Not very many exhibitions are able to immerse the viewer into the world on the walls. Usually one just passes by the artworks and enjoys the view, offering comments of approval or disapproval. Sometimes even that much effort is asking too much. “Vista Botanica” however, will pull you in to the room and into the energy happening within the works as well as between them.
Not a conventional gallery space, but well suited to be one, is the Kent State Conference Center dining room also known as Gallery 6000. Okay, one has to abbreviate that a bit for the official CV listing, but exhibitors new to the space are always quite impressed. Full disclosure clause, I have five works in the show and have been included in exhibitions here before, so no reviewing of my own work.
Tom Wachunas curated and installed this show which has been garnering well deserved attention for its impact and quality of work. Regular diners and visitors to the Conference Center have let it be known this is probably their favorite show to date and it has been at least 5 years or more of installations. Why the good vibes? Because of the bold colors, pleasing subject matter, and variety of styles, media and scale that all work as one big hug of nature. United under the concept of botanically inspired imagery, artists and pieces were chosen to make a vista emerge on the three walls that surround the diners. A real vista inhabits the fourth all glass wall. So come into the garden with me and explore the works of my four fellow exhibitors.
Photographer Carolyn Jacob is familiar to many in the area who have been to 2nd April Galerie. She has a great space on the second floor. All four of her pieces use different methods and presentations within the genre of digital photography. “Red Maple Trio” is a luscious moment of sunlight captured on three graceful leaves. The eye of the artist then uses contrast and composition to add that regal touch which elevates the subject from being just leaves to structures of almost glass-like fragility. “Floralique” fooled many of us as we thought it was rendered in colored pencil, the surfaces were that luminous and delicate, but again, the relationship between artist and camera worked their magic.
Eleanor Kuder, a name not familiar to me until now, is someone to watch for in the local arts scene. Her four mixed media pieces, large works in large white frames, both rich and deep in markings, show a true understanding of composition and the principles of design. Layering of bold shapes and colors overlaid with linear markings and the highlighting of one area over another, create depth usually not found in the typical mixed media category. Kuder is able to capture the dimension and organic qualities of plants without the overly annoying aspects of collage that sometimes reduce works to the amateur level. Her ability to integrate the media and as I stated, grasp with firm understanding the science behind composition, will draw the viewer into her vision of the natural world. “Watershed” is by far one of the highlights of the whole show.
The charcoal drawings of Ron Watson may at first sound like an odd choice to include in a show that vibrates with reds and oranges and greens, but his renderings of local landscapes are not to be missed. The lack of “color” is what allows these pieces to punctuate the overall exhibition. “Near East Liverpool in Winter” could be considered a master work of capturing light and atmospheric conditions with limited materials. The crisp water and stark branches against what I consider a “Magritte” sky will force one to stand and explore this location for quite some time. These are not your smuggy type charcoal drawings that many expect when hearing the media. Vine charcoal is a different animal and allows for a layering of fine marking achievable only by those artists who really know how to draw in the classical way by hand. For “delicate” pieces to hold their own in this room speaks to the power they have in what again is a superb understanding of the elements and principles that comprise our language of art.
The large oil paintings of Margo Miller are the perfect choice to anchor the show. Her scale of markings and layer upon layer of blues and greens frame areas of reds and oranges that manage to escape and entwine with the plant life depicted. An interesting dynamic takes place with how her pieces are located at the end of each wall. Each artist included has a level of abstraction that is different from each other so when placed next to one other, the images create a sense of growing…or emerging and changing….or blooming and morphing….. Whether by intent or by happenstance, this visual phenomenon enhances the concept of botanical art and the definition of vista. Difficult to explain in words, one needs to witness this occurrence. The tall and vibrant canvases of Margo Miller are physical paintings in that the hand of the artist are on full display. No tiny delicate markings, no hesitation of deciding whether an edge needs highlighting, she enters into her environments with confidence as if trying to unearth the location from the canvas itself.
My pieces are from the cactus and stained glass series that has captured my imagination for this past painting season and will continue when the next session starts. You can see them on my website or at the Snarky Art studio.
The show runs through October 30th. The building is open to the public if you wish to stop in and see this show which I sincerely encourage you to do, especially to see works by artists unfamiliar to many. Avoid the lunch hour time frame of 11 – 1 and it should be no trouble wandering back to the Gallery 6000 (dining room) location. If you know where the H of F balloon launch takes place, you know where the Conference Center can be found. (Notice how I got football tied to art?) HA! Score one for me…..okay, time to quit. Game over.