Envision the scene in all the Frankenstein movies when the doctor screams out “it’s alive!!!” Next shot is on the monster, breathing once again, and in our version, the creature is wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the word “Realism”. Yes folks, realism is alive and well and well represented in this year’s Stark County Artists Exhibition currently on view at the MassMu. (Full disclosure: my Daily Doodle Diary Dress from Hoard Couture Wearables is included in the show.)
To better understand the voice of this show, for once, I actually looked up the jurors and their backgrounds. Not making any judgements here one way or the other, as the overall show is better than the past view years (even the clunkers kicked it up a notch), but one can see why the creature is alive and kicking. One juror has no hands-on visual arts background that I can find, the person is an administrator. One is an independent studio artist/instructor of realistic oil paintings. The third juror has a background in psychology before getting another degree in photography. I will let you draw your own conclusions. I am sure they are all really nice people and very good at what they do. And for once, this show was not overwhelmed with photography , the few included stand out for a reason.
That all being said, there are some truly fabulous works of art in this show and many that reach the bar I personally have come to expect from area artists. And….there are some pieces that have been around the block a few too many times and a few that should have been left on the curb. No sense beating a dead cow (I like horses) and stating the obvious again so if you don’t know my peeves by now, I’m not wasting the word count. On to the works that I want to call out for your eventual viewing pleasure…..
In no particular order, the stars of the show are Anna Zotta’s digital “Leifeng Pagoda” , both paintings by Tina Myers “Cats in the Window” and “Living in the Trees”, Carol Mendenhall’s “Fires of Summer” and Lindsey J. Bryan’s “Swan and Fox”. Zotta’s small piece is sophisticated and proportionally perfect down to the frame, capturing the vib of classic 50’s/60’s advertising. It is gem hidden on the massive wall but a better location than another piece by Lindsey Bryan entitled “Ghost Kids” that I walked right past several times, mounted alone on a column. Bryan’s Honorable Mention digital print “Swan and Fox” is beautiful in its delicate rendering but also disturbing as the featured creatures are dead. The composition is both reverent in how the animals are presented and a bit grotesque in that they are perhaps being offered up for a feast. I liked that juxtaposition…or I completely missed the point, but I came back to it several times. Tina Myers has two large acrylics with abstracted forms (so realism still counts in this case as some objects and elements are recognizable). They have good bones and she is a talented painter, sort of an Alexandra Nechita-esque technique with a bit of trendy zentangle tossed in. Finally, Mendenhall’s “Fires of Summer” which has no realism whatsoever, but whose reds and golds are a perennial favorite of many. I found myself torn between wanting to view it on the horizontal as it is displayed (giving me the impression of a spectacular sunset reflecting off of a wet sidewalk) or wanting to turn it 90 degrees to the vertical and capturing the same sunset reflected off of a window. Both ways would work and both would be equally successful.
Other pieces in the show that one should not miss are Brain Robinson’s pastels “Simple Waves” and “Hocking Cathedral”. He is a master of his craft in both use of media and knowledge of composition. The tilt of the trail captured in the latter piece with its expertly placed lower left sunspot is amazing to see (having worked in pastels myself). Tom Migge has three wood-works in a showcase dedicated to his pieces and to single out just one would be wrong as each is so unique. L-64 got an Honorable Mention however and I would guess it is because of the oh so delicate change of grain and grade on the “sides” that one would overlook if savoring only the obviously difficult parts. Three other noteworthy entries include Nancy Matin’s “Frostbite” which really pushes her abstraction skills with fresh layers of paint. William Bogdans’ “The Doe Lay Dead in the Field of Asters: No”, a woodcut that is bold in scale and incorporates the overall format and composition as part of the imagery more so than before. And finally, a dimensional, sculptural work by Diane Belfiglio entitled “Fleeting Fall II” which really has her (I have to do it, I’m sorry) thinking outside the box. Oops…one more….Bruce Humbert’s “Emerald Beauty” with its “just a bit too big eyeball” on the bird, I kept going back…acid green vs traditional black…intriguing to say the least.
Some general comments are warranted for this show. Comment one: The MassMu staff did a wonderful job hanging the show and providing an overall visual experience that makes each entry just as important as the next (except to the Ghost Kids thingy). Comment two: Do not paint over a previous signature in order to update a piece and leave part of the old signature showing….or use outdated and scratched up frames. Comment three: Beware of the ‘one more thing’ monster that kills many a good work. Know when to stop, when to step away…sometimes that one element is what you are trying to “say” but often the whole conversation is far better than the point itself. Comment four: This show left me wanting to get back to painting again, to end my self-imposed hiatus away from the canvas, but sometimes one needs to just play in order to reevaluate purpose.
I give this year’s show an A-. What would make it an A or an A+? A few more daring pieces to savor over rather than just some pretty pieces that do not require much observational thought. Overall, great job Stark artists! Now get back to work for the upcoming May Show.
I wanted to also see and review the CAL show on exhibit in Studio M but there was a meeting going on and I could not access the room….maybe in the weeks to come.