Sunday, May 5, 2013

71st Annual May Show at the North Canton Little Art Gallery

Dress 21 "That which often strings us along, will also bind us together"

Oh where to begin on this one?! I may have to go with a two –parter as this show is a true gem from one end of the gallery to the other. (But I am not, so this is a loooonnnng one!) Are there some “good” pieces amongst the great ones? Of course, as with all shows, but like pizza and sex, even when it’s bad, its good….a common saying which I just appropriated by the way. 

Mandatory disclosure required….yes, I have two pieces in the show. 

This year, due to circumstances beyond the gallery’s control, only one judge was responsible for selections as opposed to the usual two. I must say that A) it shows and B) it is for the better ….and C) suggest this be the new standard. Why? Well, first of all, in many national level juried shows, only one judge is often used so as to keep a consistent vision and quality of work. One good and knowledgeable judge is better than two who must often select pieces as a compromise. Do the shows sometimes reflect that one judge’s personal viewpoint? Of course, but isn’t a well trained and experienced opinion better than a consensus between differing taste levels that sometimes have to make choices based on frames perhaps rather than bones of artistic merit? The judge this year was Jack McWhorter, a practicing, exhibiting and teaching artist of merit in his own right so he “gets” it when a media is not in his own realm because he has the wisdom to recognize the foundation elements of what makes something great over just good or only okay.

Bones is a good analogy for this show. It is anorexic in a good way….no extra pieces are added in to pad the space allowing works that show their bones to shine. An expert hanging of the space has further complimented this exhibit which was probably not all that hard to do as the show fits within itself, again due to that single juror’s voice dictating the overall vision.  McWhorter used the following criteria to make his selections (abbreviated here for space so pick up a program and read the details yourself), craftsmanship, individuality, depth, completion and excellence.  Okay teachers out there, post those five words on the wall of your art room and before any student (HS or College) turns in a portfolio or a piece, have them self evaluate those terms.  For once, a juror has said it out loud… you have the skills to make “art”, not just make “something”….there is a big difference.  Okay, why am I going on and on and have not even mentioned any specific pieces yet? Because the show is not a showcase of works, it is a show of work….and I did not have to be the one to say that that elusive quality known as talent is an essential element that separates “art” from “stuff”. Aim your tomatoes at his car, not mine.

The rules of the show are that only one piece per artist per media will be accepted which also makes for self editing on the part of the participants. If only one will get in, yes, play the game and enter two categories, but both better be your best available or you could lose the gamble. When I say best available, that means that many artists are in multiple shows at any given time (or should be striving to be). Also, the pieces are to be three years old or younger (I would move that up to two years personally), original and not shown here before. Also, no stand alone photography, which is the way it should be. My beef with the Stark County show at MassMu is that it is so diluted by photographs. I stand by the premise that they need their own show and have jurors that are qualified to judge the electronic arts. Yeah….no painted bubble wrap in this exhibit! (oops, did I say that outloud?)

One more paragraph of overview and then we move on to the show and the artists and the works. I found no glaring framing issues this time. I found no BIG clunkers although…..yeah, ya gotta have one or two because even the experienced have to sneeze now and then…like I said, good and great and two different things and good has its range as well. The opening event of this show is always interesting. It runs from 2 – 4 with awards at 3, which means it runs from 2 to 3:05 and then the rest of the time one can see the show because the bodies are gone.  I hope Heather Bullach’s back doesn’t hurt anymore. All those dagger eyes (cue the Pyscho soundtrack) from all us middle aged broads thinking…yeah, we used to be young and tall and pretty and talented back in the day…able to wear heels before the osteoporosis set it…... but  in all sincerity I say good for her (more on her work later) as she is truly gifted and I do not say that lightly, a new generation is coming that is going to make the rest of us put on the reading glasses and work that much harder. I am awaiting her upcoming portrait show as the FB postings are amazing.  And now…

Time for a commercial interruption:
Coming July 20th, 2013……North Canton Little Art Gallery
“Match Play”
Huggett Serves, Krew Returns
Two artists collaborate for a friendly game of visual and verbal volleyball!!
Artist reception Tuesday July 23rd, 5 – 7 pm
If you know our work, you will “get” the picture.

Okay,  back to our regularly scheduled blogging….

I am going to just follow the printed program to make mention of specific pieces and artists because I am the worst note taker ever, writing all calliwumpus across the pages with no logical order so there is no hierarchy to this part of the process.  

Best in show is a very delicate mixed media drawing entitled “Morning” by Erin Wozniak that is a portrait of a man who appears to have just woken up. The markings are literally hair thin on this half scale sized image, and so faint at times that the extra deep mat is a nice choice as is seems to protect him deep within it. I can appreciate this Frank Dale-like delicacy because I have not the patience for such intimate rendering style.  

Opposite this spectrum of detail is the first place oil and acrylic winner “Quest” by Sherri Hornbrook. A large scale acrylic the employs some airbrush or spray paint along with brush strokes and a very limited color pallet of blues and oranges which (being compliments on the color wheel) literally jump off the wall. Take some time to put the title with the piece to decide for yourself what is the “quest?” I saw hammock like cording and floral shapes as if my quest was to find a moment of solace in the backyard under the intense lights and shadows of summer.  Like that will ever really happen. 

First place mixed media belongs to Randall Slaughter’s “Long Way Home”, a collage piece.  Again, the title is your ticket to enjoying this piece (oh bad pun award to me!)  The layers of media include a plane ticket, sides of boxes, edges of packing tape and incised markings on various surfaces. I think I even caught a glimpse of the stripped pattern that appeared on the bathing suit of the original Barbie doll. Yes that would be a long way home of time travel for sure, but his surfaces are not labored as can sometimes happen in such pieces. A deliberate thought process is evident and much appreciated as opposed to some works out there that seem to just slap on the stuff layer after layer. Collage is difficult to do well, which many would find hard to believe. 

