Friday, November 8, 2013

Stark County Artists Exhibition 2013 MassMu

"This dress would be really hot if it were not so striking."

(Full disclosure, my Hoard Couture  Dress #13 pictured above was juried into the show.)

The opening for this show and the legendary arch rival's HS football game were held on the same day. The winning local team's colors are orange and black. Perhaps the jurors knew something we did not as to who would win because the undercurrent connecting this show is the color orange. A few years back I recall that same phenomenon occurring involving the color red.  Sometimes I think something as subtle as a repetitive inspirational color can guide the entire selection process. Overall, it is a very strong show with many new names on the walls. As is with all juried shows, a couple of big clunkers made it as well. No way I will identify them however as one man's clunker is another man's cash.

Judging is always the most anticipated part of any juried exhibition and this show is no exception. Three judges are used for both selection and awards. Anytime three people have to reach a consensus however, compromises must be made and I think sometimes some very deserving pieces gets lost in translation. Many national shows use one group to jury the entries in and then bring in one independent judge, not part of that process, to act as the awards juror. That way his or her vision is limited to what is physically in the room after the show has been hung. Just my suggestion for future consideration to level the playing field.

I won't bore you with the number of artists vs entries, photography /digital vs media ratio or other such details. Go see the show (on view through Jan 5th) and pick up a program. Side note...DO NOT miss the photo show on the 2nd floor!

Okay, back to the hunt for orange and a target on some of the outstanding pieces to be found in this exhibition. One award winner I want to mention is the linen weaving by Stephen Tornero. It is entitled "River" which I get, but I did not see that as much as I did the Twin Towers on fire as seen from the Hudson River. The intricate tapestry patterns felt like swirling smoke, radio waves of communication and mass confusion more so than  moving water. Perhaps that is my generational observation.  Weaving is tough, one class in college was enough to cure me of the loom for good.

A definite winner should have been Michael W. Barath's photo "Self Portrait with Boo", the synchronicity between the profiles is stunning and seamless.  It is a moving piece and his second entry "Self Portrait with Bike Wheel" is just as intricate.

The whole back wall reads as one big work of art itself, hung perfectly to highlight the pieces...and bring out the orange. As one travels to the left, the gray wall on the ramp is almost completely devoted to works of little color, putting the emphasis on textures and details. Unless one pauses at Rick Altimus's photo "Hide the Noodle", you won't get it and it is very clever. The silver frame on Billy Ludwig's "Lady in Black" could be on the wall by itself, but his photo of a woman in soaring architecture is the right fit. Speaking of his work, I was disappointed that "Kitty Bat" was not hung near "Erte's Batman"  by Anna Zotta as that would have been a golden opportunity for a visual play on content.  Zotta's work is new to me and very much like a vintage version of Rick Huggett's former style....seems simple, takes some think'n. Touches of orange anchor her works in this show as well.

Another unfamiliar artist (to me anyway) is Haley Farthing. I was not sure at first about her pieces until I stepped back to about 8 feet and then I got it. Up close, the charcoal and ink on wood seem flat, but once you are able to take in the whole surface and soften some of the detail, an ethereal depth takes over. "Carbondale Spring" is stunning in that regard, almost photographic. I am sure we will be seeing more of her.

Stepping back is also encouraged to view the fiber piece by Clare Murray Adams "Ancestral Vessels". Yes one has to be up close to see the ghostly imprints on her fabrics and the fine details of stitching, but the clear shelf is no minor player. The reflections and ghost like cast shadow under the physical work itself is just as important to her message. I always look forward to her pieces because they require as much brain power as optical nerve involvement.

While looking for orange things (I know you will now.....) don't miss the showcase featuring Julie Deutschman's "Memento Mori", a neck piece made from moth wings, copper, rose quartz and sterling silver. One does not find sculptural jewelry entries like this very often.  Also hiding in plain site is the signature on Max Rossett's ink drawing "Loaded".  Some multiple meanings could be derived from the title which I will leave to your own imaginations. Multiple meanings (maybe) are to be found in Mark Pitocco's digital photograph "Two mothers, Newberry, Michigan 7.5.2013"  One might miss that the mothers' on the TV are those of Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman.  If you have been under a rock for the last two years, Google this unfortunate connection.  Normally I am not a big fan of photography, but this one held my attention as I worked on the story behind its composition. To me, there is great symbolism in the open door on a corner room, two faces trapped inside a small box, darkness and emptiness...who is watching them ? Happenstance and circumstance can be a *itch.

One final mention before I close, since I gave myself a perfect transition, is "Nursing Time" by Emily Vigil.  It is a wall piece made from breast pads and diaper cloth plus various mark making media, but unless you have been a nursing mother, one might not get all the references. First of all, bravo for figuring out what to do with those leftover pads beside making them into coasters. And a diaper cloth? how many people even know what that is? The message is one of passing time. How quickly that fragile connection between a mother and a child is lost once weaning takes place. The intimate bond of pregnancy and then the life giving connection of nourishment gets replaced with the feeding of the mind, the nurturing of emotions and the filling of a lunchbox. These precious few months are gone forever but her piece preserves that in a personal way. Granted, her kids will be freaked out by it in the coming years, but from mom to mom, good for you!

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