Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hoover High School at the NCLAG

Artwork by North Canton Hoover High School Art Students
North Canton Little Art Gallery
Through Feb 2nd

Only a few days left to stop by the library to see this show, but worth it!  I enjoy this type of display immensely for several reasons. First, I am a former high school art teacher (year 23 of maternity leave and counting…) so I like to see what projects and skills are still being taught today. Second, having a variety of works hung together representing the results of one assignment allows me to compare the pieces to see different thought processes.  And finally, this is not show piece stuff, not the “create for the event” work like one finds in Scholastic competition. These pieces are art from the classroom as classroom assignments, not “special” projects done to win an award.

All the pieces have labels with titles (BRAVO!!), both the student and teachers’ names, the grade level and the media. What I would have liked to have also known is the “class” in which the piece was done. I am unfamiliar with Hoover’s course descriptions so it would have been helpful to know if the assignments were from “art 1” or “art 4”, or “painting 2” or “design 3” and so forth, just some type of context. The individual pieces are neither signed nor dated on the works which might be something new for the sake of competition or portfolio requirements but that would be a nice thing to require when at all possible. How and where to place a signature is important to learn when it can affect a composition.

So happy to see that basic drawing is still a contender. Several large pencil drawings of shirt fabrics challenged the students to render the shadows and highlights of folded material. I used an American flag back in my day for the same project so it is good to know that classical pencil rendering and observational skills are still valued.

Also in the category of classics are the linoleum (or woodcut) prints used not only for printmaking but with the added consideration of pattern as composition and use of color for focal point.  In the overview pass by portion of my visit, I noticed the future careers of some of these young people. A girl who may become a tattoo artist, a future illustrator and perhaps even a textile designer or two. The project which is most intriguing to me are the Zen-tangles...obviously a new thing or I would have stolen that idea a long time ago. Two methods of rendering and resolving are on display. One method are the square format all black and white (okay, a hint of color now and then) layered pieces which are quite complex. The students seem to have been challenged to consider the patterns and their placement to best complement each other so as not to overwhelm the eye. Scale and density of pattern are extremely important factors and then a twist was added (like that reference to reality tv?) in having to consider the negative spaces. I want to be in that class! The other method was presented in a rectangular format with the addition of brown backgrounds and jewels. This was the project that took it to the next level, a common assignment to take what you have learned and make it better by making it harder with the addition of more elements to consider. It is hard to pick out one or two standouts as they were all fantastic.

Some pieces and artists do merit a specific mention. If I had to pick a best in show, it would go to Shelby Crownoble, grade 12, for “Sun God” located in the smaller showcase. This mixed media piece of layered surfaces is stunning in its sophistication of composition and color choices. The Don Drumm-ish Aztec sun is not your typical plop in the middle format, this piece appears to move and swirl with power because of the offset and angled placement of the elements.  Second place would be a tie but the same artist wins both, Hannah Helaney, grade 12 with both a silk scarf textile piece entitled “Barking up the wrong tree” and a mixed media drawing entitled “Environmental Impact”. Trees must be her motif of choice and she has a certain style to this theme evident in both works. I found her skills to also be quite refined and concepts to be thought provoking. Third place goes to Tim Konowal, grade 12, for “Ghourds” which is how I copied it in my book and how I do believe it was spelled on the tag. One of us wrong or it is an intentional misspelling which is possible considering this piece may have a reference so ghost imagery. It is also a mixed media work that breaks down the media by sections so he must render the subject using four different techniques individually. This too is a classic assignment but one that should always be required so as to keep up those drawing skills.

A last comment to make is that this collection of pieces are not overdone or overworked. They are fresh and direct and complete in presentation, a good representation of what is happening in “art class”.  Coming soon will be the middle school student works. Congrats to all the students represented here. Students, be sure to thank your  teachers who take the time to develop project ideas, guide you along the way and then have to evaluate your success at having achieved the intended vision or mastered the needed skills.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Mantra as Art at Journey Art Gallery

Sunlight in St. Petersburg

Mantra as Art is the first of many juried shows to come at the ever evolving Journey Art Gallery on the corner of 4th and McKinley. The limited availability of wall space forced the selection and exhibition of only the best pieces submitted that captured the essence of the proposed theme.  This call for art requested pieces which depicted the image, object or words an artist uses to “stay calm, bring peace, to move forward….or to be the best ‘you”, not an easy thing by any means. Why you say? Shouldn’t our inner inspiration be an easy piece to make? Maybe, but to answer a call for art sometimes means not being so literal…the proverbial peace sign or liquor bottle just won’t cut it.  The 6 finalists on display depict 5 very different points of view. So where is the consistency? Ooh my, oh my….two blogs in a row and I get to reference my thesis again!! The variation IS the consistency. It speaks to our differences of reference but is consistent in that we artists all draw from an inner something (no pun intended) to keep us sane and focused. Visually speaking, there is a strong repetition of a green-yellow-gold tone found in all the works as well as a sense of roots or a grounding of sorts.

