce some incredible results. I was a bit confused by the hanging or display choices but considering how little space there is to work with, the number of pieces included and some unavoidable obstacles called plaques and signage, to even mount a show of this variety can be daunting without thousands of people walking by, or tables and trashcans to deal with. Suffice to say, consider how much more powerful the red of Carolyn Jacob’s photo “Longing for the Old Country” would have looked placed next to Liz Scarps “Felines” or Carol Mendenhall’s “Magic Carpet”, the red would have popped right out rather than get lost down the hallway, overwhelmed by its neighbors. But I am not being critical because I sure as heck don’t want to come down there and hang it. Yes, I have a few more observations along these lines, but shall keep them to myself.  One really good pairing however is Gail Wetherall-Sack’s “Under the Yum-Yum Tree” placed next to Carolyn Jacob’s “Impressions of a Rose” as the pieces seem to reach out to each other and compliment the colors and movement within each respectively.

                Because many of those reading this may have yet to see the show or plan to attend on Wednesday’s opening from 6-8pm, I will use my remaining word count to call attention to some must-see pieces!! Let us start with the Yum-Yum Tree mentioned above. Gail’s piece expands upon her collage and mixed media works to become less about what “is” and more about what “is not” as in allowing the negative places and spaces to become as much a part of the imagery as the elements of a tangible nature. Everything is in harmony with this work, from the frame to the lacy organic shapes within a rectilinear format. I see less of Russ Hench, but he is still lurking about her world just a bit.

                Another stunner for sure is Claudia Stimer Mullane’s “Poppies Popping”, a larger piece identified as a watercolor but which appears to be more of an ink on perhaps a vellum paper. The manipulation of the surface with creasing, scratching, pooling, blotting and some gauche (just guessing here because I don’t really know for sure) makes for a lush surface that has depth created by light, not by manipulations or formulas or even happenstance. She has designed her work with intent and executed it with both aggression and restraint.  That is why I found it so….as my notes say…gorgeous, not something seen that often.

                Nancy Michel’s “Standing Proud and Tall”, another floral watercolor, would have stood out more (taller and prouder?) over next to Jim Grand’s “White Iris” as I almost missed her piece. His is crisp and clean as well and nice to see him display in this show. 

                Don’t miss Liz Hertzi’s “Ember Hynm Nipper” of which I have no idea what that means, but I sure did like the work! I guess it is a mixed media doll, which is what some passing kid called it, but I think “totem” is a better fit. She (the figure, not Liz) hangs like an offering to lost childhood, perhaps one signifying past abuse and survival…the brass crown and missing foot, wild yarn hair and glassy eyes are captivating to not just me, but whoever has already purchased it from the show.

                Be sure to check out the small works in the display case. Yih Yee Wonz submitted a bead and shell necklace called “The Fibonacci” and Michelle Mulligan has a small work called “Hot Pepper, Hot Dance” that would have made my ribbon list. Again, the framing is all part of the presentation in a way that works rather than overwhelms. As I tried to figure the best way to describe why this little gem is successful, the style of another local artist who shall remain nameless but whom we see only twice a year at the same shows each time with work that never changes came to mind, Judi L knows who I am talking about. Michelle’s piece is like a punch line to those other larger images, all the best and needed parts without the clutter of the set up, delivered in a straightforward manner and to the point. 

                Others may find the need to point out the weaknesses of a group like ours, but no such words shall pass here. This group struggles to remain viable and active and relevant in an art scene that is becoming increasingly about cartoons and monsters, computer manipulation and digital creation. The skills of drawing and painting and an appreciation for beauty and technique seem to be fading with the passage of time from one generation of artists to the next. Yes there are exceptions where subject matter may be “different’ but the methods of rendering remain faithful to the masters.  This trend is not just in art, new movies cannot compete with the actors and storylines of the silver screen from  the late 1930’s to the early 1960’s when actors did not have to be good looking, they had to know how to truly act without a bunch of action masking a lack of skills. But that is a topic for another day.

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