Thursday, May 7, 2015

73rd Annual May Show at the Little Art Gallery

Fascinating Face #88 - Toronto, soft pastel image 17.5 x 23.5
Have to start with obligatory disclaimer that I have a drawing included in this year’s show, pastel portrait #88.

As with all juried shows, the overall vibe is the result of a one or two (sometimes three) people’s opinions chosen from available pieces entered. This particular show has a restriction that only one piece per category per artist may be accepted, which was introduced a few years ago. Artists are smart people and have found that entering the allowable two pieces stand a better chance of getting accepted if the pieces are categorized under two different media.  Just how much difference is getting to be a bit blurry.

Is this the best show in recent years….not in my opinion. I bet the “salon de refuse” that could be mounted would perhaps be a bit more interesting in the long run but the show on view is what we have to work with. The jurors are both heavily credentialed towards a museum background with history and curatorial experience. My impression (and I am familiar with neither of them) is one of being more cerebral than hands on creators of art. Definitely read the bios and the statements included in the program. By not explaining any further, you now have to go to the gallery and read it for yourself.

I counted 51 pieces by 47 artists which is an impressive number for the limited space although many were on the smaller side more so than in recent years. Personally, about 42 would have made a stronger presentation. There are some outstanding pieces to be seen and some wonderful examples of technique and imagery by those you may know and those who may be new to the scene.  Without a doubt however, the number of works representing a specific technique and style utilized by a dedicated following, dilute the overall quality of paintings in that genre. Not sure if I sensed “compromise” or preference on the part of the jurors but perhaps I just like more variety.

I also have a personal affinity for the “hand of the artist and their visual voice” to be present in pieces I would choose if ever asked to judge, which I won’t be. Nor should I ….anywhere north of Columbus. But if I could (and this is my forum so I get to do whatever I want within respectable and self-imposed reason) I would highlight the following pieces for your viewing pleasure…since you have to get a program anyway, you might as well look around.

Russ Hench’s The Shoodle #1 is outstanding! If that is a 1, I hope he plans on many more. This new direction is full of joy and spirit, a grand departure from his more labor intensive mixed media pieces. It practically jumps off the wall where it resides with a collection of various botanically oriented pieces. Actually that wall has several high notes. Shelia Scannelli’s Partaking of the Peony, is an almost satirical take on traditional botanicals with all those ants crawling around her well rendered colored pencil piece, also framed in such a way as to not overwhelm the work. The works of Diane Belfiglio and Jerry Zalinskas are best appreciated from a distance to see the power of light and shadow, both are artists that have mastered this fundamental compositional element.

Light of a different kind plays into the meaning of Gail Wetherell-Sack’s Beam Me Up, Scotty, tucked into the darker corner of the room so as to highlight its…ummm….light. The framing and work are as one. A good lesson for newer artists…. if the framing makes your work look better, then something is not as good as it should be inside the frame. Keep in mind that there is a difference between enhancing a piece, and elevating a piece. Consult with Christian at Cyrus if you aren’t sure, he knows his stuff and can guide you appropriately.

The two larger abstracts, Lin Reedy’s Hole and Tina Myers’ Bonsai could hold their own in the annual MassMu show, enjoyed them both, hope to see more. The connection of artist’s hand to designer’s eye can be seen in the works of Mike Uhren’s ink drawing It Hit Him Years Later and Bill Bogdan’s woodcut print The Leaf. Graphic simplicity of composition can be just as powerful as minute details….sort of a “less is more”.  Tom Migge has a well-crafted spalted maple and cherry wood vase in the smaller showcase.

Some red dots are already scattered throughout the room which is wonderful to see!  13 pieces are listed as NFS (not for sale) which seems a bit high.  Some of you fellow old timers will see familiar faces (meaning works by those you know) who continue to speak in the same tone and others who, so to speak, sing with new challenges and continued growth.  Overall, it is a good general representation of art and artists in our area. Not earth shattering or ground breaking, but it will appeal to the patrons of the library in a positive way who like to see work they can relate to. And I hope they do, so when Elizabeth decides to shift the comfort zone with some of her upcoming ideas, the audience will be ready to engage it.

Congrats to all the winners and entrants this year! Best in show to Lee Ann Novotny, and Categorical First Places to M.D. Mahoney, Dharitri Tripathy , Shelia Scannelli, John Alexander, Ted Lawson and pat Waltz.  It was a crowded opening afternoon so be sure to stop back as I did to appreciate up close and personal, the pieces that caught your eye the first time.

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