Each work in the show has a statement and brief bio of each artist which is a great idea when space allows, especially with the theme of this show. One needs to understand the artist’s purpose in order to appreciate the imagery completely.  Let’s visit each piece for just a moment.

 Amy Jackson from Georgia has an acrylic on canvas entitled “Ready to Live, 11”.  It is reminiscent of a large graphic flower whose lower petals are still rooted into the earth. Since petals don’t really do that, and the image may not read as a floral motif to you, then her personal journey is very significant. Sorry, not sharing that info so you have to go to the gallery. The core of this graphic piece holds the unifying color mentioned earlier.

Jane Foley-Ferraro of East Aurora, NY displays a monotype entitled “Zen” on the tag and “Zen / Tree series” on the piece itself. A mono-print, meaning a one and only creation via a contact process, is sometimes difficult to predict as far as the outcome of the final image, but she was quite successful with this piece. Her markings that render the light and wispy feel of the branch (my interpretation) are captivating.

Our own Dr. Fredlee Votaw has the largest piece, a mixed media assemblage entitled “3 Graces Protecting and Abused Child” which anchors the show dead center (no pun intended). The stark dark tones and the contrasting golden glow really do give an angelic feel to the overall piece. Obvious religious overtone are present with the nails, the wood, and the glass window affect, but Dr. Votaw is a spiritual man so this speaks true to his soul, his inspiration and his guiding source.

Matthew Derezinski of Missouri has a photograph in the show (our fourth media category if you are counting) entitled “Serenity”. At first glance it appears to be just a golden idol of eastern origin in a tranquil woodland setting or perhaps a garden until one notices the misplaced koi fish. Koi do not fly so then one begins to look a bit more closely and realizes it is not just a picture taken on site, but a site created within the picture. Perhaps his mantra is a mystical land. Has anyone noticed so far that I have steadfastly refused to use the word “muse”? That is because a mantra is not a muse. That difference can be visited at another time, but I don’t want anyone thinking they are one and the same.

Our final artist is Joshua Humm from Canton. According to the posted bio, he must be a young man on his way to a fulfilling career in the visual arts. His two oil on canvas pieces are entitled “Data Deconstruction 002” and “Data Deconstruction 003”. I read his whole thing about technology and how it……well yeah, I tend to get blurry eyed on the technical stuff, but the visual relationship to circuit boards and such makes sense. He finds his inner calm by organizing (visually) the complex concepts of computers and technology and with which I agree, the simpler the better!  Relating back to my suggestion about a sense of grounding being present in all the pieces, personally, I felt a different perspective in his works. Call me simple, but I was under the ground, looking up and out at a sky through a screen that had an opening in it. One was round and the other was a cross, but regardless of which, I was inside someplace looking out. Is that not what a mantra sort of does? It comes from within and we let it out?

I look forward to more juried shows and encourage the JAG team to really challenge potential applicants with some specific themes. The number of entries may not be high, but the resulting thought processes and quality of works, will be inspirational to our little corner of Canton.

Also on view are photographic and digital works by Paul Hovan whose inspiration for his solo show is the universal sign language symbol for “I love you”.  The Rep did a full story about his show so I won’t be too detailed here. The 7 pieces on view are a wonderful compliment both thematically and visually to the juried show.  I did have to ask if the pieces were digital renderings of original paintings done in watercolor and other media, but nope, it is all computer and photography and technical stuff. I am amazed at how someone can do that with a machine!  Yeah, my grandparents probably said the same thing when a plane first flew over their house. Oh well……be sure to take the time to look closely at his large works on the west wall and then his more delicate pieces to the east side of the gallery.  Do not just read the titles and move on, look intensely, especially at “Intense”. I had a Clockwork Orange moment.

Below is a quote from his bio page… “Paul’s creativity caught the attention of Canton, Ohio’s art community when he won the Mayor’s Young Inventor’s Challenge by creating a lighted chandelier from recycled materials and that lead to a commissioned piece for Art’s in Stark to celebrate Vintage Canton. He gained national notoriety by taking 1st place in the National Technical Institute for the Deaf’s (NTID) Digital Art’s, Film and Animation competition for Photo Illustration. He would go on to earn degrees from NTID at the Rochester Institute of Technology as well as Stark State College.”   It is just easier to reprint that so you all can appreciate another one of our local gems.

Bravo Journey on this first juried show and accompanying solo exhibition.