I want to point out Isabel Zaldivar’s honorable mention piece “Sense of Wonder” that is in her signature abstract style with inks, but this little gem is very subdued in tone.  Unlike some of her more colorful and aggressive pieces, this one is small and extremely luminescent bringing to mind moving water over a shallow stream with intense sunlight and shadow at play like on a forest floor. Seen my share of those little waterways which is probably why I found this piece exceptional. 

As we go through these pieces, think back to the five elements on McWhorter’s list of essentials. 

Heather Bullach’s honorable mention watercolor “Oils” is a good one to use to illustrate his list. Love the irony of oil paint tubes done in watercolor because oils are often considered a superior medium to watercolor so touché oil paints, gotcha an award in the stepchild category!  (Individuality) The three tubes are arranged within the composition so not all are in alignment but they are done to scale and rendered in detail “just” shy of realism, she allows the paint to speak. (Depth) Watercolor is a difficult media to master and knowing that the surface, the tools and the media must all be in  harmony  along with a sense of when to stop, are what separates a good watercolor painter from a master watercolor painter because the transparency of the media allows for no mistakes.  (Craftspersonship…did he really go that PC? It is in the program that way)  How can you tell? Look at the cast shadows in this work. The edges are not sharp, not defined, as she allows the paint and the paper to do their thing, not sharpening the line to make it “real”. That little touch of restraint (seen is several areas of this piece) are what separates the good from the great. (Completion)  A simple presentation of mat and frame and she steps away from the work as leaving a piece fresh is much harder to achieve than to be overly complex because the bones stick out. (Excellence)  

William Bogdan’s woodcut print “K. Quilting” is also a fun pairing of media and imagery whereas he uses one craft to depict another. His style reminds me of the work done by Marsha Sweet in Cleveland (google her). 

Robert Bratton played the odds and has two pieces in two media in the show. One is a tree and bone wall sculpture “Triceratops” hung next to the fiber piece my Margene May that comprise a very complimentary African themed tableau on the wall. Both are mask-like, similar in shapes and color although of two completely different materials.  His other entry is a delicate texture oriented acrylic on paper called “Frost” that is appreciated only upon close inspection. Notice the crisp edges and evenness of surface, very hard to do. 

Lynn Digby’s “Still Life with Rabbit” in oil is on the opposite end of the complexity scale in that she tackles a diverse layout of patterns, surfaces, scale and light source to render a somewhat classical still life set up, in a manner that shows a deep understanding of the media with a confidence to not follow it exactly as is, but to push the brush strokes and surfaces so they entwine with areas of smooth realism and layered impressionism. Large format still life oil paintings are rare around here and personally, I think 
under-appreciated.  They take time and they take talent to be successful and many artists don’t have those qualities in their arsenal.  We rarely get to see a full sized Digby so appreciate one when you can. I would have loved to have seen another Dig-nut piece as well.

Two artists have works that remind me of the 1950’s or 1960’s style of illustration which is one of my favorite graphic time periods, when no computers aided in the layering of lines and tones. Tina Myers acrylic “Cottages” and Lisa Vincenzo’s  “The Girl with the Red Hat” were a couple of favorites. I would have considered buying the latter but it is, alas, NFS.

The large mixed media piece by Robert Gallick entitled  “Entangled Soul” was a bit overwhelming in that it had so many elements which could be strong statements unto themselves but get a bit lost in the overall piece.  The skull faced light bulbs with dunce hats of death are conceptual enough to stand alone. Repackaged as small works would be a bright idea (come on…..I needed to put a pun in someplace!) So too would his barrel of monkeys cast offs holding discs of text. Rearranged into a “treelike” creation of some type, this element could speak to the rainforest or some such issue. 

Time for another commercial interruption:
Coming in April of 2014……Translations Art Gallery
“From the House of Hoard, A Collector’s Collection of Hoard Couture”
The complete line of sculptural dresses that comprise the series as well as the return of the soon to be remarried Wonder Bread Wedding Dress
My entry in the current show is from this series.

Okay, now for our closing paragraphs….

A word about presentation in this show….like I mentioned, it is a well displayed exhibit.  The one smaller showcase is a prime example. A realistic watercolor of some traditional coastal scene hangs over a more contemporary watercolor depiction of water (one can tell that McWhorter has an appreciation for patience and time consuming processes). On the bottom of the display case is a ceramic by Linda Faye entitled “Wave”.  Being the ex-window display merchandiser that I am, it is a good thing I had no hand in setting this up as I would have dumped a layer of sand and shells in the bottom of the case. Because of the strength of the three pieces, their layout, color, scale etc….viewers can envision such an added accent themselves. 

Okay, I did not make mention of many of the familiar local talent represented in this show because you see their work often (and for good reason) and I have written about them before. It would be wrong of me not to list them however as this show is indeed a compliment of the best of the best (and I will add the caveat ...”of those who entered” because I know that many of you are currently busy with other shows in the area and did not have your best current work to spare due to other obligations so do not feel that because you are not in here, you do not rank up there at the top of the pool). Those who have pieces in this show include: Diane Belfiglio, Ted Lawson, Tom Wachunas, Gail Sack, Russ Hench, Nancy Matin, and many others whose names or work you will recognize. 

Wow does it feel good to be out viewing and writing again…. I hope to continue, life willing!!

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